Work is hard. It can be taxing. And it is always there. But even in the midst of the daily grind, we can offer our work back to God for God's glory. At that point, false distinctions between "secular" work and "sacred" work begin to crumble.
3. Champion work-related justice.
It's remarkable how many of today's most urgent social injustices are related to work. According to the International Labor Organization, there are more than 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the workforce worldwide. About half of those kids are working full-time to help support their impoverished families. Approximately 126 million children are subject to the worst forms of child labor, including slavery or other forms of force labor, drug trafficking, prostitution, involvement in armed conflict, and work in hazardous environments. Needless to say, these are children who, in a different context, would look very much like our own sons and daughters, our younger brothers and sisters, our neighbors.
Not for Sale, an organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking around the world, estimates that there are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other point in human history. And human trafficking is not just happening halfway around the world. It's happening in our own cities and towns. Portland, Oregon, for example, is frequently cited as one of the most progressive and livable cities in the nation, but it has been confronted in recent years with evidence that it has become a regional hub for sex trafficking. The community is starting to respond.
Communities of faith can initiate weeks-long projects that help educate their people about the ways in which the issues of child labor and human trafficking hit home. (Mark Scandrette describes one such project in Practicing the Way of Jesus.) Churches can also help prevent work-related injustices by providing services to local runaway and homeless teenagers, refugees, and undocumented workers, speaking out in town hall meetings and at the local chamber of commerce, and using media and the arts to tell the stories of real people harmed by abusive labor. Churches can also help hold corporations accountable. The site free2work.org tells "the tale of the barcode," providing customers with information on how companies are or are not addressing forced and child labor. Anti-Slavery International, a British charity founded in 1839, has an interactive map that depicts slavery in the supply chain.
4. Recognize the human resources within our congregations and leverage them in the reconciling work of the kingdom.
The scriptural story emphasizes that God is reconciling all things in creation. Having been called into this work as church communities, every member of the body of Christ has skills that can be leveraged. Educators in all kinds of schools, from daycare centers to graduate schools, can help us create learning environments that are beneficial to the well-being of our places. Builders, electricians, and plumbers all have trades that can be utilized to help our places flourish. People with business and financial skills can help create needed jobs and can pursue financing needed for kingdom work. Doctors and nurses have knowledge and skills that can help us live more healthfully. Even lawyers can be beneficial to help our churches navigate the legal landscape with the shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves.