Marketplace Theology

Theology of Work – Executive Summary

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Executive Summary

Most of the difficulties we face in mobilising the people of God towards marketplace ministry are due to an inadequate understanding regarding the theology of work. This shortcoming basically arises out of a less-than-comprehensive theology of creation, redemption and eschatology.

God the Worker

God not only authored work but he himself was a worker (Gen 1, 2; Jn 5:17; Rev 21:5). Throughout the Bible, we see different images of God as a worker namely, shepherd (Psa 23), potter (Jer 18:6), physician (Matt 8: 16), teacher (Psa 143:10), vineyard-dresser (Isa 5:1-7) etc. God is as active and creative today – creating, sustaining, redeeming and consummating – as God was when this five billion light year universe was begun.

The Soul of Entrepreneurship

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The Soul of Entrepreneurship

 FROM MAX WEBER TO THE NEW BUSINESS SPIRITUALITY

            _______________________________________________________________________________

[There can be] no capitalist development without an entrepreneurial class; no entrepreneurial class without a moral charter; no moral charter without religious premises.[1]

            In the classic film “Wall Street” Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) typifies the entrepreneur for many.  “The lesson in business,” he tells Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), is “don't get emotional about stock, it clouds the judgment.”  Gekko is constantly in a telephone conversation, using language such as “block anybody else’s merger efforts,” “Christmas is over, business is business,” and “I want every orifice in his body flowing red.”  In a famous scene, Gekko redefines greed: “Greed is good, greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures that essence of the evolutionary spirit.”  It is interesting that Gekko uses the word “spirit” in a film that exemplifies the secular humanism that has been the dominant cultural environment of business in the Western world for several decades.  But there is a change in Western culture that makes the question of a moral charter for entrepreneurship and even the search for a religious/spiritual foundation apt if not urgent.

 


[1] Gianfranco Poggi, Calvinism and the Capitalist Spirit: Max Weber's Protestant Ethic (London: Macmillan, 1983), 83.

The Creation of True Wealth

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The Creation of True Wealth

R. Paul Stevens

God came to earth as a worker. Jesus was born in the marketplace, in fact in a hotel. Not actually in a nicely prepared suite but in the underground parking garage because the inn already had full occupancy. He was wrapped in a towel provided by the laundry service and placed in the back seat of a car.  He grew up in a working-class home. As a young man he learned a trade and before he had worked a miracle or preached a sermon he pleased the Father so much that at his baptism the Father said, “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”  Of Jesus’ 132 public appearances in New Testament, 122 were in the marketplace. Of the 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context. Jesus called 12 normal working individuals, not clergy, to build His church. And some of them had questionable professions (tax collector, zealot). How can this be? Can we be human beings that are rich toward God and be so in the marketplace? What does it mean to create true wealth? And what is the true meaning of our lives, especially our lives in the workplace? Jesus doesn’t merely welcome these questions. He positively demands that we ask them, and he does so through parables.

The Church and The Marketplace

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The Church and the Marketplace:

Naming the Reality and the Challenge

Steve Brinn

An Unhealthy Détente

Over the past 37 years, as several close friends worked faithfully in church and para-church positions, my own journey unfolded in the marketplace. I practiced law, managed a real estate and resource investment company, operated a 3500-acre ranch and currently am leading a medical imaging software start-up. All along the way I have struggled to keep my faith vitally connected to my labors.

I am hardly alone in this: far more saints report every day to work outside the church than inside it. It is true that women and men in all vocations (including priesthood) face the same daily challenge – holding fast to hope in Christ and showing up for work with eyes open, without despair. Yet this common struggle, to approach daily labor with hope though the world groans for salvation, almost always is more difficult for the working laity than it is for their shepherds, for several reasons.

Organizational Values

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In organizational life, values determine what is cherished and important and how an organization is shaped and managed. The human body operates on blood; an organization operates on values, whether good or bad. Ideally these values are thoughtfully conceived and clearly stated in a document that can be read by members of the organization and recipients of the organization’s service. Sometimes the real functioning values of an organization are in conflict with the advertised ones. So the process of getting people to clarify what values are actually operating and what values should be foundational is one of the most important exercises that can be undertaken in organizational life.

Money in Christian History

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Money in Christian History

by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Many medieval manuscripts blossom with splendid decorations: fabulous animals frolic within huge capital letters; lush vegetation curls through margins; and intricate abstract patterns form dazzling frames. By the year 1300, however, gothic manuscripts began to present more distasteful sights. In one of these drawings, a worried-looking ape crouches and defecates three coins into a golden bowl. In another, a monster-head vomits gold coins into a golden bowl. The subject of money—the subject Jesus is said to have addressed more often in the Gospels than any other—now shows up graphically in Christian reflection.

It shows up, furthermore, in all of the strong ambivalence that has characterized Christian views of money through the ages. Money is shiny and beautiful, but also somehow related to filth, waste, and evil. Sigmund Freud drew modern attention to the linkage between money and excrement. Our own colloquial speech makes plain our ambivalence and even antagonism toward money: that man over there getting out of the limousine is "filthy rich" or "stinking rich," while the poor fellow leaving the casino penniless has been, ironically, "cleaned out."

Day at Work: Love-Recovering the Christian Amateur

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LOVE: 

RECOVERING THE AMATEUR STATUS OF THE CHRISTIAN

"To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things,   as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith.  To find contentment in the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will in the succession of all the things to be done and suffered which make up the duty to the present moment."
Jean-Pierre De Caussaude[i]
 
"What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God."
Luther[ii]

"Does God work?" Willie MacMichael asks his father in George Macdonald's book for children. His father answered biblically:

"Yes, Willie, it seems to me that God works more than anybody - for He works all night and all day and, if I remember rightly, Jesus tells us somewhere that He works all Sunday too. If He were to stop working, everything would stop being. The sun would stop shining, and the moon and stars; the corn would stop growing; there would be no apples and gooseberries; your eyes would stop seeing; your ears would stop hearing; your fingers couldn't move an inch; and, worst of all your little heart would stop loving."


[i]. Jean-Pierre De Caussaude, The Sacrament of the Present Moment Kitty Muggeridge, trans.(Glasgow: Collins, l981), 84.

[ii]. Martin Luther, quoted in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand......

Day at Work: Hope-Making Our Mark in Heaven

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HOPE:
MAKING OUR MARK ON HEAVEN
            "How can Christianity call itself catholic if the universe itself is left out?"
                                        Simone Weil[i]
"I cannot think of a greater tragedy than to think that I am at home on earth...."
                                        Malcolm Muggeridge[ii]
"Only the heavenly-minded are of any earthly use."
                                        C.S. Lewis[iii]

 

            Years ago Leslie Newbigin said that "mankind is without any worthwhile end to which the travail of history might lead."[iv] A few believe we are heading into a new world order and paradise on earth but most people nurse a deep foreboding about the future, or refuse to think about it more than they must.  The seeming resultlessness of history erodes the nerve of modern persons including, I must add, Christians who have more reason to embrace the future wholeheartedly than anyone.  Whether world-weariness and future fright comes from the terrifying prospect of ecological doomsday, or, as is often the case with Christians like the Thessalonians, from the conviction that Jesus will probably come tomorrow, the result is the same for Christians: all work in this world except the so-called "ministry" is viewed as not very significant or enduring. 


[i]. Quoted in Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion and the Healing of the Global Village, Humpty Dumpty and Us (Minneapolis, Mn.: Winston Press, l979), iv.  Check for original reference - footnote 3 in Fox preface.

[ii]. Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered....p.

[iii]. C.S. Lewis, .....p.

[iv]. Leslie Newbigin, Honest Religion for Secular Man...p.

Day at Work: Faith-Discovering the Soul of Work

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"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the   greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13
 
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."    
1 Thessalonians 1:3

FAITH: DISCOVERING THE SOUL OF WORK

LOVE: RECOVERING THE AMATEUR STATUS OF THE CHRISTIAN

HOPE: MAKING OUR MARK ON HEAVEN

FAITH:

DISCOVERING THE SOUL OF WORK

            "There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a souter (cobbler), or an apostle, all are one, as touching the deed, to please God."

William Tyndale[i]

            "Do you like your new job?" It was a foolish question, a very Western question to ask a Kenyan.  But Esther had been my student in a rural theological college in East Africa for three years.  She had hoped, like the others, upon graduation to be placed as a pastor of a church.  Instead she was given the enormously demanding task of being matron for three hundred girls in a boarding school.  It was a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week job with little recognition and limited remuneration.  So I had reason to ask.  But her answer revealed a deep spirituality, one which I covet for Christians in my home country and myself.  She said, "I like it in Jesus."

 


[i]. William Tyndale, "A Parable of the Wicked Mammon," (l527) in Treatises and Portions of Holy Scripture (Cambridge: Parker Society, l848), 98, 104.

Business as a Calling and Profession Part B

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Having surveyed the relatively positive biblical view of material work and clarified the difference between status wealth then and now and productive wealth, it is important to examine some of the Greek philosophical and historical factors disparaging work and business, against which Protestant notions of vocation subsequently reacted.

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