It occurred to me that there are portions of my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work that I have not posted on my blog. This is one of those sections that needs a wider audience at this time.
For those who do not have a copy, let me share some key excerpts from the preface. This is how my book begins:
This labor of love did not develop from a love of labor. It flowed out of my love of the uncreated Creator, who made us in His image so that we could love others through our labor.
Let me summarize the consistent and pervasive message about work that I will share from God’s Word regarding work. You will be amazed with how much the Bible says about this topic. Trust me—you will see work in a whole new light as you travel this journey with me.
In Genesis, you will find the creation story where God is a worker and He calls humans to work alongside Him in expanding His handiwork. You will read about several well-known men and women in the Old and New Testaments who integrated their faith in God at work—Moses, Joseph, Ruth, David, Nehemiah, Mary, Jesus, Paul, and others. You will also read about ordinary people, such as Bezalel and Oholiab, who were called and gifted to work with God.
I imagine you can relate to these ordinary people more than the well-known ones. Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:26–29 that God chose the simple, powerless, lowly, despised, and those who are nothing to be His followers so that no one will boast except in Jesus. God transformed each of these nobodies to do His work through them. God is still in the business of transforming ordinary Christians like you and I into extraordinary, Spirit-filled, Christlike men and women.
In addition to the narratives, I will present principles on how we should work from the OT writings (Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes). There is much that the OT prophets have to teach us, especially about the new creation. In the NT, we will explore what Jesus taught about work in the Gospels, as well as what Paul and others have written in the epistles. I will show how Jesus redeemed workers. Finally, we will see that the book of Revelation has foundational things to teach us about the eternal value of our work.
If I could summarize my theology of work in two sentences, it would read something like this: God created people to be His coworkers in expanding His kingdom on earth. He is present in the work of His children in order to meet the needs of humankind and bring glory to Himself.
My main motivation in writing this book is simple. I am a teacher by spiritual gifting. I feel compelled to teach what has been immensely beneficial to me. By God’s leading over the past forty years, I have had a unique career background. My journey has given me deep insights on the theology of work, which may be different from what you have heard before.
This material will be applicable to anyone who is or has ever been employed at whatever stage you find yourself—a young adult trying to find your place in this world, struggling with your career choices at midlife, nearing retirement, those who are already done with their careers, whether you work outside or inside the home, if you are unemployed or underemployed. It will also apply to those who have had either good or bad work experiences.
You ought to know what you can expect from reading this book:
First, I will challenge some of the popular (but inaccurate) views on work, which may stretch your own thoughts and attitudes. These views include the following: Work was given to humans as part of the curse. Temporal or physical things are of less value when compared to the things that last for eternity or spiritual things. Evangelism is the main reason Christians are to work in secular jobs. The purpose of work is to bring home a paycheck and nothing more. It does not matter what I do because the world is going to burn up when Jesus comes back anyway. Instead, I will introduce or reinforce biblically supported views on work, which include the following: Work is a blessing given by God. We are coworkers with God in His continuing work of expanding and sustaining the creation. All work has value. God uses people to meet the wide-range of human needs to increase shalom in the world. Our work has a variety of God-given purposes. Sin impacts every aspect of work. Our work has eternal implications.
Second, I will present a deep and wide introduction to an orthodox Christian doctrine of work that rests on the foundation of the Protestant Reformers (Luther, Calvin, and others). It will reflect the ideas of many writers, theologians, and leaders of the faith at work movement over the last two to three decades. These teachings may be new to a large number of Christians because it has not been taught well from our pulpits. I want to join in the conversation that has been taking place for some time and give this critical doctrine a much wider audience. I want God to use this book as a tool to help Christians fully understand the biblical theology of work.
Third, my main purpose is to greatly encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ who work in ordinary jobs. I want them to understand and believe that their work is significant and that it contributes to God’s work in the world. I want them to think biblically about work, understand what God wants to do in and through them at work, know how to work in a Christ-honoring way, and be fully aware of God’s presence at work every day. That is my passion.
I trust that as you read on, you will discover some biblical principles and helpful ideas that will guide you along the way in your own personal journey of faith throughout your career.
I encourage you to check out my book, read it, or give it to someone you love who needs it.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 40 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty and now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He has written 160 articles on faith and work topics on this blog since 2015. More than 70 articles have been posted or published 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.