A Narrative Analysis of Work: How Relevant is a Vocation?

The Bible is emphatic about the work culture expressed by God in the Genesis story, where innovation represented the first vocation. God dedicated six days of his Earth sojourn to creative expression, setting the cultural tenor for humankind and generations to follow. The scriptures introduce work as a figment of eschatological design, suggesting that the…

Introduction

The Bible is emphatic about the work culture expressed by God in the Genesis story, where innovation represented the first vocation. God dedicated six days of his Earth sojourn to creative expression, setting the cultural tenor for humankind and generations to follow. The scriptures introduce work as a figment of eschatological design, suggesting that the endgame is finding oneself amidst the carnage of perversion. Jesus Christ’s mission to Earth aimed to conduct work for his Father and reinforced humanity’s spiritual affiliation to work and a disdain for idleness. What is the relevance of humankind’s vocation, passion, or line of business?

Work and God

Genesis recounts God’s work to create the heavens, Earth, and man in his image. Theologians have reasoned that reproducing man in God’s image must confer God’s working tradition to man. Genesis 2:2 asserts that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day, implying that God’s creative zeal was an occupation that consumed his time, energy, and spirit. The events transpiring around the creation were purposeful and deliberate and established the blueprint for man’s earthly mission. Work must therefore play a central role in man’s purpose and expectations for expending his time as modeled by God.

In Genesis 2:15 and 2:19, God assigned Adam specific responsibilities to look after the garden of Eden and to name the beasts and the fowls. These events backed the notion of man’s purpose and conferred on Adam responsibilities as a botanist and zoologist. Ben Witherington III, a professor of theology at Asbury Seminary, believes that work ascribes definition, meaning, and status to human existence. Without work, humankind would resort to marauding tribes engaged in internecine conflicts and infinite pleasures.

Witherington thinks it would be disingenuous in God’s design to omit the assignment of intentions and leave it up to man’s caprices for allocating his time. This point is conciliatory considering the magnificent universe and the implicit attention to detail interplaying between heavenly bodies and Earth’s ecosystem equilibrium.

Work and Jesus

Luke 2:49 and John 9:4 underscored the chain of command and line of reporting authority driving Jesus’ Earthly work. Both citations reference God as his ultimate master and person responsible for his mission. Christ’s work and teachings aimed to build character in humanity through scripture reading and fellowship with others in the church community. Character is central to becoming real humans designed in God’s image and engaging vocation with purpose and ethics. Human beings frequently encounter professionals in law, medicine, engineering, and the like who are proficient at what they do but lack moral certainty. This anomaly bolsters the imperative for seeking transformations from spirituality that renews our spirit and strengthens our Godly character. Paul’s pastoral epistle about the qualification of church leaders discusses the intrinsic values of leaders rather than what tasks they should perform. What humans are intrinsically is more important than what they do; although the two are inherently interrelated, the former influences the latter.

Spirituality and Entrepreneurship

Rob Breton, a professor of English at the University of British Columbia, perceives work–irrespective of its extraction–as an honorable activity conferring status and decency and representing the highest form of humanity. Idleness, the inverse of work, is often associated with undesirable conditions of human existence, such as laziness, unemployed, and unuseful. On the other hand, entrepreneurship conveys trappings of self-awareness and self-actualization in addition to the profit incentive. These emotional overtures are encouraged by humility, character, and vision. Humility and vision depend on the character factor since the two will likely falter without it. Character develops with the transformation of the mind and profoundly influences and changes behavior until it integrates into personality.

Many entrepreneurs blend humility, character, and vision into their strategic planning reaping tremendous dividends. For example, the Tata Group, headquartered in India, employs 21 million people and has revenues of US$6.5 trillion globally, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018. The company’s founder Jamsetji was a Parsi priest who had deep spiritual values and an overriding commitment to employee welfare, offering unprecedented benefits to employees uncommon for a 19th-century business. Tata has tenaciously embraced its founder’s value system, which many believe accounts for its sustainability and phenomenal growth over the years.

Another good example is Starbucks, the American coffee chain with over 33 thousand locations globally, revenues topping $29 billion, and over 300 thousand employees. Although Howard Schultz, the company founder, was not a priest, he did display modest religious tendencies; however, his values of humility and empathy stemmed from his working-class upbringing. Like Jamsetji, Shultz was resolute about employee benefits and pioneered health benefits for part-time employees. Philosophically, Shultz placed his employees above customers and profits and believed in everyone winning. Starbucks grants stock options to all of its employees.

Ethical Dimension

A spiritual imperative exists for man’s engagement in beneficial activities but in an ethical manner. In other words, humankind should not seek rewards without effort; to do so is tantamount to a transgression of supernatural laws—the sanctity of work demands that humans tread carefully in effecting a vocation. At the Tata Group, business ethics and corporate social responsibility are cardinal principles on which the company prides itself.

Conclusion

Our work and vocation are relevant as they reveal humankind’s selfhood as spiritual beings. Man, made in God’s image, was engineered to work. Humanity must work as adopted by God in an honest, ethical, and moral way by cultivating humble and values-driven identities.

Entrepreneurship represents a form of man’s developmental progression that bears a solid spiritual emphasis on character growth through a behavioral change of the heart, mind, and soul.

About the author: P. Ernest Parker, Jr., is a Parker & Company, LLC, certified public accountant partner in Monrovia, Liberia. He is a US-trained CPA with an MBA/MS in general and strategic management from Indiana University, Kelly School of Business. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Regent University School of Business and Leadership. His email address is [email protected]

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