Friday, November 21, 2008

Divine Work (pt. 2)

I have been involvled with a Focus on the Family Bible Study known as, "The Truth Project". The last lesson we studied was on the topic of Labor/work. It is very interesting, it brought to light a lot of things I had never known, or considered. The main point was that work is a gift from, and created by, God (not a negative "curse").

Below is an article (on labor) from the "Truth Project" leader, Dr. Del Tackett. I encourage your responses. My personal reflections will soon follow this post.

At the end is a brief video preveiw of the "Truth Project".

Why is Labor a Social Sphere?

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In all my years of teaching, it was not until recently that I was asked this question. It may have something to do with the climate of our culture where work is increasingly viewed as a necessary evil. If that is the attitude, then how could one view it as being instituted by God? I will attempt to answer that question here.

First, we must ask ourselves "what constitutes a social system?" If we are going to argue one way or the other, that is, the sphere of work is or is not a valid social system designed by God, then we better have clear in our mind what a social system is. Only then will be able to determine if "labor" meets that criteria. When my friend was arguing that labor was not a valid social institution, I asked him to give me his criteria for what constituted a valid social institution. His halting response made it clear that he really hadn't given it much thought. That's not a personal criticism. I've yet to meet anyone who has given this much thought.

However, we must walk carefully here because the truth of the matter is, we have no biblical text that directly answers this question. Indirectly, yes, but directly, no.
So, with that caveat, let me give you my criteria and why.

First, and most obviously, it must fit the category of a social system. And what is a social system? Well, since it is "social" we will say that it includes people, and since it is a "system", we will say that the members are in some ordered relationship for a greater purpose. Second, we must have clear evidence that God created and instituted this system and it therefore has a divine purpose. Third, we must find the Scripture defining the roles and responsibilities within the system. If these are met, then we will assume we have found a valid biblical social institution that God has created and He is concerned enough about it to give is clear, objective directions as to how that social system should work.

Given that, let's test it.

Has God created anything like this? Well, yes, the family comes to mind. Does it meet our criteria? I believe so. Let's look at it.

The creation and institution of the family happens early. In Genesis, we find God's command that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two were to become one flesh. Jesus restates this in Matthew 19:5-6 and states that God had brought them together, so therefore no man should separate them. Does the Scripture lay forth any directions for the roles and relationships within this system? Sure, not only in the Old Testament, but we find directions given to the husband, the wife and children in several of the New Testament epistles: Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, for example. Is there a clear purpose? Yes, several. Malachi 2:15 says that God created it because He wanted godly offspring.

We could do the same thing with the other social spheres, showing the structure, the roles, and the member responsibilities within each system. But our task is to examine the sphere of labor. Is it a valid sphere?

Well, I think so. First, let's answer the question of my friend, who didn't think that work was a "social" system. Is it? The Scripture lays out clear guidelines for both the employee and the employer, describing their roles and responsibilities, the authority and submission required. It should be of great interest to us that these social requirements are addressed in Ephesians 6 immediately after Paul had been dealing with the roles and responsibilities within the sphere of the church and within the sphere of the family. In Colossians, Paul deals with the social responsibilities of the family in chapter 3 and then immediately deals with the sphere of labor. In Titus 2 Paul deals with the responsibilities that young women have to their husbands, then he immediately deals with the workers responsibility to the employer. In 1 Timothy, Paul does not deal with the family, but he does deal with the sphere of the state (chapter 2), the sphere of the church (chapters 3 and 4) and then the sphere of labor (chapter 6). In Peter's first epistle, he deals with the family in chapter 3, but in chapter 2, where he states that we are to submit to every authority instituted among men, he then lists, in verse 17, our responsibilities to submit to the brotherhood of believers (church), fear God (God & man), honor the king (state) and then in all of verse 18 he addresses the worker's responsibility to his employer (labor).

Even before God had created Eve, He commanded that Adam was to work the garden. In the Ten Commandments, we are told "thou shalt labor six days". The Old Testament is filled with references to our responsibilities in this sphere and the consequences if we do not.
I am not interested in splitting hairs over this, nor am I interested in making this a deep doctrinal issue. But our consistent ignoring of this critical social sphere has resulted in vile movies, vile music, vile art, vile literature and pornography, oppression of workers, cheating on employers, vast poverty, and on and on, not to mention the terrible witness that modern Christians are in the workforce, both as the employer and the employee.

Let's change it.

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