carpenter at work

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture

Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul StevensWork Matters: Lessons from Scripture

By R. Paul Stevens


Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.


Of the four books on the subject of “work” I have read in the last eight months, R. Paul Stevens, Work Matters, is on the top of my list. Stevens is professor emeritus of marketplace theology and leadership at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Regent College webpage describes him as follows: “Dr. Stevens is a craftsman with wood, words, and images and has worked as a carpenter, a student counselor, a pastor, and a professor. His personal mission is to empower the whole people of God to integrate their faith and life from Monday to Sunday.” Steven is the author of several other books including The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective and Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. Here is what I appreciated about Steven’s most recent book, Work Matters:

carpenter at work

First, Stevens presents a biblical theology of work that rises out of the canon of Scripture. He begins with Genesis and continues through Revelation leading readers in an exploration of the theme of work. Each section of the book begins with an introduction which provides a preview of what will be addressed in the following chapters.

God-Given Work – The First Five Books

Stewardship Work – Historical Books

Soul Work – Wisdom Books

Just Work – The Prophets

Kingdom Work – The New Testament

Second, the chapters are relatively short—six to seven pages. Never once did I wonder when I would come to the end of the chapter. I was left longing for more rather than enduring a lengthy discourse.

Third, Stevens is obviously well read on the subject. He includes frequent quotations from other authors addressing the subject of work. The book includes an extensive bibliography for further research and study.

Fourth, the book is biographical in nature, focusing on biblical characters and what we can learn from their interaction with the subject of work. Readers can easily identify with the biblical characters and what their lives teach us about the subject of work.

Fifth, each chapter includes nicely stated principles summarizing what we can learn from the inspiring examples of the characters studied. These serve as the takeaways for each chapter.

Finally, discussion and reflection questions accompany each chapter. These questions are personal, practical and probing. They are designed to encourage discussion and would make this book very suitable for group study.

The only chapter which I believe fell short of the mark was Steven’s discussion of “Enigmatic Work” in the book of Ecclesiastes. He captured the problem being addressed—the futility of work—but didn’t adequately develop Qohelet’s divinely inspired and often repeated solution—to eat, drink and enjoy God’s gift of life (Ecc. 2:24; 3:12,22; 4:18, 8:15; 9:7; 11:9).

Most people will spend 40 hours a week of their adult lives working. Steven’s Work Matters will help readers understand how their work matters to God and can advance His kingdom purposes. It is an engaging and potentially life-changing book!

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).

2 thoughts on “Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture

  1. Thanks for this helpful book review, Carl!

    The title is similar to a previous book written in the 90s “Your Work Matters to God”

    The authors make similar points on work, mostly seeking to recover a biblical view of work that gets beyond the sacred/secular divide, showing how God appreciates and is active in ‘secular’ work, and that of course Christians ought to use their ‘9 to 5’ jobs for the kingdom. They do not develop as adequate of a biblical theology of work though as it appears that Stevens does.

    In my opinion, we need to continually bring more encouraging and equipping of Christians with a biblical theology and God-centered value of their jobs and work-a-day lives. Ninety percent of the church in America is clocking in every day, and they need a solid biblical worldview foundation to help them thrive and be effective as disciple-makers in their job environments. (Which is why I know Jim Hislop and CLD are laboring to make that happen) 🙂

  2. Thank you Carl for this great review. Coming from a person of your depth and breadth with regard to the Scriptures is huge and I trust will encourage others to take this issue seriously.

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