How The Division of Labor Applies in the Church

How The Division of Labor Applies in the Church April 5, 2011

Adam Smith: The Division of Labor

In Adam Smith’s book, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he begins the first chapter of book one with the subject of the division of labor.  It’s easy to see how excited Smith is about this concept as he calls it the ‘greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour.’  The simple principle behind the division of labor is to use multiple people to accomplish one goal by dividing the work into parts.  Smith explains the efficiency of doing so with the example of making a pin (that is, a pin used for sewing I believe).

If one person would try to make a pin on their own, it might take them all day to make one.  If they were really skilled, they may produce upwards of 10-20 pins, hardly anything to write home about.

But if you were to take a team of 10 people and divide the jobs up into different units, allowing each person to specialize in a certain area of pin-making, you could achieve much greater results.  In fact, Smith estimated that you might make upwards of 48,000 pins in a day as a result.  That comes to 4,800 pins per person – quite a difference than the 20 pins a single person could produce if he had to work all aspects of the manufacturing process.

Division of Labor In The Church

Smith, of course, didn’t come up with the division of labor.  It has been around for centuries, but it hasn’t always been implemented like it is today in manufacturing (especially since the invention of the assembly line).

In fact, the concept can even be found in the Bible as Paul addresses the church in Corinth.  The people were known to have arguments about roles in the church, so Paul wrote this letter to address this issue as well as others.

In chapter 12 of I Corinthians, Paul compares the church to the body made up of many parts, all of which are important for proper function.  This is what makes the group of believers so strong – the diversity in skill, talents, and other strengths that each person brings to the table.  Just like a body couldn’t function the same without eyes or feet, the church couldn’t function without administrators, lay workers, janitors, nursery workers, greeters, teachers, and preachers.  What’s most fascinating about Paul’s presentation about the diversity of jobs in a church is how he ends the chapter stating that all these roles are great, but let me show you the greatest way to live: with love.  If you’re not showing the love of Christ as you work, it doesn’t really matter what your title is!

Are you involved with your church? What of role do you have?  Have you ever expressed your gratitude for someone who works with you?

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