6 Ways to Define Work
In her book Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman gives us a great breakdown on the various ways we contribute through our work:
Labour’s intrinsic value: How we participate in God’s own work.
Human beings are made in the image of God, and God is a worker. Human labour has intrinsic value because in it we “image,” or reflect, our Creator. In Faith Goes to Work, author Robert Banks discusses God as our “vocational model,” describing the various sorts of work he does and how myriad human vocations give expression to these aspects of God’s work. Banks’s model is very helpful for teaching congregants the intrinsic value of work. Pastors can explain the various ways in which God is a worker, and then encourage their congregants to identify where their own labours fit. God’s labours include the following:
1. Redemptive work (God’s saving and reconciling actions). Humans participate in this kind of work, for example, as evangelists, pastors, counsellors and peacemakers. So do writers, artists, producers, songwriters, poets and actors who incorporate redemptive elements in their stories, novels, songs, films, performances and other works.
2. Creative work (God’s fashioning of the physical and human world). God gives humans creativity. People in the arts (sculptors, actors, painters, musicians, poets and so on) display this, as do a wide range of craftspeople people such as potters, weavers and seamstresses, as well as interior designers, signers, metalworkers, carpenters, builders, fashion designers, architects, novelists and urban planners (and more).
3. Providential work (God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation). “The work of divine providence includes all that God does to maintain the universe and human life in an orderly and beneficial fashion,” Banks writes. “This includes conserving, sustaining, and replenishing, in addition to creating and redeeming the world.’ Thus, innumerable individuals-bureaucrats, public utility workers, public policymakers, shopkeepers, career counsellors, shipbuilders, farmers, firemen, repairmen, printers, transport workers, IT specialists, entrepreneurs, bankers and brokers, meteorologists, research technicians, civil servants, business school professors, mechanics, engineers, building inspectors, machinists, statisticians, plumbers, welders, janitors-and and all who help keep the economic and political order working smoothly-reflect this aspect of God’s labour.
4. Justice work (God’s maintenance of justice). Judges, lawyers, paralegals, government regulators, legal secretaries, city managers, prison wardens and guards, policy researchers and advocates, law professors, diplomats, supervisors, administrators and law enforcement personnel participate in God’s work of maintaining justice.
5. Compassionate work (God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding and shepherding). Doctors, nurses, paramedics, psychologists, therapists, social workers, pharmacists, community workers, non-profit directors, rectors, emergency medical technicians, counsellors and welfare agents all reflect this aspect of God’s labour.
6. Revelatory work (God’s work to enlighten with truth). Preachers, scientists, Lists, educators, journalists, scholars and writers are all involved in this sort of work.
In all these various ways, God the Father continues his creative, sustaining and redeeming work through our human labour. This gives our work great dignity and purpose. Vocational stewardship starts with celebrating the work itself and recognizing that God cares about it and is accomplishing his purposes through it.
You can find Amy’s book here