Saturday, June 24, 2006

What the Puritans Teach Us About Work - Part 1

One of the distinguishing marks of the Puritans was their fully orbed views on work. Their passion and commitment to the supremacy of God's authority in all of life extended into their work life. I thought it might be interesting examine what they believed and how they applied their rich theology in this area.

What would the Puritans say to us who live and work in a digital age? They might begin with their conviction that all work is ordained by God. They would be eager to dispose of any false distinctions between secular and sacred work.

"This is a wonderful thing, that the Savior of the world, and the King above all kings, was not ashamed to labor; yea, and to use so simple an occupation. Here he did sanctify all manner of occupations." Hugh Latimer

This was in great part reinforced because they held to a view that God calls each person to a specific work or occupation.

"God doth call every man and serve him in some peculiar employment in this world, both for their own and the common good..." Richard Steele

Cotton Mather provides the following comment on how one should steward that calling.

"A Christian should be able to give a good account, not only what is his occupation but also what he is in his occupation"

Regardless of whether you share the Puritans views on work, their passion to see God honored in and through their work is commendable and inspiring. How might their conviction in the sanctity of all legitimate work inform us today? I offer a couple suggestions -

  • It should bring us purpose in our work. If the Puritans are right, all manner of legitimate work offers an opportunity for us to obey and honor God. In short, it provides an opportunity for worship.
  • It should inspire faithfulness. If you believe as the Puritans did that it is God who calls each man to a particular vocation, then faithful discharge of that work is vital if we are to fulfill that calling. Attention to faithfunessl in other areas of life but not in this area would be deficient.

Even though I do not consciously subscribe to a sacred-secular dichotomy of work, I nonetheless often forget these truths in practice. By obscuring them, I may be missing opportunities for faithful worship in my daily life.

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