Theology Thursday: The Impact of Christian Culture

By Steve Sherman, Faculty

A church fresco showing Christian Culture

We might wonder whether our work — not to mention training and continuous learning — impacts others beyond our college and classroom. Is there perhaps a still larger “audience” to influence? While that might sound self-centered, not so if you think about a higher focus: God’s kingdom priorities. In fact, a biblical model or basis for work begins with God’s own work of creation, especially as it relates to “terra firma” (the Earth). As the pinnacle of God’s creation, humans are intended to reflect the very “imago Dei” (image of God). This entails our being in relationship with one another as stewards and cultivators of the earth — representing God’s own “culture-making” caretaking tasks.

So, it seems that our work ought to reflect this culture-making focus. But does this mean only our occupational calling and work? Our job and career? Beyond this specific context, are we then “outside” of the caretaking mandate? I now am “on my own time” and thus free to exercise whatever options I desire? It would seem otherwise — if we remember we servants of the King in whose image we have been made. Kingdom work (service) doesn’t begin and end with our occupation, but our job serves (or ought to) as an important part of the larger work of God’s mission in the world. Scripture has much to say about this occupational calling and work.

Biblical Example of Calling and Work

God’s command to the very first couple involves responsible, caretaking activities: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,’” (Genesis 1:26-28, NRSV). Occupational work, therefore, is part of the world’s fabric. It’s not a result of the fall (as popularly imagined in such lyrics like “Livin’ for the weekend”).

Rather, it is inherently part of our calling, serving as a primary means for human sustenance and flourishing, and giving meaning to our lives. In a real way, we are co-creators with God, utilizing the “raw materials” and good gifts from the generous Giver. Culture “is what human beings make of the world. It always bears the stamp of our creativity, our God-given desire to make something more than we were given,” (Crouch, 2008, 23).

Subverting and Recovering a Biblical View in Work and Cultural

Workaholism, however, may actually be a sign of sloth, rather than service; focusing solely on one’s occupation logically entails subverting other culture-making priorities such as realized in family, friendship, community service, self-care, and perhaps above all, corporate worship and other key spiritual disciplines. We know that human work can become evil and idolatrous—even incurring divine judgment (Genesis 11:1-9). Nevertheless, Christ-followers are called to embrace occupational work as initiated by God for human benefit and blessing; thus, we ought to receive it with gratitude, leading to heartfelt worship.

While many of our human activities are intended for the benefit of one another, we recognize self-centeredness and ulterior motives sometimes distort this goal, thanks to humankind’s fallenness. Nevertheless, we are given the mandate to work for the sake of others, and this is especially clear in terms of New Covenant teaching. For instance, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (Philemon 2:3-4, NIV).

Our occupational work, then, ultimately serves as a kind of microcosm or mirror of our engagement with the broader culture-making priorities of the Kingdom. The question remains as to how (not if) our preparation and work are impacting others — beyond the university.

Read more theology and ministry blogs and learn about degree programs offered by GCU's College of Theology today. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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