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:
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!