The Future of Work Planning Group, comprised of seven faculty ranging the academic disciplines, endeavored to lay out a philosophy of work for Asbury University in order to guide the growth of the initiative.
work is intentionally productive activity. Its primary purpose is to create, repair, care for, or alter something in the world, in response to the perennial human propensity to seek comfort, utility, or aesthetic improvement. Work thus distinguishes itself from such activities as leisure, worship, and rest, which are primarily undertaken “for their own sake,” i.e., not for the sake of the realization of some further end. Asbury University holds that humans were created to work (Gen 2:15), but that we were also created to love and worship, that we need rest, so that Sabbath fulfils a basic human need (Mark 2:27). In our fitness for both work and rest, we bear the image of a God who created a wondrous world and then rested, marveling at this world and its intricate beings.
of creation, we know that work is a good, one written into our human nature. But the nature of work itself has shifted dramatically over time, reflecting changes in economic, social, political, and technological conditions. Indeed, all goods in a fallen world are subject to misuse and corruption, and work is no exception (Gen 3:17-19). Work may be misunderstood, as when it is equated with paid or otherwise compensated labor, a mistake that renders invisible the unpaid but economically crucial work of billions of people worldwide, particularly women, caregivers, and subsistence farmers. Work may become an idol, as when it is pursued as the pinnacle of human fulfillment, so that a person’s occupation or accomplishments becomes his or her identity. Work may be misused, as when labor and creative ingenuity is expended on ultimately destructive ends and the question of the worth of the product is ignored. Work’s connection to human nature and human purpose may be exploited to rank human beings or to convince people that their worth ultimately depends either on their ability to work or the price others are willing to pay for their labor. A lack of social capital may prevent individuals from knowing how to exchange their labor for compensation in a way that benefits all parties. Social structures may prevent people from having the opportunity and support needed to do good work well or to rest as needed.
University, as a “ready people for a waiting world,” recognize these complicated ways in which work is corrupted, and we seek to join the cause of Jesus Christ in restoring creation, work, and rest to their intended form in human life. To that end, our task is to fix our eyes on God’s conception of good work and our end, identify the very particular barriers to the realization of these ends, and prepare students to enter into our broken world without belonging to it (John 17:11-16), to be “wise as serpents but innocent as doves” (Matt10:16). This means, among other things, that we must identify and cultivate the habits and skills needed to navigate the world of work as it is and to transform corners of that world into what it should be. In all of this redemptive work, we understand that our students, our graduates, and our institution are not the saviors of the world. We join the Lord in his redemptive work, understanding that sometimes our role may simply be to groan with creation as we await the Lord’s full redemption.