Every Job a Parable by John Van Sloten
Shows how it is possible to ‘reimagine’ (by seeing jobs as ‘parables’) the actual work as part of God’s intention for individuals and for the world
Every Job a Parable
By John Van Sloten
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
ISBN 978 1 473 67067 9
Reviewed by Michael Docker
If I had been able to read this book in In the 1980s, when I was ‘candidating’ for the ministry I wonder if I would have made it into the ministry at all. At a college interview, a member of the panel, an industrial chaplain, asked me why I thought the ministry was more of a vocation than my present work - managing a small factory. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I do recall that it felt inadequate.
The subject of this book is important. John van Sloten addresses the issue of work head-on from a Christian perspective and, by using many - admittedly Canadian-specific - examples, shows how the actual work is where God is to be found. It is not unique, I know; Mark Green has done much to help Christians think about some of these issues; but it sounds fresh.
By finding parallels between the workaday world and God’s purposes in Christ it helpfully breaks down that ancient bugbear of Christianity, the false divide between the sacred and the secular. But it is not dry theologising (though the theology behind it is quite deep, clearly); rather, in highly readable chapters it introduces us to real people doing real jobs - from geologists and paramedics to hairdressers and supermarket employees.
It shows how it is possible to ‘reimagine’ (by seeing jobs as ‘parables’) the actual work as part of God’s intention for individuals and for the world - customer service like the servanthood of Jesus; making things like the act of creation itself, even cleaning like the continuing action of the Spirit in helping the world to flourish.
It is, in this way, quite inspiring - and would make a good book for a study group. Each chapter ends with a series of questions or activities that could be used to help Christians at work to think more deeply about what living by faith actually means in the workplace - beyond seeing it as primarily a place for witnessing.
But the book is not everything. There is no discussion of, for instance, unemployment and no reflection on what or who work is for - no reflection on capitalism and what many regard as its late-stage crises (the financial crash; the bonus culture; growing levels of inequality).
It also strikes me as being naive, or perhaps romantic - in its vision of everyone coming to a deeper understanding of God in the workplace. Quite a few folk I know only work in order to live and can’t wait for the weekend. Then some of them spend much of it at church...
Michael Docker is minister of Tyndale Baptist Church, Bristol