Theology of Work - Lesson 4


Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 4
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Lesson 4 - Humanness


1.  What makes humans different from the rest of creation?


2.  Eight dimensions of humanness:


a.    Spiritual


b.    Intellectual/Rational


c.    Emotional


d.    Physical


e.    Volitional


f.    Vocational


g.    Familial


h.    Social



We are created in God's image and God invites us to be co-workers with him. By developing and using the spiritual gifts God has given us, the tasks we perform when we work have eternal significance in themselves. We also have opportunities to interact with our co-workers, promote justice and enjoy times of rest.

So what is God calling you to do? Is his calling only for pastors and “professional ministers” or is it something that applies to all of his people? Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology at Western Seminary, explores key questions such as who God is, what he has created people to be, how being the image of God affects the way we approach work, and what is the role of spiritual gifts in our job. This course will expand your vision of what work is all about, as you come to see yourself as God’s co-worker and representative.

Theology of Work

Dr. Gerry Breshears



Lesson Transcript


We want to continue our thinking about this whole theology work and just fascinating stuff. I've so enjoyed wrestling with this over the past months and really years, but I've worked at a really hard four or nine months or so just really thinking this through since we were first challenged by this and trying to think of what this theology of work involves. I I've, I've used as a definition of work and around all of these preparations that work is a biblical theology of work is the gracious expression of the creative energy of the Lord in the service of others to create shalom, human flourishing, all things as they are designed by God to be a piece of what to deal with in this. This lecture. I wish it could be a discussion that I'd love to hear what you're thinking. As I work through this in this lecture, I'd like to think about what is a human person or this is actually kind of a complicated piece. I hang around with a lot with psychologists and counselors and pastors, and and this questions behind a lot of what you do. What is it that constitutes a human person? How is a person different from an animal? What are the dimensions of personhood and how do we use that to kind of get a picture of how we should live and be? When I think of person, of course we talk about image of God, and that's a that's a separate piece in this series. When I think of a person, I think of some basic characteristics. I think of a person as somebody who's self-conscious and aware of myself, that there is a consciousness that is a piece of my body, the existence and all that.


In that I start getting all philosophical and didn't work out real well. So I quit doing that. And I thought from a different perspective, I thought from a from a pastoral side. I do a lot of pastoral work. I do it here at the seminary in my church. I in I thought, know what happens when somebody comes in and they talk to me and they say, you know, carry a God, and I'm just I'm just having difficulty sleeping or I'm kind of afraid that my job is going to go away. You know, the economy's not doing so well. And I'm just anxious and I'm just I'm I'm having trouble keeping myself under control. I just I got the jitters and it's just it's hard. How do I deal with something like that? Somebody comes in the presenting issue like that, or maybe they come in and they talk about some sort of addictive behavior, compulsive eating or pornography or addicted to romance novels like the female pornography. And there's some sort they just it's a compulsive behavior that can't stop. How do you assess this sort of thing? And what I do is I come back to my theology of personhood. I come in with somebody who is, you know, I got I've got a job and it's a pretty good job. And then I get along with my boss. Okay. But cash is just not fulfilling. I'm just bored. I don't know what to do and see what I'm asking at that point is what is a human person? What is the dimensions of personhood that help me understand myself and how I relate to my job and in my pastoral duties and my husband, the duties, my fatherly duties, and most of all my grandfatherly duties.


And what I've done is I've thought about this over the years is I've come down to a eight fold grid of pieces of a human being that I use in this kind of stuff. And as a theology work, I think all of these are involved in having a good work experience where I am really doing the work of God. So let me just I'll just list the eight and let's unpack them. In no particular order. I think a human being is a spiritual person or a human being is a intellectual, a rational person. That dimension of our fundamental belief systems world view, truth and lies, the human being is or an emotional person. We have deep passions we're created to love. God and others were created to enter into deep friendship as husband and wife. So we've got a spiritual. We've got a a. Rational. We've got an emotional piece on. We've got a physical piece. We're embodied. Our person. It's not that you are in a body. We are a body. It's not just that we have a soul. We are a soul. So that physical piece is an important part of who I am. I am a a volitional person. I have a will and the strength of my will and the decisions that I make and my will. So I'm a decision making, a volitional person are a very important piece. What we're doing here is a vocational we are called being. It's a vocational piece of what a human being is. So volitional, vocational, or they're related to each other, but they're they're different dimensions of this personhood. Another dimension is that we are familial beings. We come in a family line. We're not just individuals, a part of a family and a tribe.


As Americans, we tend to downplay that a lot. But biblically, it's really important is our family line, our tribal identity. And then finally, in these eight pieces, we're a social being. We're a part of a social unit or a family church or life group or there are different social things. We're part of the group of friends that we hang around with. So eightfold part of a person. Okay, Now I'm an analytic theologian. I live in my head a lot, but in a it helps me to break things down into pieces because then I can kind of get to an idea. But I want to be really sure there are not just eight pieces to a person. There are many pieces I could go to from a whole different perspective and talk about soul and spirit and conscience and heart and mind and bone and blood and those. I could look at it that way, but I find these eight eight to be really helpful to get a piece of who I am as a person. So if we begin with the spiritual side, and I'm one of these pastor types, so I tend to begin with spiritual. If you're a psychologist, you might begin with the emotional. If you're a physician, you might begin with the physical. If you're a sociologist, you might begin with the social of so on. But we'll start with here. The spiritual piece of a person is I am created for a covenant partnership with God. And if this is true, what I'm saying is I cannot be satisfied as a person unless my relationship with God is good. Now, for those who are Christians, we're gonna say, Well, duh, of course. But amazing how much of our society says that is irrelevant.


We do the separation of church and state. We rule Christianity out of the discussion of values and calling and in in our jobs and in our schools and in so many areas, we say that one is not important. Your choice. You could do anything you want. And what I'm saying is that is supremely important. First commandment Jesus gave love the Lord your God. That covenant relationship with God is supremely important. And if I don't have a good relationship with God, or if I'm related to the wrong God, I know I'm messed up big time. So here's what I do want to assess this. I you know, how is your prior life? And drill down a bit. And what I find with most Americans is they don't have much prayer life. They don't talk to God. What is prayer is what Jesus did in the garden when he went into the garden with his friends and with his father. The first thing he did is said, I am agonized and he's pouring out his feelings to his friends and the father. A little bit later he says, Abba, Father, you can do anything. Take this cup from me. He's giving his desires to the father. Then he says, Not my will, but thine be done. He's giving his trust to his father, but he's speaking it. How's your poor life in terms of giving your true feelings, your true desires, your true trust? That's the heart of prayer. Of course, a lot of things on prayer. But 100 per life. Are you involved enjoying God's word? I don't mean just reading in a kind of a, you know, my daily devotion. Don't type stuff, but are you meditating on it? Is it are the stories of Scripture intriguing your imagination? I can do this in lots of different ways.


You can read it, of course, but you can put it on your or your podcast and you can get really good sermons that can help you do it. You can get scripture song, you can get things like the song Bible experience where they've got this marvelous presentation of dramatized pictures, the scriptures, all kinds of stuff. We can just and then let your mind be entranced with. So spiritual side, but then see, there's a negative side. What kind of spiritual experiences do you have that are anti-God? Have you been involved in other religious practices? Have you been involved in pagan stuff in. Oh, gosh, I just I've got a friend who's doing a lot of work in Haiti, one of my students, and he comes back and talks about the voodoo stuff down there. I look at Native American spiritualities here in the Northwest and I see all kinds of people doing religious practices that are frankly, they're hooking up with demons. And that's certainly a possibility for a Christian. I don't think community is authority of a demon, but we can sure get hooked up with them. Is there some sort of religious practices, their spiritual presence as spirit guides, night visitors, familial spirits? Are those a part of your life? That's the negative side. So the spiritual side of a person, if your spiritual side is doing well, if you're enjoying loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. That's a first part of a person is the spiritual peace. And if we're going to be, well, the person's anxious. I want to ask about those kind of things. And that gives me a picture of what's going on there. The person who's not satisfy your job, Are you doing it in a relationship with God? Is that consciously you're doing it in order to make God present? Spiritual side, Rational side, intellectual side policies, says Romans, Chapter 12 by verse we've all meditated on, he says.


Be not conformed to this world or find it here in a second. Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That's that rational peace I'm talking about there. Are you brothers in view of God's mercy, to offer your body's a living sacrifice, wholly pleasing to God? That's the body side with your spirit. Talk to worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That's what I'm talking about. This is not just the surface thinking, but the basic structures, the basic values, the basic pitons of life that are how you watch world view, as we call it, in kind of the the more theological terminology. What is your basic understanding of what's ultimately real and how we can know it? And what's the is there purpose in my life? It's amazing how many people are just talking to a guy the other day who said, you know, I don't think I need a purpose in my life. I just kind of go through life who's also really dissatisfied and kind of wandering and wasn't doing very well. I said, you know, maybe our connection there. What is the basic worldview? What are the basic belief systems or one of the belief systems that I have and I have to really wrestle with because it can really lead me in the wrong direction. It's if I work harder, I can do anything. Now there's a sense of competence that comes out of that, to be sure. But boy, is that just that's just a very mixed thing, because if something is not going well, it means I'm not working hard enough and I can get into a real negative loop out of that or a belief system that I find a lot of people have.


If I do something wrong, I must do something good to make up for it. Gosh, is that anti grace? And I can't really confess my sin at that point. I can't receive forgiveness because I must do something good to make up for the bad thing I did. That's what I talk about by this intellectual, rational side is what are the fundamental structures of belief? One that comes up that's very, very powerful. Does if any if other people really knew me, would they like me? Hugely powerful question. If if other people really knew me, would they like me? Think about that with your wife or your friend or with your pastor or with your kids. If you like most of us believe you know what that means. We go hide in the bushes and we present a front. We present a papier maché because we can't let our real selves be known. My friends, that true faced leadership catalyst on Phenix have written their book True Faced to try to get us to trust entrust ourselves to other people our whole selves. Great concept. Both Cafe is a book they've written to put that in story form right on the Bible. Can I trust myself to other people? Intellectual side, spiritual side, intellectual side, emotional side? What are my passions? Where do they come out? What do I feel strongly about? What ties into my life? What excites me, what frustrates me? Where are the emotional wounding? Things that came because of abuse or neglect or on on my side, having grown up in a strong family, where are the strengths? Where are the loves that come? What are the passions? What are the feelings? What are the emotions? Now I talk about the superficial kind of things.


Today I'm kind of bummed because, you know, some guy cut me off and and thing. But the deeper passions, the deeper feelings. Jonathan Edwards did his huge, magnificent thing on the Christian passions, the deep passions of my life. I was talking to a fellow just a couple of days ago and he was preaching friend of mine. And he said, with all kinds of pounding the pulpit type stuff, he said, Don't ever trust your heart, Jeremiah. The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things. Who can know it? And I talked to him later. I said with Jeremiah describing himself when he said that, does Jeremiah describing his own heart, the heart of the civil wicked? How about the idea that we love our Lord, our God with our whole heart? How about the New Covenant promises equal 36 that God will take out our heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh, a living heart? I think this be a whole nother theology course. I think that for the Christian God gives us a new heart. And my deepest passions, my deepest loves, my deepest values are God values. I think those pulsing and Romans Chapter seven when he says the good that I want to do, I can't do because I find another law at work in my members. And that's the the sparks. He calls it the flash or the evil desires, as Peter calls it. And we have this warring going on the flesh against the spirit in the spirit against the flesh. And we don't do what we want to do. And what we want to do is the Jesus stuff. My deepest desires, my deepest passions as a Christian are godly, I think, and I've got these other desires that war in me.


So my deepest desires are not necessarily my strongest desires, but my deepest are. What are the emotions in your life? What are the passions in your life? The the Christianity I grew up with as a kid was an emotionless, pure mind, pure spirit Christianity. Boy, I don't think that's right at all. You get into some of the contemporary church movements and it's the emotional Christianity. Everything is about your feelings and God wants me to feel good and such. I, I don't think those are correct, but the passions of my life are an important part of who I am as a person. So I look at the passions, the emotions that are there and examine those kinds of things, both on the positive and negative side. I look at the physical piece. I'm not just a soul in a body to be escaped. I think of a wonderful woman I had the opportunity to get to know or a number of years ago, Virginia Landman, and I was teaching a Sunday school class and I was talking about Moses. God told Moses, You can't see me. You can't see my face because it would kill you. And then Jesus. Anyway, I was playing with that and I said, No. What? How could that be? How can. And she she smiled at me and said, Gary, I have never seen you. And I laughed at her. I said, I'm here for. And you could look. And she's know this marvelous woman of God. I have never seen you. I've seen your body, but I've never seen you. And it kind of took me back because I realized what she was saying is that the body isn't me. The me is a soul or spirit. But when I look at Genesis, chapter two, God Forms of out of the dust to the ground, Breeze's nostrils, the breath of life, and he becomes a living being in the new heaven, new earth.


We are in resurrected bodies. Jesus, when He comes into this world, comes in a body of flesh, of physicality. And I think the physical part of who we are is a very important part of who we are. It's not just a tool of my spirit. It's a fundamental piece of who I am. So what that means, if if this picture I'm using is right, is where body and spirit together in each one influencing the other. And there's so tight you can't even you can't divide them, but you can distinguish them. I it means that in my working I need a working where I'm going to be engaged both body and spirit in that. Doing manual labor, for example, isn't a lesser job than a desk job. The so-called blue collar, white collar. Boy, do I want to reject that. I mean, they're different kinds of work, but one better than the other. No way. No way. See how deeply born into a Greek dualism are thinking? Blue collars, bad white collars, Good nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. We are spirit body together. Physical is an important piece to her. It's a vital piece of who we are. It's not just an add on. So what that means in cases like my friend who comes with anxiety, one of the things I'm going to do in assessing them and say, Have you been to your doctor? Have you had a physical exam? How are your endocrine levels? How are your. You know, go get a a blood count, Go check things out. There might be a physical side of things. Somebody who is anxious or depressed. They may have they may need an anxiety medication to help out. There may be an infection going. I just had a friend who turns out has a deep bacterial infection in her stomach and her intestine.


This has been just making life horrible for her and her life's been messed up. It's been hard for her to serve God. And it turned out the problem isn't a matter of prayer. It's a matter of her physical being. There are a fair number of people in our Christian thing that are really anti what I call the psychoactive medications. And I've been challenged on more than one occasion. Gary, would you think that we're more spiritual today than before We had these kinds of medications and being the kind of confronted guy that I am, I say, Yeah, absolutely. And what I think of is my grandmother, my grandmother, incredibly godly woman, incredibly godly woman, just neat. Bertie birth years. I in my picture of my grandmother toward the end of her life was one day she would be up all night making pies and just working, working, working, working and time later of her sitting in her rocking chair, rocking and sad. The final pictures I have, my grandmother were her in the Nevada State mental hospital in Nevada, Missouri, sitting on a concrete tomb, sitting on a bed just weeping uncontrollably. Now, today, we'd call it bipolar disorder. And today we treat it with lithium or something like that. And I think here's my grandmother so hyper that she couldn't even sit down with her Bible or so low. She couldn't do really anything but just weep. Would she be a more spiritual person today or that wild mood swing or contained somewhat by lithium? I think so. No pill didn't solve everything for sure, but it's a peace as our physical being. Get out. Sighs quit. The American obsession with eating gets under control. I mean, you know, these kind of thing, physical is important piece of who we are, volitional decisions that we make, moral decisions.


Now, this is one we all pretty much agree on is we have the ability to make decisions. Now, there's a big fight, theological fight between do we have truth to will or are we depraved and all that sort of thing. And I'm not going to get into that because everybody agrees, everybody agrees that we have the responsibility to make decisions that are godly decisions. Everybody agrees that we have that willpower, as we talk about it, is an important piece. How strong is your will? How beaten down is your will, we call it? Well, I'm from Missouri. We call it stubborn. Or how committed are you? How how decisive are you? You can be too much to be sure. But boy, how many people play the victim? How strong is your will? How wise are your decisions? It's a volitional piece of a person. It's an important dimension of who you are. And it's not just that you make moral decisions with and good and bad and shame shameful and not. It's just the How resolute are you and what are things that can strengthen your sense of self-efficacy? What can strengthen your sense of confidence? Again, when I want to challenge people, if we're called into doing things for God and we do it well and we do it out of our will and out of our passions, can I take credit for that? If I do something and somebody comes up to me and says, Hey, that was a good job, Gary, You know, I preached a sermon here a couple of days ago on marriage and divorce from Matthew, chapter five, who tough sermon. And afterwards, one of my friends came by, and we've done a lot of ministry together over the years.


And she came by and I was talking with somebody and she wouldn't really talk room to talk to her, but she just oh, she stuck her thumb up in the air. And later she caught me. At that point, I was good. What do you say when somebody says that to you? A lot of times retorts, say, I give thanks to God, It was nothing. We'll see at that point. What we're denying is that we have responsible decision making. What Jesus says to the guy who had five talents and made five more, He said, Well done, good and faithful servant. Don't take credit for the first five talents, and without them you couldn't do anything, to be sure. But the other five talents or work of our will and are working. And there's a genuine sense of satisfaction that says, That was good. I fought the good fight. Paul says at the end of his life volition choice responsible. So he got what? Spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, volitional, vocational, vocational. That's the piece that we haven't done much with in our American system because we just don't believe in it. We talk about we don't even talk about vocation anymore. I actually want to spend a good bit of time on that in a in a separate module and talk more about vocation. But what I'm going to say here is just the idea that we have a calling of God, and that calling is to be partnering with him in the kind of work that we're doing in that can be just about anything. We think a vocation perhaps is being called the mission field, but I think it's brought in that. So we'll look at that. A different thing. Vocation is the calling, the purpose that I have in my life, and it's a relational kind of thing.


We are a familial person. When Matthew introduces Jesus, he is the son of the son of the son of the son of all the way back to Abraham. Oh, Jesus is known as Jesus. Bah Joseph. He is the son of Joseph. And that picture that we're part of a family system is really important. We tend not to look at ourselves that way. Oh. We're part of a family line. I am a son of my father. I. I have physical characteristics. Like my dad. My son was telling me the other day, said, Dad, I just looking at some old pictures of Grandpa, You look a lot like him and I. And I guess that's true. I extremely nearsighted as my father was. God be praised. Lasik has taken care of that. And I don't need glasses, but I know that I inherit that from my dad. Some I see some of the personality characteristics come from from my my father. We come down on a family line. There are certain predispositions that come in a family line. In my wife's family, there's a predisposition toward alcoholism. Sure, I didn't have that, but sure, his sister has and my son has. Now they're not doing alcoholism, but there's a predisposition that's a part of the family structure. I think there's personality factors that come down because you're a part of a family line and they're family characteristics. Now, there's not everything in there, but it's a piece of who you are is that family line. And what we teach people here is do what we call Jenna grams, talk about the characteristics of your ancestors and get a better picture of who you are. Not that you're determined by that completely, but that's a picture of who you are.


You're part of a family. And in that family relationship is so important to who you are. I am the husband of. We're headed on to 43 years here in just about three weeks. I am a whole different person for being married to Cherie. I've often wondered what would have been happen if I would have married Cathy instead. Minor detail. She won't be married to me was. I mean, it wasn't that big a deal. She should have been brighter than that. She's married to another Gary and thank you. They're doing quite well. We're friends to this day. I am a person who I am because I'm married to a marvelous woman named Sherry. I have sons and daughter and granddaughters. And in that family line is a really important picture of who I am. We see ourselves in relation to how your family relationships are you given time to your family? Are you being nurtured by family? Is family an environment where you can play together a big piece of who you are? And then finally, social site. Who are you hanging with? What are you doing together? To understand who I am as a person, I have to look at who my close friends are or the lack thereof, I'm told, and I'm in tend to believe it that at least 85% of American men have no friends in the sense that close person that I can talk about my weaknesses or my deep hopes with. We're buddies, but not friends. We have ministry partners, perhaps, but not deep connected friends. I was challenged by fellow when I was teaching at Faith Academy in the Philippines long time ago to invest in friendship, and I made that something in my life. And I have here at church, here at Western I men that I've invested a lot in.


I have some women friends that I can't close course, being careful about not becoming romantic or anything like that, violating the relationship I have with Cherie. But cross-gender friendships can be very helpful because there's in that relationship, there's different dimensions. So do invest in friends. Jesus had Marian Martha as well as Lazarus that he was close to. That social piece. I am a leader in my church, Grace Community Church on Gresham. That relationship. I was an elder meeting last night and we were working through things together, working through some business kinds of things, but looking at just the relationships, the friend relationships and then the Friesen, you know, just such a great guy. He's so different than me. We have hardly anything in common personality wise. But gosh, can we work together well. He complements me so well in the ministry. Social peace. So when you look at yourself, look at these eight dimensions, understanding who you are can really help in finding out what's going to be satisfying to me because I will not be satisfied unless all these things are in balance in trying to come into some peace for oriented towards self-fulfillment instead of these eight things. It's not going to work. Check your spiritual life, Check your belief systems, check your deep passions, check your physical well-being, check your volitional, your decision making, your willpower, check your vocation. What is it that you're called to do? Check your family relationships. Check your social relationships. You can be in control. A lot of that. It's really important to do it and get a picture of who you are as a person in partnership with God so that you can work well with Him and for him.


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