Every Job a Parable: How the work we do speaks to us of God
Many of us go out to work every day and never really connect what we do to our Christian faith.
Now a new book by a Canadian pastor and teach aims to change that.
John Van Sloten has spent the last 20 years exploring a worldview that seeks to discern God's voice in all things. His first book, The Day Metallica Came to Church, listened for God's whispers in pop culture. Now he's written Every Job a Parable, is a reflection on vocation and on how we can meet God at work. Pete Greig says of it: 'I have a hunch that thousands of people are waiting for this book... John Van Sloten shatters the sacred-secular divide, repositioning work as worship, and glory in the normality of the mundane. This is a message that really could revolutionise your relationship with God.'
Van Sloten himself says: 'I want those who think that God has nothing to do with their work to think again. I want sanitation workers, cleaners, to realise that they're made in the image of a God who takes out the trash to make room for the new. I want creators to know their creator God every time they make something...I want scientists to experience the empirical mind of God every time they follow the data.'
He says: 'I wrote this book for all of those reasons, but the number one reason for writing this book? It's so that people can know God more – know him through the parable that is their job, and know him through all of the vocational parables that surround their life.'
Here's an extract from Every Job a Parable.
The Parable of an Astronaut
One of the most beautiful stories to rise out of the ashes of 9/11 came to us through the at-work words of American astronaut Frank Culbertson. As smoke was pouring from the Twin Towers on that fateful day, Commander Culbertson was looking down on Manhattan from the International Space Station, filming what he saw. While he knew something horrible was happening on the ground, he also saw something more. Through a crackling NASA communication link he spoke these hopeful words:
I just wanted the folks to know that their city still looks very beautiful from space. I know it's very difficult for everybody in America right now. The country still looks good, and for New Yorkers, your city still looks great from up here.
Those words were comforting. And they were true! If you look at the NASA video, you can see that most of Manhattan was still standing; the ocean, rivers, and tributaries were still beautifully held within their boundaries; the sky was brilliantly clear; and millions of people on that island were still alive and safe— along with hundreds of millions more in the rest of the country.
That perspective could come only from someone who saw things from above.
As I watched that video and listened to that astronaut's words, I couldn't help but wonder whether this is how an omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, and eternal God sees our world. Could it be that if we just stood back far enough and had more of his perspective, we, too, would be able to see that there is still good going on in our lives, families, and jobs— even when it doesn't seem that way?
From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind:
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do
Surely God suffered with us on 9/11. But perhaps he also had this other view of reality to share: through an astronaut bearing his image, seeing the whole picture from above and speaking encouraging words from above, his job a kind of parable spoken by God for just such a time as that.
When the 1968 Apollo 8 mission to the moon first turned its camera back on Earth and humanity saw an earthrise for the first time, everything changed. The moment was so compelling that the astronauts could do nothing less than read the creation account from the book of Genesis via live broad-cast. This was the first time a human being saw Earth as a planet, as a whole. This view brought us new perspective, awareness, and humility. One astronaut said, 'That may well have been the most important reason we went.'
It's called the 'Overview Effect': a kind of God s- eye view of reality. While God certainly sees our physical planet from a perspective that is beyond ours, I'm thinking that the same is true when it comes to seeing reality in relation to our environment, economic and social structures, and vocations. There is more going on than meets our eyes.
This kind of seeing is foundational for this book: a larger perspective that sees what work was originally meant to be and what it will one day fully be, even as things may be tough on the ground right now. A deeper look into the creational good that makes up what you do, a longer view on the significance of your job, all leading to a richer experience of God at work.
'Every Job a Parable' is published by Hodder, price £13.99.