Studies show that the average human works 10.3 years in a lifetime. Imagine taking the next decade to work, never clocking out. That’s how much time you’ll spend at the office, making sales, making sandwiches, digging holes, checking on patients, or whatever you spend your hours a week working on. Work is simply a major component of who we are. Even those who don’t work feel their identity wrapped up in their not working.
Anyone who has worked knows that work brings a combination of joys and sorrows, life-giving blessings and life-taking struggles. And most importantly, the Bible has something to say – a lot to say, in fact – about this lifelong phenomenon of work. Jim Hamilton’s Work and Our Labor in the Lord will be a helpful primer in engaging with Scripture to ask these three guiding questions found on page 12:
- What part does work play in the Bible’s big story?
- What propositional truths about workflow from the big story?
- Does work symbolize something beyond mere labor?
In the chapters to follow, Hamilton unfolds an introductory, but a robust and full exploration of Scripture’s teachings on work. He begins where it all began, in Genesis 1-3, and begins to shed light on the goodness of the creation of work, using Deuteronomy as support. Hamilton expectedly acknowledges that sin has distorted how work works today, using other Old Testament passages, especially from the Wisdom Literature to express making the best of a broken world in our work. Christ’s work, in part 3, directly addresses the theology of work that’s been expressed in the Old Testament, and not only is work redeemed, but it is being restored and will be fully restored one day.
The feature of a book like Work and Our Labor in the Lord is that it gives us not only a handful of broad brushstrokes to widen our understanding of work, but it zeroes in on relevant passages and Biblical examples to deepen that understanding as well. Being able to see the trajectory of our work allows us to see our good gifts and our hard challenges in work as primary theological, stemming from the Garden and moving toward the New Heaven and New Earth.
I’m grateful for Hamilton’s contribution to the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. This is wide, deep theology at an accessible, bite-size level. It is sure to help us reorient our understanding of why we are clocking in, how not to waste our work, and persevering when it gets hard.