I recently published my first book, Trading With God: Seven Steps to Integrate Your Faith into Your Work. Part II describes my theological model of work founded on the threefold, distinct, and interrelating aspects of Christian work: self-actualization, community, and new creation. All three aspects must be present in our work; no aspect has priority over the others. Self-actualization is being what one has the potential to be. Community is working together, as taught by Jesus Christ, on a common task. The new creation is working with the Spirit to renew the world into the kingdom of God.
In his book, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 2011, page xii), Dr. Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, stated his definition of work:
“Any necessary and meaningful task that God calls and gifts a person to do and which can be undertaken to the glory of God and for the edification and aid of human beings, being inspired by the Spirit and foreshadowing the realities of the new creation.”
When one subdivides Dr. Witherington’s definition of work, it contains the same three aspects in my theological model of work. First, he states: “God calls and gifts a person to do and which can be undertaken to the glory of God.” This is what humans were created in God’s image to perform in their work. Through self-actualization, our God-given gifts mature and unfold. “We could say that in the creation accounts work is what human beings were fitted and commanded to do.” A goal for all of humanity is self-actualization and working for “the glory of God.”
Second, people work “for the edification and aid of human beings.” While humans have their individual gifts, we live in community. Our talents are used to uplift our community, not raise ourselves at the expense of our neighbors. Self-actualization must be balanced by community. Jesus Christ taught about our responsibilities to our community. His parables about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) are a few examples of his teachings about community.
Third, workers are “being inspired by the Spirit and foreshadowing the realities of the new creation.” Christians look toward the future (eschatologically) and anticipate the coming new creation. “It is what the Spirit inspires and gifts them to do, and in which they find joy.” Scripture tells of the kingdom of God which will be established during Jesus’ second coming. Workers are called to take the world a step closer towards the new creation.
My opinion is that Dr. Witherington and I are closely aligned in our definitions of work. My definition is a little shorter: Work should enable self-actualization and uplift communities as workers follow the Holy Spirit towards the new creation. This is how Christians integrate faith and work.