12 Apr #168 – Why Easter Matters (for Work, Business and Investing)
ESSENCE: Does Easter shape the WHY of your work, business and investing? Easter is important for every worker, business leader and investor who follows Jesus because it serves as a reminder of a bigger WHY and a sacred relevance for our work, business and investing rooted in God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom. N.T. Wright writes that the resurrection represents the beginning of God’s new project “to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” Believing that Easter is the beginning of a project to bring heaven to earth in a restored Kingdom has huge implications for the WHY of work, business and investing. It gives forward-looking purpose and relevance to the underlying importance of work, business and investing we can only learn from Genesis–work (and, by extension, business and investing) was designed as a sacred activity not only as a platform and vehicle for evangelism but as a way to beautify the world. It means every business and investment decision has the potential to move God’s Kingdom a little closer to God’s perfect Restoration. It means work, business and investing have intrinsic Kingdom value, and the WHY and HOW of our work, business and investing matter. He is risen indeed!
It is obvious that the holiday of Easter is very important for some workers, businesses and investors. Candy and confections sales for the 2021 Easter season reached nearly $4 billion, 91% of Americans planned to share confectionary treats during the 2022 Easter season, and consumers were expected to spend a record $24 billion on Easter in 2023.
What is not so obvious (but infinitely more important) is the importance of the reality and significance of Easter—i.e., the reality and significance of Jesus’s resurrection—for every worker, business and investor, particularly those who are, or which are led by, Christians.
With the miracle of Easter still in our rearview mirror, there is no better time to consider how the resurrection should shape how we work, how we lead businesses, and how we invest.
BIGGER Gospel: A “Kingdom” Refresher
When we first wrote about the significance of Easter to work, business and investing, our inspiration came from an N.T. Wright quote that was in a church bulletin on Easter Sunday:
Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.
To understand the implications of Wright’s statement, we need to understand the Bible from a “Kingdom” perspective.
At Integrous, we believe that many faith-driven leaders are operating out of a narrow and incomplete vision of God’s story. But it is not their fault. Many churches and religious leaders have presented (and continue to present) a Biblical message that truncates the narrative of the Bible. This difference is often referred to as a “Four-Part Gospel” (or a “Gospel of the Kingdom”) versus a “Two-Part Gospel” (or a “Gospel of Atonement”).
Four-Part Gospel (“Gospel of the Kingdom”). The grand Biblical narrative can be divided into four key parts (N.T. Wright adds an additional part, ‘Israel’, between Fall and Redemption, recognizing the importance of the Abrahamic covenant and God’s purpose for the Israelites):
(3) Redemption (through Jesus); and
(4) Restoration (of God’s Kingdom on earth)
Two-Part Gospel (“Gospel of Atonement”). Many churches and religious leaders have emphasized the middle two parts of the Biblical narrative in presenting “the Gospel”: (2) Fall and (3) Redemption (through Jesus). At the risk of oversimplification, this is presented as some variation of “You are a sinner and Jesus came to save you.”
Dallas Willard identifies two forms of what he calls a “Gospel of Sin Management” (and we are calling a “Two-Part Gospel”): a Gospel of the right (correct beliefs) which emphasizes Evangelism and a Gospel of the left (correct actions) which emphasizes a Social Gospel of serving the underserved.
A Two-Part Gospel is “good” but not enough to explain the intrinsic value of work (and business and investing) in God’s Kingdom. A Two-Part Gospel makes it hard to see how work (or business or investing) can matter to God unless it is explicitly evangelistic or is helping the underserved (or is generating wealth that is used to support those evangelizing or helping the underserved).
The bigger problem with a narrow Gospel is that if you don’t know where you came from or where you are going, it is hard to make sense of where you are and what you should be doing!
By including Creation, a Four-Part Gospel tells WHY we are here, HOW we were made, and WHAT work (and business and investing) and relationships represent in God’s design. By including God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom on earth, a Four-Part Gospel tells the whole story of WHY Jesus redeemed us (beyond salvation), WHAT we are supposed to do after being redeemed and HOW work (and business and investing) is relevant in God’s Kingdom plan.
Restoration: A “Where We Are Going” Refresher
The nature of “heaven” and what happens to us and our world when Jesus returns may be theologically controversial topics, but they are also an important ones. They are important because our understanding of “where we are going someday” profoundly affects “how we act today”.
There are basically two Biblical views of heaven and what happens to earth (we don’t need to get into theological debates regarding: whether there is a hell; if there a hell, who goes there and who goes to heaven; and if there is a hell, whether it is eternal):
Rapture. People going to heaven are whisked off to an ethereal heaven and the earth burns up.
Restoration. Heaven is here on earth in a restored Kingdom that unites God’s dimension with our earthly dimension.
We highly recommend N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church for a discussion of the two views of heaven, their genesis, as well as an explanation of what we actually learn from the Bible. Here are a few excerpts:
Traditionally, of course, we suppose that Christianity teaches about a heaven above, to which the saved or blessed go, and a hell below, for the wicked and impenitent.
It comes as something of a shock, in fact, when people are told what is in fact the case: that there is very little in the Bible about “going to heaven when you die” and not a lot about a postmortem hell either. The medieval pictures of heaven and hell, boosted though not created by Dante’s classic work, have exercised a huge influence on Western Christian imagination.
But the language of heaven in the New Testament doesn’t work that way. “God’s kingdom” in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life—God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever.
Now, let’s consider how these two views of heaven impact how we act today:
Rapture. If people going to heaven are whisked off to an ethereal heaven and the earth burns up, what we do on earth doesn’t matter much in the long run (assuming you belief in salvation by faith rather than works)–it is all going away and, ultimately, our efforts to improve the world are in vain. What we do on earth mainly matters to the extent it encourages (or discourages) people to turn toward God or reflects God’s compassion for the underserved (which hopefully also encourages them to turn toward God).
Restoration. If heaven is here on earth in a restored Kingdom that unites God’s dimension with our earthly dimension, then things get exciting because what we do here may last into eternity.
Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project . . . . (N.T. Wright)
The Importance of Easter for Work, Business and Investing
Even if your work, business and investing doesn’t involve candy, greeting cards or flowers, Easter is important for your business. Easter is important for every Christian worker, businessperson and investor because it serves as a reminder of a bigger WHY for our work (and business and investing) rooted in God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom.
As N.T. Wright proclaimed, the resurrection represents the beginning of God’s new project “to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”
Easter for “Rapturists”. If you are firmly planted in the Rapture camp, then Easter is extremely important for you individually. But it should also be relevant to your work (or business or investing) to the extent you are using it as a platform or vehicle to evangelize others. We can use our work (and business and investing) to tell people about Jesus and to provide a foretaste of heaven so that people are enticed into putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Easter for “Restorationists”. Believing that Easter is the beginning of a project to bring heaven to earth in a restored Kingdom has huge implications for work, business and investing.
It means they are sacred activities, not only as platforms and vehicles for evangelism but as ways to beautify the world through:
• The way in which we work.
• The way in which we conduct business and lead organizations.
• The way in which we invest and the priorities and expectations we communicate as investors
• The products we create or capitalize that meet needs and provide solutions to the material challenges of human life.
• The economic prosperity that makes those products affordable and accessible in a way that cares for all creation.
Every decision has the potential to move God’s Kingdom a little closer to God’s perfect Restoration. Work, business and investing have intrinsic Kingdom value.
The Restoration understanding of heaven we learn from Revelation gives forward-looking purpose to the underlying goodness and importance of work (and business and investing) we can only learn from Genesis. They are the book-ends. We will end where we began, with a quote from N.T. Wright:
When Paul wrote his great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, he didn’t end by saying, “So let’s celebrate the great future life that awaits us.” He ended by saying, “So get on with your work because you know that in the Lord it won’t go to waste.” When the final resurrection occurs, as the centerpiece of God’s new creation, we will discover that everything done in the present world in the power of Jesus’s own resurrection will be celebrated and included, appropriately transformed.
To once again borrow from the quote on an Easter Sunday church bulletin (from Easter 2023 at Talmadge Hill Community Church):
Easter declares that you can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there. (Clarence W. Hall)
The world can push and pressure a faithful leader toward business as usual, and investors can demand that Profit as Purpose must be the end toward which a business is managed, but the truth is that God created work, and by extension business and investing, with a much bigger WHY–and Easter is a vivid reminder. That truth will not stay buried.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Readers of his blog know how often I look to the wisdom of N.T. Wright. I think this remains my favorite N.T. Wright passage:
What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.