When young, we may be too inexperienced to get the kind of work we want. When old, we face declining skills and abilities and sometimes age discrimination. In between, we worry whether we are on a fast enough track to achieve our objectives. Work was meant to be a creative co-laboring with God Genesis 2: What then are we to do? Invite God to inhabit our work, no matter how toilsome it may seem. Prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house. For the nihilist and the cynic, the cruelty of life justifies immorality and selfishness.
For the believer, it is all the more reason to cultivate character. Psalm gives a delightful depiction of this creative partnership. God provides richly for human beings as well Ps. The work of humans is to build further, using what God gives. We have to gather and use the plants. We make the wine and bread and extract the oil from the plants God causes to grow Ps.
God provides so richly, in part, by populating his creation with people who labor six days a week. Thus, while this psalm speaks of all creatures looking to God for food, and God opening his hand to supply it Ps.
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Instead, it is meant as a series of examples of how Christian groups or individuals can faithfully employ the psalms as they seek to integrate their faith and their work. Craigie, Psalms 1—50 , vol. Book 1 consists largely of psalms spoken by David individually, rather than by Israel as a nation. They address matters that concern David, personally, and this makes them applicable to the situations we face at work on our own.
Later books bring in the social and communal aspects of life and work. The two opening psalms establish themes that run through the entire Psalter. Psalm 1 describes personal integrity, indicating that this is how every reader should live. It specifically applies this to work and to our desire for success. Work done ethically tends to prosper.
This is a general truth and not an infallible rule. Sometimes people suffer because of acting ethically, at work or elsewhere. But it is still true that people who fear God and have integrity will likely do well. Psalm 2 focuses on the house of David. God has chosen this kingdom and its temple, Zion, to be the focus of the kingdom of God.
Happy are all who take refuge in him. A good work ethic is valuable, but we cannot make prosperity our priority. We cannot serve God and money Matthew 6: After Psalms 1 and 2, Book 1 has many psalms in which David complains to God about his enemies. These psalms can be difficult for readers today since David sometimes sounds vengeful. But we should not miss the fact that when foes are around him, he commits the problem to God.
He does not take matters into his own hands. These psalms have application to the workplace. Frequently conflicts and rivalries will appear among people on the job, and sometimes these fights can be vicious. Occupational battles can lead to depression and loss of sleep. When we are in the midst of such a battle, however, our prayers for help may seem futile. But God hears and responds: On the other hand, we must be careful to maintain our integrity when in the midst of such conflicts.
It will do no good for us to call out to God if we are being mean, dishonest, or unethical on the job. Psalm 8 is an exception in Book 1, as it does not pertain specifically to David. Although God created the entire universe Ps. This is a high calling. Chief among these are caring for the creatures of the earth Ps. If we gain authority in work, it is tempting to regard our position as a reward for our hard work or intelligence and to exploit our authority for personal gain.
But Psalm 8 reminds us that authority comes not as a reward, but as an obligation. It is right that we should be accountable to superiors, boards of directors, trustees, voters or whatever earthly forms of governance we serve under, but that alone is not sufficient. We must also be accountable to God. Political leaders, for example have a duty to pay attention to the best environmental and economic science available when considering energy policy, whether or not it accords with current political winds.
Similarly, business leaders are called to anticipate and prevent possible harm to children —whether physical, mental, cultural, or spiritual—from their products and services. This applies not only to toys, movies, television, and food, but also to retailing, transportation, telecommunications, and financial services, among others. The Psalter says a good deal about workplace ethics.
Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who do these things shall never be moved. Loans that put distressed borrowers into greater debt would be an example, as would credit cards that intentionally entrap unsavvy cardholders with unexpected fees and interest rate escalations. Good business ethics—and its counterparts in other fields of work—requires that customers genuinely benefit from the goods and services offered to them. They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. As in the modern world, so also in the ancient world, it was difficult to be involved in business without sometimes getting ensnared in lawsuits.
The passage moves us to testify honestly and not pervert justice by fraud. When others are unscrupulous, our honesty might cost in lost promotions, business transactions, elections, grades and publications. Ethics also comes to the fore in Psalm Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
In extreme cases, this could lead to your death at their hands, but even if not, life surrounded by enemies is not enjoyable. If life is your chief desire, trustworthy friends are far more profitable than ill-gotten gain. It is possible that a life of integrity will be costly in worldly terms. In a corrupt country, a business person who does not give bribes or a civil servant who does not take them could be unable to make a steady income.
Psalm 20 teaches us to trust God rather than human power, such as military might. Financial assets, no less than military assets, can be the basis for a false faith in human power. For that matter, we should recall that in the ancient world only the upper class soldiers would have horses and chariots.
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The ordinary soldiers would be drawn from the peasants and be on foot. It is a disturbing reality that even modest wealth and power often draw us away from God. If we trust God, we have the tranquility of knowing that God watches over us, like a shepherd watching over the sheep.
We work to honor him and not for our own glory—a powerful reminder that we need to hear on a regular basis. Such a godly perspective on our work generally drives us into our work more deeply, not away from it. In Psalm 23, we see this in the way the narrative of the Psalm is driven by the details of the work of shepherding. Shepherds find water, good grazing and paths in the wilderness. They ward off predators with sticks and staffs, and comfort the sheep with their words and their presence. This gives it the grounding in reality needed to be meaningful as a spiritual meditation. While we seek to honor God in our work, this does not mean the road will be easy.
This could come as the loss of a contract, a teaching assignment that has gone bad, or feelings of isolation and meaninglessness in our work. Or it could come as a longer-term struggle, such as a toxic office environment or inability to find a job. But Psalm 23 reminds us that God is near in all circumstances. His work on our behalf is not hypothetical, but tangible and real. A shepherd has a rod and staff, and God has every instrument needed to bring us safely through the worst of life Ps.
It is easy to remember this when things are calm, but here we are called to remember it in the midst of the challenge and adversity. While we would often rather not think about this, it is through the challenges of our lives that God works out his purposes in us. What does calling mean if you hate your job? Psalm 23 concludes by reminding us of the destination of our journey with God. As in Psalm [WGM1] and elsewhere, the house or household is not only a shelter where people eat and sleep, but the basic unit of work and economic production.
Thus, dwelling in the house of the Lord does not mean waiting until we die to so that we can cease working and receive our reward. Rather it promises that the time is coming when we will find a place where our work and life can thrive. The first half of the verse tells us directly that this is a promise for our present lives as well as eternity. The promise that God will be with us, bringing goodness and love in all of the circumstances of our life and work is a deeper kind of comfort than we can ever get from hoping to avoid every adversity that could befall us.
Human life is a series of choices, and many of these involve vocation. We should develop the habit of taking all such decisions to God. He will teach them the way that they should choose. His covenant and decrees are found, of course, in the Bible. The psalm does not name these particular items—they are examples from other parts of the Bible.
Integrity means living all of life under a coherent set of values, rather than, for example, being honest and compassionate with our families, but deceitful and cruel with our customers or co-workers. Although these means of guidance may seem abstract, they can be very practical when we put them to use in workplace situations. The key is to be specific in our Bible study, confession, prayer, and moral reasoning. All of us suffer from feelings of insecurity, and financial ruin is high on our list of worries.
In the second book of the Psalter we see a number of texts that relate to the fears that beset people and the paths to which they turn for help. We thus learn about the true and the false grounds for hope in a world of uncertainty. At times, disaster threatens our places of work, the work itself, or our sense of well-being. These disasters include the natural hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, typhoons, wildfires , the economic recessions, bankruptcy, collapse of major financial institutions , and the political sudden change in policy, priorities, war. Psalm 46 highlights the world-spanning breadth disaster can take, and we see this today in the global economy.
Currency decisions made in London and Beijing impact the price farmers from Indiana or Indonesia get for their crops. Political turmoil in the Middle East may affect the price of gasoline in a small town anywhere in the world, and this in turn, through a chain of events, may determine whether a local restaurant stays in business. The melting of the earth implies that someday all the powers of the nations will be seen to have been as ephemeral as castles made of wax. Turmoil in the world means uncertainty for trade, government, finance and every kind of work.
No matter how great the disaster, God is greater still. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Arthur Andersen, the auditing firm handling Enron, began to unravel as a result of the Enron scandal.
Robert Wright was a senior partner who decided that his primary goal would be to get jobs elsewhere for the people in his division when Andersen collapsed. He began looking to sell the division to a firm that would agree to retain the employees, and he discovered he needed to rely on God. Click here to continue reading. In the middle of difficult, threatening circumstances, we can approach our work and our co-workers calmly, confidently, even gladly. Our ultimate trust is in God, whose own self provides a refuge of strength and well-being when our strength runs out.
Sometimes the godly have a skewed perspective on how God governs, and this causes them needless anxiety. They think that the righteous should obviously do well in life while the wicked just as obviously fall into ruin. When the wicked thrive, Christians feel that the world has turned upside down and that their faith has proven vain.
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For when they die they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them. Those who devote their lives to making money must finally fail, for they have made a treasure of something they must lose Luke See " Concern for the Wealthy Luke 6: When someone who is evil but successful finally falls into ruin, people notice. They understand the connection between how that person lived and the calamity that ultimately swamped him or her. But we in fact only guarantee that we will share in their disgrace before people and their condemnation before God.
On the other hand, if we do decide to make God our trust, we must do so fully and not superficially. It is a terrible thing to do this while feigning allegiance to God. We would do well to ask what others see when they observe our work and the way we do it.
Book 3 of Psalms contains a great deal of lamentation and complaint. Divine judgment—both positive and negative—comes to the fore in many of the psalms here. Contemplating these psalms gives us a mirror in which to explore our own faithfulness—or lack of it—as well as to express our actual feelings to the God who is able to reconcile everything to himself. Psalm 73 depicts a four-fold journey of temptation and faithfulness, playing it out in the psalmist's work.
He finds himself preoccupied with the apparent success of the wicked, which he describes in obsessive detail over the next ten verses. This begins the third stage, in which he sees that the success of people who lack integrity is only temporary. Do we also follow this four-stage journey to some degree? We also may begin with integrity and faithfulness to God.
Then we see that others seem to be getting away with deception and oppression. Sometimes we become impatient with how long God is taking to execute his judgment. In fact, because we are not perfect ourselves, let us not be eager for God to judge the wicked.
Book 4 (Psalms 90–) | Bible Commentary | Theology of Work
Paying too much attention to the undeserved success of others, we become tempted to seek unfair advantages for ourselves too. It is especially tempting to succumb to this impulse at work, where it may seem like there is a different set of rules. We see arrogant people Ps. We see people commit fraud, yet prosper for years. Those with power over us at work seem foolish Ps. Maybe we should do the same ourselves.
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Like the Psalmist, our remedy is to remember that working alongside God—that is in accordance to his ways—is a delight in itself. But will the promotion and the extra income be worth the feeling of hollowness and the fear of being exposed as a fraud? Will success make up for the loss of friendships and the inability to trust anyone around us? If we take care of the people around us, share credit for success, and take our share of blame for failures, it may seem like we get off to a slower start.
Truly, God is good to the upright. Despite the attention to personal judgment we have seen in Psalm 73, in most of Book 3, it is the nation of Israel that comes under judgment. The topic of national judgment, per se, is relevant to this article to the extent that it establishes the context for people carrying out their work in that nation. It also suggests an important type of work the Christians can engage in while representing the Kingdom of God, namely national policy making.
Then it goes on to describe the economic consequences. The people experience peace and security, productive work, and increased prosperity Ps. Without good government, none of us can hope to prosper for long. In many places Christians are highly visible in opposing government policies we disagree with, but constructive engagement is needed too. What can you do to help establish or preserve good government in your town, region or nation? The psalm comes from someone feeling worn down by opposition from those more powerful.
At times all of us face opposition at work. Sometimes it is very directly personal and dangerous. We may be oppressed by others, or we may be at fault, or a mixture of both. We may feel unworthy in our work, unloved in our relationships, incapable of changing either our circumstances or ourselves. Of course, God does not save anyone—neither ourselves or our enemies—for the purpose of inflicting further harm.
With grace comes reform. None of us is able to make our own life—let alone the whole world—as it should be. We suffer, and we cannot shield those we love from suffering. Yet God remains in charge, and our hope for all things to be put right rests in him. Book 4 begins with the somber Psalm This psalm focuses our attention on the difficulty and the brevity of life. The brevity of life shades every aspect of our life and work. When young, we may be too inexperienced to get the kind of work we want.
When old, we face declining skills and abilities and sometimes age discrimination. In between, we worry whether we are on a fast enough track to achieve our objectives. Work was meant to be a creative co-laboring with God Genesis 2: What then are we to do? Invite God to inhabit our work, no matter how toilsome it may seem.
Prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house. For the nihilist and the cynic, the cruelty of life justifies immorality and selfishness. For the believer, it is all the more reason to cultivate character. Psalm gives a delightful depiction of this creative partnership.
God provides richly for human beings as well Ps. The work of humans is to build further, using what God gives. We have to gather and use the plants.
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We make the wine and bread and extract the oil from the plants God causes to grow Ps. God provides so richly, in part, by populating his creation with people who labor six days a week. Thus, while this psalm speaks of all creatures looking to God for food, and God opening his hand to supply it Ps. Intriguingly, the Psalm happily ascribes use of such tools to God himself, as well as to human beings. Even so, remember that we are the junior partners in creation with God.
In keeping with Genesis, human beings are the last creatures mentioned in Psalm But in distinction from Genesis, we come on the scene here with little fanfare. Each has its proper activity—for humans it is work and labor until the evening—but underneath every activity, it is God who provides all that is needed Ps. Psalm reminds us that God has done his work supremely well. In him our work may be done supremely well also, if only we work humbly in the strength his Spirit supplies, cultivating the beautiful world in which he has placed us by his grace.
The psalms in Book 5 have less of a common theme or setting than those in the other books. However, amidst the diversity of forms and settings, work appears more directly among these psalms than in other parts of the Psalter. Issues of economic creativity, business ethics, entrepreneurship, productivity, the work of raising children and managing a household, the proper use of power, and the glory of God in and through the material world all emerge in these psalms.
It is worth citing at length. Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
Then as now, people went to sea for fishing and trading. Their ships were fragile, and they had little warning before storms surged. Their lives and livelihood depended on the weather. Notwithstanding our technological advantages, we, too, depend upon a multitude of factors beyond our control in much of our work. God turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in; they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease Psalm