Triune Worker

Triune Worker February 8, 2018

Thomas Schirrmacher (God Want You to Learn, Labor, and Love) outlines a Trinitarian conception of labor.

Work, like all human activity, has its uncreated origin in God. We are able to work because we are made in the image of a God of labor:

“In the Bible, man’s work has a high value, because it reflects a God who is working Himself. The triune God had been working prior to men’s existence in Creation. Because He is triune, He even worked in eternity before Creation came into existence. The Persons of the Trinity worked with and for each other. In the Bible everything good comes from the Trinity. Because the members of the Trinity speak to each other and Jesus is the Word, we can talk to each other. Because the Persons of the Trinity do not live for themselves, but live for each other, men can be told to do the same. Because the Persons of the Trinity discuss with each other, not to decide things totally alone is a biblical principle. In the Trinity, obedience exists without anybody being forced to do something: love and Law are identical. Communication, love, honoring each other and working to a goal outside of ourselves come from the Trinity. But the Trinity existed before the world was created. So loving, talking, helping, listening and obedience exist eternally. God does not need men to exist or to be good” (17).

God’s authority is linked to His work. In some systems, higher-ups (including the gods) to less labor; the little guys (and slaves) exist to prop up the leisurely life of elites. Not so in Scripture: The more elevated, the more responsibility; and the more responsibility, the more labor: “Because the triune God has done and does more than anybody else, He is the example that responsibility means work” (20).

The triune fellowship provides an archetype of the “division of labor”: “The Persons of the triune God divide their labor and do not all have the same task and job, as 1 Cor 12,4-6 clearly shows. Because their work is different, yet directed to one goal, the Trinity demonstrates what true fellowship in love and help, word and discussion, plan and fulfillment means, even prior to Creation. This is the infallible diversity in unity” (30-1).

And this also makes room for the notion that work is a means not only to profit but to serve others: “Only if you have diversity in unity and unity in diversity, only if you believe in the biblical God of the universe (unity in diversity), work can be a way to serve each other. God wants men to serve each other, as the Persons of the Trinity serve each other. We depend on each other because we have different callings, different abilities, different gifts, and different tasks. The emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit for the Church proves this beyond doubt. God does not want everybody to do the same – except keeping His commands – but wants a diversity of tasks, deeds, and actions, in the Church and elsewhere” (31).

Differently put: “Work is never only work for the benefit of the one working. It is always at the same time work for oneself and for others. It is the triune God who makes it possible that work for oneself and work for others do not stand in opposition to each other but always go hand in hand. As God’s work towards His own glory is always at the same time work for another Person of the Trinity and/or for His Creation, so man’s work is designed to help himself and to help others” (32).

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