What is Faith and Vocation? A Theology of Work

faith and vocation
Gianluca Cueva, Adjunct Professor, Trinity International University-Florida

Will you work in heaven? Day after day we clock in and out from work. But perhaps in the busyness of our days, we don’t tend to think of what our life with the Lord will look like when He returns. What will heaven be like? What will we spend eternity doing? Will we only be singing praises to God endlessly? Or will we be doing more? Will we work in heaven? Depending how we answer this question will determine how much we understand what “Faith and Vocation” truly is. So, before we look to the end and consummation of all things, let’s start at the beginning. 


God’s work and ours

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 1:1; 2:2).


In the first pages of the Bible, we see that God is a God that works (and a God that rests, but that’s for another time). God calls his work good, in fact, it’s very good (Genesis 1:31). And among his work, God creates humanity, man and woman in His image (Genesis 1:26). So, it should come as no surprise that among the blessings humanity is given, one of them is work (Genesis 2:15). It was, therefore, good for man and woman to work.

And what was the nature of their work? This is what has become known by some as the Cultural Mandate:

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:28).

Adam and Eve’s work was to start in the Garden, but it was never meant to end there. They were to cultivate and expand God’s creation as they “filled the earth and subdued it.” They were to care for creation as they stewarded God’s resources, cultivating the land and creating a culture that was obedient to God. Because though the Scriptures begin in a Garden, they end in a City. 


Cursed, but not destroyed

And we see that Adam and Eve do end up leaving the Garden, but not by choice. Tragically, Genesis 3 records the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Their sin against God not only casts them out from the Garden and brings about death, but it also brings curses upon their work. As men and women must now labor and toil outside the Garden, their work will be made painful, full of thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:16-18). 

It’s important for us to note that God does not take away the blessing of work. Work was given to humanity before their sin and disobedience, and it remains after. Oftentimes we tend to think that work itself is the curse. However, work itself is not a curse but cursed.


His workmanship and our work 

Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus himself worked as a tradesman and experienced how humanity’s work was cursed. Of course, Christ came to be more than just a carpenter. He came to work for our salvation. In Christ, we are told that we are now His “workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). And while some are called to vocational ministry, not all are called to this vocation. 

Faith and Vocation, Part of God’s Plan

However, all are called to some vocation. Be it teachers, maintenance workers, lawyers, artists, nurses, or construction, we are all called to a vocation. The Cultural Mandate, though affected by the curse, is also not destroyed. And though Christ’s Great Commission calls us all to be disciple makers this does not mean it has to be done apart or in opposition with the Cultural Mandate. On the contrary, the Great Commission now compliments the Cultural Mandate. 

Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Colossae, speaks about how we are to work in our day-to-day jobs: 

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).

The New Testament does not remain silent when it comes to our work. Our faith in Christ demands a change in the way we work and view work. We work as unto the Lord. Whether we are painters, students, engineers, stay-at-home parents, or businessmen and women, we work as unto the Lord. Should we then seek to evangelize in our places of work? Yes, and amen! Should we also seek to do and produce good and honest work, no matter the vocation? Yes, and amen! Faith and work remind us that there should be no separation between Sunday morning at church and Monday morning at work. 

Christian, are you letting your faith impact your work? Pastor, are you equipping the saints for the work of the ministry at their 9-to-5 jobs? 


Work restored

When Christ returns, we know that He will come and make all things new. As a matter of fact, what we see at the end of all things is a New City, a Garden City (Revelation 22:1-5). Here we see allusions back to the Garden but now with no curse. Instead, the church will reign (v. 5) forever and ever. Work will not be abolished but the curse over it will. Like before, we will continue God’s Cultural Mandate to rule and reign over His earth. What a glorious hope we have! 

And until His return, we continue to work unto Him. But this is not an easy task. We need help from trained pastors and faithful Christian institutions (universities, seminaries, etc.) to help us with our theological understanding of Faith and Vocation. We are not saved by our works. We are given work to worship and honor God through, all to the praise of His glorious name! 


Gianluca Cueva is an Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries at Trinity International University-Florida.

Read last month’s article by TIU: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/followership/

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