#177 A Culture of Work

#173 A Culture of Work | The Christian Economist

Most Democrats favor a culture of dependency.  That is not consistent with the Christian worldview that God made humans to work.


“I don’t work because I don’t have to”.  A woman of working age in front of me in the check-out lane explained that to the Wal-Mart staff member.  Huh.   Work is a “have to” thing, not a “want to” thing.  That’s a worldview that is currently dividing our nation.  I’ve often said, “If you love your neighbor, you will supply her with products and services she demands.  If you love yourself, you will make a profit while doing so.


Work is Good

From the great resignation to covid unemployment benefits, from quiet quitting to early retirement, to homelessness: Our fellow Americans are choosing not to work.  That’s a pretty clear violation of the Biblical command to work. 

The Wall Street Journal made a contribution to the Christian worldview of work recently in an article titled “The GOP’s Progress on Work and Welfare.”  The sub-title reads, “The debt-ceiling deal is a step toward restoring a culture of work.” 

After a brain-numbing analysis of minute details about how state grants are changed, and how corrupt government officials skirt the rules, the article concludes: “A major difference between the two political parties these days is that most Democrats favor a culture of dependency. The GOP’s task, which is popular with voters, is to rebuild a culture of work.”

When Sergiy Saydometov and I authored Biblical Economic Policy, we found ten Biblical commandments of economics.  Number two is “Work is good.”  It’s the subject of many of my podcasts including #143 Why Work? #132 Work as Recreation, #122 The Freedom to Work, and #24 which gives the name to the subtitle of this podcast: Work is Good.



Josh Hawley happens to be a Senator from Missouri, who has written what I think is a definitive book on the Christian Man.  It’s titled Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”  If you read Kingdom Man by Tony Evans ten years ago, you need to read this landmark book by Josh Hawley.  It’s the first time in my long academic career that I have bought ten copies of a book to give to my closest friends.  Here’s the one sentence summary from the introduction: “No menace to this nation is greater than the collapse of American manhood.”  For a Senator, he’s a fabulous preacher.  He says God created men to be six things: Husband, father, warrior, builder, priest and king.” 

Ok, listen closely.  This may be the best phrase you hear in a long time.  It’s from page 21:

“The universe has an order and a purpose, a destiny, if you like, and men are integral to it.  Each of us.  A man need not scout about to find his significance.  He is born with it, to a position of consequence: that’s the message of the Bible.  He is born into a story underway.  And his CHOICES and his LIFE will help determine the outcome.  What a man DOES and how he LIVES will affect the destiny of the world.”  Ok, if your podcast app allows it, press the ten second rewind to hear that again. 

In the chapter where he encourages us to be a builder, we read this from very economic passage by Senator Hawley.  “The anthropologist David Gilmore concluded that the critical threshold marking the passage from boyhood to manhood was the point at which the boy produces more than he consumes and gives more than he takes.”  In short, writes Hawley, manhood begins when a boy ceases to be dependent and becomes someone who can provide and build.” 

A culture of work is intended by our creator God.  He knew what he was doing when He gave us the ability to create value for our neighbors.  And, that applies to more than just men, whom Mr. Hawley is addressing.  One more, rather sobering set of economic statistics from the same book, “Men without work are more likely to live alone, less likely to be married, and less likely to have children.  When they do have kids, they are less likely to see them: an unemployed father is considerably less likely to live with his children than a father who goes to work every day.   That’s only the beginning.  Unemployed men are more frequently divorced.  Approximately half of men without work are on painkillers.  And these same men suffer higher rates of depression and suicide than men in the labor force.”

Again, in our book, we summarized it into three words, “Work is good.”



In his devotional book titled The Word Before Work, Jordan Raynor has this to say about the Christian view of work: “While God created a lot in those first six days, he left creation largely unfinished.  After the first week of creation “No plan had yet sprung up” because “there was no one to work the ground.”  In other words, it was always part of God’s plan that He would have partners to help him unearth the latent potential of creation: To make shrubs appear, plants spring up, and civilizations develop.”

New Testament theologian N.T. Write put it this way, “God’s kingdom, inaugurated through Jesus, is all about restoring creation to the way it was meant to be.  God always wanted to work in his world through loyal human beings.” 

Genesis 2:15 puts it this way, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”   Abad is the Hebrew word we translate as work in this verse.  It’s also translated as worship and serve elsewhere in scripture.  So, in some ways then, work, worship and service are one and the same to God.  Our work is our worship.  John Calvin’s key verse, and it’s quite important in my work, is from Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do WORK.”  Sometimes I like to stop there.  But the full verse reads, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” 

I was visiting with a group recently, as I blurted out, “You’re made in God’s image.  Start acting like it.”  And that doesn’t mean perfect.  It means to use your skills to create value for your neighbors.  Quoting Mr. Raynor again, “We all create.  We are not creation-optional beings.  While you work today, remember that as you create, you are revealing the character of our great God.” 


We GET to Work

Sorry if I’ve mentioned too many times, that my Patriots at Dallas Baptist University have a very good baseball team.  Assistant coach Cliff Pennington was interviewed in the pregame show last week.  If you’re a Major League Baseball fan, you’ll recognize his name from his ten years in the big leagues.  Here’s what he said, “God has written the script and knows the outcome.  We get to go out and enjoy playing the game.”  He was translating what Raynor says in his book, “You are not responsible for the fruit of your labor.  God is.  Your job is merely to steward your talents and opportunities faithfully.”

Like me, are you recalling the statement from the customer in Wal-Mart, claiming, “I don’t work because I don’t have to?”  OK, maybe her work was less fun than playing baseball, but the philosophy is still the same: In the Christian worldview, our work is our worship.  It just happens to align perfectly with the economic concepts of creating value.  The more you create, the richer YOU are, and the richer are those around you.  When we refer to consumer and producer surplus, we explain that BOTH parties in an exchange get richer, but I don’t have time to unpack that today.  I’ll summarize it by pointing out that when we work, we are partnering with God in putting this world back to God’s creational design.


Work & Freedom

The opposite of working is allowing someone else to provide for your economic needs.  Josh Hawley in Manhood again, “Dependence makes men less free.  It makes them servile.  There is a long tradition of political thought, running back to ancient Rome and Greece but really originating with the Bible, that sees personal independence as a precondition for personal liberty.  You can’t be free if someone else pays your bills.  You can’t be free if someone else controls your livelihood, especially if that someone else is the government.  You can’t be free if you don’t work.  Why not?  Because if someone else controls your livelihood, he controls you.  That is the ancients’ insight, and they were right.”  And the woman in Wal-Mart was wrong. 



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