Musings on work (2) Spirit work

work mattersR Paul Stevens has done a lot of reflecting and working on work. He’s written a nice wee book called Work Matters: lessons from Scripture, which takes the form of a series of short reflections on work and various biblical characters.

One is on Bezalel and ‘Spirit work’. In it, he rejects the notion that the Spirit gives his gifts solely for ministry in the church. Rather, the Spirit equips and gifts his people to “enter into God’s beautiful work of transforming creation, culture, and people.”

Bezalel is his ‘patron saint’ of Spirit work, a craftsman and artist working to make the tabernacle, the sacred place of meeting with God  of whom Moses says

he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.(Exodus 35:31-2),

The Spirit gives Bezalel three things

i. Wisdom: practical intelligence and vision

ii. Understanding and knowledge –  clarity in problem solving

iii. Practical ability – work with the hands

And Moses continues:

And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

The Spirit enables people to teach others how to work to create beauty, as well as the wisdom, understanding and knowledge needed to get a good job done.

Stevens’ argument is that, while this sort of Spirit enabling is rare in the OT, in the new covenant, the Spirit gifts his people for working ‘personally, universally and permanently’.

[This is more a theological position rather than argued textually – he quotes Rom 12:3-8 as an example of work that can be done anywhere, but this seems a push to me given Paul’s strong ecclesial community focus). But it’s a position that makes sense, since “ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col 3:23)

Good questions follow:

What is God calling you to work at? Or to put it another way, do you see your work as a calling from God?

What work excites you and you enjoy doing? And if it does, it’s likely that God-given gifts are being used. Frederick Buechner says

The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

What work have others affirmed you in?

Do you see all work as a place to glorify God? – whether work in communication, business, healthcare, teaching, building, bringing up children etc

How does your work involve serving others as an act of worship and love?

How can we see work as a place to enrich human life and create beauty? – in cooking a meal, in talking with a student, in cutting hair, in creating jobs ..

Comments, as ever, welcome.

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