Over the past two decades there has been an increased interest and promotion of the Biblical meaning of work and the Christian view of vocation. Many groups have contributed to this revival, including the Acton Institute (last year we launched Oikonomia, a blog at Patheos’ Faith and Work Channel, dedicated to providing resources specific to the intersection of faith, work, and economics).
While the faith and work conversation has been exceedingly fruitful, it has also been rather limited to what can be described as “knowledge workers.” As Comment’s Brian Dijkema says,
[W]e fall into the trap of taking Andy Crouch’s Culture Making and equating it with a baptized version of Richard Florida’s “creative class.” We get excited about those who open local coffee shops or become journalists or start a non-profit or (fill in the blank). But what do our “faith and work” books have to say to people who work on the line at a Ford assembly plant, or to medical assistants who take care of the elderly? Will landscapers and receptionists see themselves in the “work” we’re talking about? Would anyone who has to wear coveralls to work feel comfortable at our “faith and work” conferences?
And even when we bring skilled labour—or the completely different category of menial labour—into the faith and work conversation, we sometimes focus on the parts of those jobs that fit with creativity and fulfillment. It’s nice to say “it’s so good that you care for our elderly,” but it’s much harder to talk about having to change colostomy bags, or how you smell when you’re done cleaning out a chicken barn. Yet this work takes the waking hours of many people—perhaps even the majority—in North America and certainly the world. Leaving this work out of the conversation not only leaves too many on the outside, but unwittingly communicates a certain hopelessness, as if joy and satisfaction—indeed the LORD’s satisfaction—cannot be found in this type of work.