Though some work may seem useless, Christians understand that all work is God’s work. Our work only seems insignificant because we fail to grasp the big picture. This is what economists refer to as the “knowledge problem.” The knowledge problem means we can’t always see the big picture because knowledge is dispersed among many people; no one person knows everything. In the vocational sense, this means we may not understand how our work is part of a much larger economic dynamic. If we can’t easily see how our work contributes to the common good, we may understate the effect of what we do.
Some positions make it difficult for workers to see the end product, but that certainly does not mean that their work is insignificant. Just because a factory worker doesn’t receive the instant gratification of seeing the final product that he helped to create doesn’t change the reality that his effort contributed to that product…
… It’s important to remember that the value of our work may never be fully realized in our lifetime. In medieval times, it could take hundreds of years to build a single cathedral. The laborer laying the cornerstone might never live to see the top of the steeple. (more…)
Darryl Hart has a bit of a go at “the hyperventilation that goes on in some neo-Calvinist circles when folks talk about the power of the gospel to redeem all of life,” using the woes of the city of Detroit as a trump card.
Hart wonders why he hasn’t “seen too many posts from the transformers about Detroit’s decline and bankruptcy.” I don’t know if The Gospel Coalition is going to have anything say about Detroit’s bankruptcy, but Tim Keller does reflect more generally on the future of cities in America:
Some of the most troubled, such as Detroit, are going to have to make drastic changes, essentially shrinking their urban footprint deliberately and redesigning themselves as a smaller municipality. But that will not be the norm in the U.S. I believe that immigration and broader cultural factors still make cities highly desirable destinations for the most ambitious and innovative people, and that will be crucial in continuing the rise of cities.
Most of us have spent at least a little time working in jobs we weren’t thrilled about. For me, it peaked with McDonald’s (no offense, Ronald).
For Trevin Wax, it was Cracker Barrel:
I never wanted to work at Cracker Barrel. I had business experience as an office manager, plus five years of international missions experience tucked under my belt.
But none of that mattered when the most pressing question was, How will you provide for your wife and son this week? Like many before and after me, I did whatever was necessary.
In the past, I’ve referred to such work as “needs-based” — an adjective that would seem highly redundant to most of our ancestors, not to mention plenty of today’s poor. Our now-widespread discussions and contemplations about vocation and personal calling are somewhat new, and we should be careful to recognize why exactly we have the reactions we do about working at reliable, air-conditioned joints like Cracker Barrel.
Each new wave of economic progress and individual empowerment has brought more opportunity to look upward and onward, beyond meeting our own needs and toward something bigger and brighter and so on. This is a marvelous thing, but with such opportunity and privilege also comes a temptation to look inward when it’s convenient — to rejoice in ourselves when we succeed and get grumpy when we wind up sniffing grease at Cracker Barrel.
Wax, however, looks back on his experience as much more than a pay-the-bills moment. Rather, the 18 months he spent at Cracker Barrel serves as “a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness to us during a difficult, sometimes frustrating, season of life.” Pointing out that “there are hidden blessings in unwelcome work,” Wax proceeds to offer four reminders for those who find themselves in work situations that don’t seem to fit the mission. (more…)
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan and regular blogger at The Gospel Coalition, featured Rev. Robert Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, on his blog. DeYoung praises Defending the Free Market for making a serious moral case for a free market system:
Robert Sirico, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy (Regnery 2012). Rev. Sirico is a Catholic priest, the president of the Grand Rapids based Acton Institute, and a former radical leftist. As you can guess by the title, he’s since said goodbye to his socialist and Marxist leanings. It’s a shame than in our hyper-partisan climate many people will automatically dismiss the book as Republican propaganda. But it really isn’t. Sirico is picking up where Michael Novak left off in making a strong moral case for capitalism, free markets, and the calling of the entrepreneur. It’s a case that Christians need to consider more carefully, even if you end up disagreeing with some of Sirico’s points, especially the many pastors who bring a superficial understanding of business and economics with them into the pulpit. This would be a great book to read and discuss in a small group, a book club, or a senior seminar.
For a free chapter of Sirico’s book, check out the official book site here.
When we launched the PowerBlog in 2005, we had little idea that it would grow into one of the Acton Institute’s most popular and powerful communications channels. Nearly 4,000 posts, and 8,000 comments later, the PowerBlog is still going strong. And for that, we heartily thank our many readers, contributors and commenters.
Now we have for the first time a dedicated editor to help sustain and grow the blog for the advancement of the “free and virtuous society.” Veteran journalist Joe Carter is joining Acton as Senior Editor beginning today.
Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, online editor for First Things, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A 15-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously worked as the managing editor for The East Texas Tribune and the online magazine Culture11. He has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign, as a director of communications for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, and as director of online communications for Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator (Crossway).
Please join me in welcoming Joe to the PowerBlog.