Engaging the marginalized with meaningful work

Work is good, and we are called to glorify God through the work that we do, but what should that look like in our day-to-day lives as Christian entrepreneurs and kingdom businesspeople?

A new book by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, has challenged me to intentionally consider how I can provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Today, I want to share two key takeaways for us, as we seek to engage those on the margins through our work.

No matter where we live and work, we’re surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society. There are those who have committed crimes and served time in jail, those treated as inferior because of their race or ethnicity, members of low-income communities, single moms, and the elderly. Almost everywhere in the world, these individuals are afforded less encouragement and fewer opportunities for work. Often, they’re even prevented from pursuing meaningful work.

How should Christians respond?

We must start by realizing the value inherent in each individual, a value that comes from the fact that they are created and loved by God.

Meaningful work restores dignity.

As his followers, we are also called to love them through engaging with them. Often, this takes a sort of “soup kitchen” mentality – we have all the soup (wealth and resources) on one side of the line. They bring an empty bowl (no wealth or resources) to the other side of the line. We scoop soup into their bowl, and when it is empty they come back for more. If this is our default method of helping those in need, we’re creating problems, both economically and spiritually.

We cultivate an unhealthy dependence, forcing those with empty bowls to have to come back over and over again, each time taking away a little of our resources and a little of their dignity and self worth. On the other side of the line, those of us with the resources begin to feel a little heroic and are tempted to put ourselves at the place where Christ rightfully belongs.

We need a better default model for engaging those in need.

And that model is what Rhodes and Holt call the “Potluck Party of God.”

We create an unhealthy dependence when we force those with empty bowls to return again and again.

A potluck is a meal in which everyone brings something, and everyone shares the food that is brought. In this model, we recognize that all of God’s children have value and something to contribute. Everyone has something to give, and everyone is able to receive.

We begin to realize that those who we once looked down on have experiences and abilities that will enrich our lives and communities.

Yes, we still have resources we can share, but now we’re also considering the resources they bring. They may look different than our resources, but they add value and move us into a better understanding of what it means to follow Christ and love all of his children.

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