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Book Review: Theology of Work Bible Commentary, Volume 1: Genesis through Deuteronomy

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This review of Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Volume 1 is from Corban School of Ministry's magazine Dedicated, by Garrett Trott, February 18, 2016.

Often when thinking of a Bible commentary, one considers a work that might be used in constructing a sermon or a lesson plan. One does not often consider a work that you would pick up and read from cover to cover. While still a commentary, because of its uniqueness in content, tone, and applicable nature, one might want to make an exception for the Theology of Work Bible Commentary (TWBC).

The 212 pages of the first volume of the TWBC are broken up into five sections, one for each book: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. At first glance, each section is similar to what one might expect in a commentary. TWBC goes through each major section of these five books, passage by passage and discusses the text and its modern day application. Most will agree that this kind of work is typically used in a reference fashion, that is, one reads the commentary of a particular passage and puts the work down. However, TWBC provides some remarkable insight into applying biblical principles into everyday life, making it a worthwhile read from cover to cover. For anyone interested in learning how God can be glorified through their traditional weekday job, TWBC offers incredible insight on how to do so.

TWBC is composed by a unique international mix of biblical and theological scholars and business practitioners. This mix provides an excellent blend of thoughtful application based on a firm exegetical framework.

A great example of this can be seen in TWBC’s discussion of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11), where the authors suggest that perhaps the tower of Babel can be seen as an example of a wrong way to handle power and authority. The authors argue that the tower of Babel is an example where centralization brought about corruption. They move on to argue that perhaps in some contexts, God is calling those who have authority and power to disperse, delegate, authorize, and train others, rather than doing it all by oneself. It should be noted that the authors do not attempt to argue that this is the sole teaching of this passage, but in humility they suggest this as an application of some of the principles behind the tower of Babel. This is just one, of several, ways that the contributors look at Old Testament narrative and apply it to work and leadership scenarios.

Excellent examples of applying elements of the Pentateuch to work scenarios continue to abound. Another example occurs is Leviticus 19, which talks about gleaning, the process through which land owners harvested their land one time and left the remaining for the poor to utilize. Most would agree that poverty is an issue in 21st century America.

Many governmental and social systems have attempted to resolve the issue with little to no success. While gleaning is not as applicable today as it might have been in a more agrarian culture, the authors insists that “the gleaning system in Leviticus does place an obligation on the owners of productive assets to ensure that marginalized people have the opportunity to work for a living” (p. 128). Intriguing application of a passage that is often ignored in modern day preaching.

The utility of this book expands with the Theology of Work web-site (to which they make reference in their commentary): https://www.theologyofwork.org/. This web-site expands the utility of this work ten-fold. All five volumes of this work are available online at no cost, making this remarkable work not only available to those who want to purchase a print copy, but to those who are simply intrigued with greater empathy regarding how an understanding of Scripture can impact their day to day work.

The web-site also provides additional resources to the text. For example, in the commentary of Exodus 20:15, “You shall not steal,” the authors comment on how the concept of stealing goes beyond robbing someone. It can include misappropriating resources or using deception to make sales. The authors then note that there is further elaboration on this in the section entitled, “Puffery/Exaggeration” in Truth & Deception at www.theologyofowork.org. This section adds further insight into the development of theological principles into modern day work.

Overall, this work provides excellent insight into how Scripture can be applied to modern day work. The inclusion of the word “commentary” in the title of the TWBC should not deter businessmen or businesswomen from looking into this work to understand how God can be glorified through their day to day working. Nor should the practical nature of this work discourage the pastor or scholar from looking at this fresh insight to the applicability of God’s word in the modern day.

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