Do you ever feel afraid of the future?
Readers of the Proverbs felt this same fear we experience in our work, our families, and our cities today.
In her book Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman lays out a vision for the coming kingdom of God expressed and ushered in through a co-laboring with God in our daily work. Throughout the book Sherman reframes the notion that “the kingdom of God is both something that is now and not yet.”
But this tension is true for us today. We feel the fear of the wicked rising about. We see economies in disarray. World leaders at odds with one another. Families torn apart. Jobs being replaced. Sexual integrity lost. Hostility arising.
The kingdom of God feels anything but now in so many ways.
However, the writer of Proverbs offers us a bit of Solomonic wisdom as we consider the ways in which Sherman’s notion is actually true and has implications not only for the age to come, but also for our here and now.
As Sherman points out, the Old Testament structure offered by the writer is consistent with a bit of Hebrew poetry: stating the same thing (“righteous prospering” on one hand and “wicked perishing” on the other) twice with two slightly different constructions for the added emphasis of juxtaposition.
Both actions produce rejoicing. Why is that? Because we we are made for a world of peace well beyond just the absence of conflict. We’re made for “very good” (Gen 1:31) and find ourselves in a world of “enmity” (Gen. 3:15) after mankind’s rebellion.
This call of God leads us to a pursuit and achievement of shalom.
Theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. puts it like this, “Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight.”
Shalom is what we were created to enjoy. It is what our lives were meant to reflect. Walking intimately and unashamed with God in His world (Gen. 2:25) while mirroring Him and his glory through the work of our hands (Gen. 1:27) was the call of Adam and Eve before their rebellion in Genesis 3.
So how do we play a part in this unfolding story? If shalom is what we were created to embody before it was fractured in the fall, how do we go about retrieving it?
Chiefly, this retrieving is accomplished through our union with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, where we help nudge creation from its garden beginnings in Genesis toward its city ending in Revelation through our jobs, occupations, and vocations.
Our work is one of the means by which we recapture the echoes of Eden.
Sherman offers four marks of shalom that we bring about through our life and work in the world:
Peace with God: Our relationship with God will be intimately restored (1 Cor. 13:12);
Peace with Self: No more sickness or pain as our lives will be marked by hope (Isaiah 42:3-4);
Peace with Others: The enmity with others will be long gone as we will deeply relate with one another again (Isaiah 25:6-9);
Peace with Creation: The new kingdom will be a place of economic bounty and flourishing (Isaiah 65:21).
Take heart, God is at work to bring about his kingdom in the world, and he has graciously invited you and I to partake as co-laborers in this work of restoration.
May we see our work as an opportunity to serve the common good for the flourishing of our workplaces, our cities, and our world.
Amy Sherman will be the headlining the Center for Faith and Work Los Angeles’ upcoming 2019 CFWLA Faith & Work Conference: Stewarding Vocational Influence on April 6 at Tapestry LA. Tickets and info can be found at www.faithandworkla.com/annual-conference.
Gage Arnold is the Communications Director for the Center for Faith & Work Los Angeles. He is currently an M.Div student at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO., and holds a B.S. in Journalism & Electronic Media from the University of Tennessee.