#052 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Kingdom—Role of Work, Business and Redemption

ESSENCE: The book-ends of a BIGGER GOSPEL reveal the purpose and relevance of work and organizations in God’s grand plan and an even greater purpose for Redemption through Jesus.  Creation and Restoration teach us that humans need work and organizations to be “fully human”; work and organizations have intrinsic Kingdom value; work and organizations can glorify God; and a purpose of Redemption is to free and equip us to co-labor with God in His Restoration plan.  These BIGGER purposes for work and business–ways to faithfully “do right”–are to humanize people, beautify the world and glorify God.

We have looked at a BIGGER GOSPEL–a Four-Part “Gospel of the Kingdom” in order to understand the purpose and relevance of work and business.  Without the beginning (Creation) and the end (Restoration), we can’t fully understand the middle (Fall and Redemption through Jesus), and we can’t understand the purpose or relevance behind the activity that occupies such a huge portion of our waking hours–work.

It is time to put together the lessons from Genesis and Revelation to see God’s purpose for work and business and an even greater purpose for Redemption through Jesus.  We believe the purpose of work and business is to humanize people, beautify the world and glorify God, and a purpose of Redemption is to free and equip us to co-labor with God toward those purposes.

The Biblical Role of Work and Business

  • Lessons from Creation (Genesis) and Restoration (Revelation).
    • We Need Work and Organizations To Be “Fully Human”.
      • God created work as something “good” before the Fall, and God put us into the Garden to “work and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).  Humans were created in the image of a creative and productive God who displayed His “working nature” by creating for six days (and then resting), which means work is essential to our humanity in reflecting that nature.  Being “fully human” requires having an opportunity to reflect God’s image and reveal His Kingdom in all of life, including our work.
      • Being made in the image of God also means that we were created to reflect the relational character of God displayed in Genesis, including in our work.  Organizations (including businesses) are platforms that facilitate humans working together in relationship.
    • Work and Organizations Have Intrinsic Kingdom Value.  
      • Work has intrinsic value in God’s Kingdom simply because it allows us to reflect our humanity, and it is necessary to being “fully human”, apart from the product of that work.  WHO you are while working matters as much as (and even more than) WHAT you are producing, because it is an opportunity to reflect your humanity as an image-bearer of God.
      • We learned in Genesis 2:5 that the product of our work has intrinsic Kingdom value because the world was created to “need” our cultivation in order to flourish.  God built potential into the world and then commanded and equipped us to unleash it.
      • The product of our work also has intrinsic Kingdom value because it is the way we fulfill the Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:28 to: “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”   We do that by taking the raw materials God created and applying our image-bearing creativity and productivity to produce new things that bring and promote flourishing, including by allowing the development of culture and society.
      • Organizations (including businesses) have intrinsic Kingdom value because they create the platform and the opportunity for humans to come together in relationship to express and fulfill their humanity through work by producing and promoting flourishing and “building for the Kingdom” in ways that could not be accomplished by people working alone.
    • Work and Organizations Can Glorify God.  Because work is a key way we are meant to reflect God’s image in the world and organizations are merely groups of people working together, work and organizations CAN glorify God in what they do and how they do it, if it is done in alignment with Biblical principles and priorities, including the pursuit of flourishing.  Of course, 1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs that all we do should be done for the glory of God.

A Bigger Purpose of Redemption

Redemption through Jesus is commonly seen as all about forgiveness of sins and “salvation”–getting to heaven.  However, looking at the Bible through the lens of a BIGGER Kingdom Gospel reveals another exciting aspect and purpose of Redemption–to restore our humanity by restoring our relationship with God so that we can “get back in the game” of “building for the Kingdom”.   Humans were given work and the Creation Mandate before the Fall, but we are not able to understand or engage fully in that mission without Redemption and the Holy Spirit.  Leaning again on the eloquent words of theologian N.T. Wright from his book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church:

In the new creation the ancient human mandate to look after the garden is dramatically reaffirmed . . . .  The resurrection of Jesus is the reaffirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit is there to make us the fully human beings we were supposed to be, precisely so that we can fulfill that mandate at last.

The resurrection of Jesus is the reaffirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit is there to make us the fully human beings we were supposed to be, precisely so that we can fulfill that mandate at last. (NT Wright)

At Integrous, we summarize and express these BIGGER purposes of work and business–these ways in which to faithfully “do right”–as being threefold: 

  • Humanize: God created work as a good thing and created people to work.  People are more “fully human” when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity.
  • Beautify: God created a world that flourishes through our productivity and creativity and then commanded us to be instruments of its flourishing.  An organization adds to the beauty of the world and assists in God’s restorative plan for His Kingdom by creating opportunities, goods and services that help families and communities to flourish and by extending its culture of Shalom to all people it touches.  In the process, the work of the organization takes on deeper meaning for its own people.
  • Glorify: If people are called to glorify God in all they do and “love their neighbor”, then organizations must exist to do the same.  An organization does so principally through serving people–by providing opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identities in creative and meaningful work, by providing opportunities, goods and services that enable families and communities to flourish and by creating a culture of Shalom conducive to the flourishing of all people it touches.

We have been looking at a BIGGER GOSPEL because a first principle in the Bible (and one of our “Integrity Priorities”) is to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).  That makes it critical to understand God’s kingdom, which requires looking at the nature of the kingdom that the Bible tells us is coming and the implications of that nature for what we do today.

Work is where we spend most of our waking hours, and a BIGGER Kingdom Gospel reveals that work has a much greater purpose than just “to pay the bills”. A leader can’t lead an organization to faithfully “do right” without understanding and embracing the BIGGER purpose for, and relevance of, work and organizations in the grand Four-Part Biblical narrative.  We believe it is time for “business a better way” in alignment with Biblical values and priorities–it is time to begin faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity®.

SPOILER ALERT:  In our next few posts, we will begin exploring the “Generosity Priorities” embedded in IntegriosityLove and Humility.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  Integrous and Integriosity were born out of finally having my eyes opened to God’s incredible purpose and potential for work and business and then comparing it to the reality in our broken world.  My eyes were opened by the writings and talks of authors like N.T. Wright, Jeff Van Duzer, James Hunter, Tim Keller, Os Hillman and Michael Stallard.  They were opened through friendships with people like John Seel, Bob Varney, Lance Wallnau and Henry Kaestner.  I then began comparing the incredible potential to what I experienced for nearly 23 years in a business built and run on worldly principles with no pretense of trying to be faithful to God’s purposes.  But I also compared it to what I witnessed in businesses and leaders that did profess to be integrating their work or business with their Biblical faith.  They were “doing good” but there seemed to be so much more.  I sensed the missed purpose for organizations, the missed calling for leaders, the missed flourishing for people and the increased misery that was explained in Post #36.  In speaking to many leaders with deep faith and the best intentions, I realized that they had never been told the “truth” of God’s purpose for work and business.  They had never been told the implications of the Four-Part Gospel for work and business in a way that made practical sense.

During a retreat at the We Want More house in Bridgeport, CT in 2016, we did an exercise to develop a personal mission statement.  What came out of the process for me confirmed what I had been feeling for several years.  My vocational mission is “to redeem work through the impartation of wisdom, spotlighting God’s truth and connecting its meaning to organizational cultures and practices.”   I do not claim any new ideas.  My hope is that I am able to synthesize the ideas of many brilliant people in a way that makes sense, is exciting and can be applied practically, albeit with a necessary leap of faith.

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