Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review - Work Matters

"The worst of work nowadays is what happens to people when they cease to work.” This quote by G. K. Chesterton reveals the high regard in which this famous English writer held work. In his enigmatic style, Chesterton somewhat paradoxically praises work and the worker. Tom Nelson, pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, also holds work in high regard. In his recently released book, Work Matters, Nelson embarks on a journey in which, as the book's subtitle suggests, he tries to connect Sunday worship to Monday work.

Nelson endeavours to explore work both theologically and practically. He wants the reader to perceive the profound honour of work due to its theological foundation as well as help the reader transform how he actually works. Nelson explicates a theology of vocation by considering work in light of the meta-narrative of the Bible; creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Simply put, “To be an image-bearer is to be a worker” (22). Nelson maintains that God is a worker, and one of the most important ways we reflect His glory is through our work. We were created for this. However, as a result of sin, work has become difficult, disillusioning, and distorted. “We must recognize that at this point in redemptive history, our work will not be all we want it to be” (47). The futility of work is not the end of this story the author reminds us. Though sin has marred and maimed work, Christ's work of redemption encompasses what we have called 'the daily grind'. Nelson informs us of the positive and negative aspects of the gospel's effects on work. We are encouraged that “as new creations in Christ ... we are again able to do the work we were created for” (58) and yet we are warned that without Christ “your work will never be all that God intended it to be” (61). Finally, the author touches upon a few ideas concerning the afterlife. Our work here on earth will be rewarded. And, writes Nelson, “if our daily work ... in some way carries over to the new heavens and the new earth, then our present work itself is overflowing with immeasurable value and eternal significance” (73).

I found this section of the book very encouraging as I considered my job and the daily work-a-day life that many of us live. These deep theological truths infuse our work with value, significance, and purpose far beyond the accumulation of money. These are the types of teachings which will indeed help us connect worship and work.

Though Nelson never leaves his theological and doctrinal moorings, he moves on to practical implications of the theology he has just demonstrated. Nelson covers topics such as the witness of our work, our sanctification through work, and common grace and our work. He also examines individual work issues such as contentment, calling, giftedness, and growth.

This was a helpful book written convincingly. It offers a solid theological basis for holding work in high regard and helps us see the inseparable connection between our lives as worshipers and our lives as workers. The truths in this book are fodder for continual application of truth from God to our lives as they are lived daily. For and educational and engaging look into vocation and its theology, I recommend this book.

Nelson, Tom. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship with Monday Work. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.

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