What does faith and work mean to blue-collar workers?

Recently on the Oikonomia Network, pastor Blaine Crawford pondered the white-collar orientation of many of his colleagues in the faith and work movement after returning from a recent conference:

During the session, one of the speakers said that while we used to work to meet needs lower on this hierarchy, we now search for meaning, fulfillment, and purpose in our work ‒ the higher levels in the hierarchy. In Maslow’s terminology, we seek to become self-actualized. Implicit to his statement, however, was that the lower level needs have already been met.

The speaker’s claim fit very well with the audience that attended Humanizing Work. Most attendees of the conference were, socio-economically speaking, middle-class to upper-middle-class. All the speakers were white-collar professionals from different fields. When speaking to a well-educated, white-collar audience, of course self-actualization, purpose, and fulfillment should be discussed.

But one of my struggles with most of the faith and work literature I have read (with the exception of one book, which I’ll return to in a moment), which extends to conferences such as this one, is the lack of attention paid to not only blue-collar, service industry workers, but also to those who work multiple jobs simply to meet the basic needs.

The faith and work movement will not truly fulfill its promise until it learns to deal with issues facing those in poverty or on its edge and those who labor in blue-collar jobs:

If the integration of faith and work – or this whole movement ‒ is to go anywhere, it must be holistic and inclusive enough to avoid marginalizing those who work in the service industry, blue-collar trades, and those without multiple degrees. It must be large enough not only to tackle issues like meaning and purpose, but also fair wages, safe working conditions, and struggling families.

Crawford has some specific resources to recommend, which you can check out. What issues do you think the faith and work movement needs to struggle with in order to bring good news to people in all kinds of work and out of work entirely? How might it begin to struggle with those issues? We’d love to hear from you.

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About Oikonomia Network

The Oikonomia Network is a community of theological educators and evangelical seminaries equipping pastors to connect biblical wisdom, sound theology and good stewardship to work and the economy. Learn more at www.oikonomianetwork.org.


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