“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”
In recent years, there has been some good articles, essays, and books on developing a theology of work. Both Justin Taylor and Steve McCoy point us to some excellent resources, including Piper’s “Making Much of 8 to 5” (or in my case 11:00 p.m.-4:00 a.m.) in Don’t Waste Your Life and Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work. Others such as Tullian Tchividjian and Matt Harmon have also addressed the topic nicely. One of the recent works not mentioned was Gene Edward Veith’s book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Crossway, 2002).
I would like to offer my contribution to the excellent articles by submitting a portion of my research on Carl F.H. Henry. Below are eight selected quotes I grabbed from my studies in which Henry addresses the Christian in the workplace (the sources are footnoted below). Henry believed that one of the most fundamental ways for Christians to influence society was through “the doctrine of vocation” through which Christians glorify God and embody the evangelical social ethic of loving their neighbor and doing them good.
Do you consider your job the way Henry describes it below? A “divinely appointed realm”, “doctrine of Christian vocation,” “divine calling,” “priestly nature of daily work,” “divinely entrusted stewardship,” and “a consecrating of energy”? Man, this is but one of the many reasons I love me some Henry!
“We often forget that the Protestant Reformation saw, as the most natural bridge between theology and social ethics, the doctrine of vocation. They saw that the Christian believer moves each day from the family of faith out into the larger family of mankind, into the world of work, and does so, if he is a Christian, by employing his talents to the glory of God in Christ’s service and for the good of humanity.”
“Since everyone lives in a world of labor and economics, evangelical Christianity emphasizes that man’s work is a divinely appointed realm in which man is to glorify God and invest his talents for the good of his fellows; it is not only a means of livelihood but also an avenue of service.”
“The time has come to preach the public duty of believers and the doctrine of Christian vocation which encourages Christians to the limit of their competence and ability to get involved in political life, particularly in the context of our own democratic opportunities.”
“Evangelicals find the most natural avenue for social witness beyond the family circle in the world of work when it is viewed as a divine calling. How sadly liberal Christianity, during the past-generation domination of ecclesiastical life, has failed in the organized church’s social witness is nowhere more apparent than here.”
“Evangelical Christians consider this recognition of the priestly nature of daily work to be more basic to social renewal than is a reshuffle of society in man’s environment rather than in man himself and his works.”
“The Christian can demonstrate by practice the meaning of work as a divine calling; work is not an evil to be avoided nor is it an enslavement reserved for poor; the idle and lazy must learn to prefer work over welfare.”
“A worker by God’s creation, man sees vocation therefore as a divinely entrusted stewardship by which to demonstrate love to God and service to man.”
“For renewed humanity, work and industry from the Christian perspective became a consecrating of energy and matter to the good of mankind under God. By impressing the ethical aims of the Creator upon the material universe, the Christian community brings the physical world into the service of the spiritual.”
Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelicals and the Social Scene: God’s Plan for Salvation and Justice,” in The Ministry of Development in Evangelical Perspective: A Symposium on the Social and Spiritual Mandate. ed. Robert Lincoln Hancock (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1979), 100.
Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelicals in the Social Struggle,” Christianity Today 10 (October 5, 1965): 10.
Carl F. H. Henry, “Christian Theology and Social Revolution (II),” Perkins School of Theology Journal 21 (Winter-Spring 1967-68): 22.
Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelicals in the Social Struggle,” 10.
Carl F. H. Henry, “Good News for the Oppressed” in God, Revelation, and Authority: God Who Speaks and Shows. vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1979), 552.
Carl F. H. Henry, Evangelical Responsibility in Contemporary Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 73.
Carl F. H. Henry, A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971), 111.