I got this shout-out from MEL Magazine’s Miles Klee about my 2012 piece on working in heaven:
I was thankful to turn up one guy, Don C. Warrington, who, though a practicing Christian and once employed by the Church of God, wasn’t having this bull****. “The Scriptures are not very detailed on what our life with God on the other side will be like,” he argued in a 2012 blog post. “They speak of rewards, crowns, ruling and the like, but none of this suggests work. The whole idea of ruling is that someone else gets to do the work while you take the credit.” Moreover, he asserts, we won’t have to develop the infrastructure of heaven when we arrive: “Jesus promised that he would go and prepare the place.”
As I did then, I think the whole concept of working in heaven is profoundly unBiblical. I laid out the case in that post and won’t go through it again. What I want to concentrate on here is how this kind of belief got into Evangelical Christianity in this country. Klee leads off with FBC Dallas’ Robert Jeffress pronouncement on the subject, but as he shows this kind of thinking has been embedded amongst our ministers for a long time. (My original post nine years ago was in response to some pulpit pronouncements.)
I think this is a classic example of Evangelicals “engaging the culture” which ends up becoming “following the culture.” Traditionally (in the South at least) Evangelical Christianity has always had an escapist streak in it, as anyone who’s experienced a “heaven song” medley will attest. Americans, however, have a bad habit of defining themselves and their worth by what they do for a living, be that independent business or working for someone else. Churches have not only picked up and tried to Biblicise that, they’re also playing to a bad dynamic amongst our ministers which makes the congregation essentially employees of the pastor, there to fulfil the pastor’s vision for the church. This last point is weird considering that the money flow in a church is opposite to that of a workplace.
I think my own pushback to all of this, in addition to reading comprehension of the Bible, is assisted by my own status as a combination of old money snobbery and Scots-Irish laziness, the former of which is virtually unknown in Evangelical circles. To begin with, I think it’s bad that Americans invest so much of their concept of self worth in their work. It’s bad from a career standpoint, as I point out in Advice to Graduates: The Two Promises I Made to Myself, and it’s also bad from a workplace operation standpoint. In many workplaces everyone is trying harder to show that they’re up to their inflated publicity rather than doing the task that is in front of them. Changing that would not only make our workplaces more productive; it would get rid of many of the gender bias issues that we seem to obsess so much about.
It’s also shocking that Christians invest so much of their self-concept in their work and that their ministers aid and abet this mistake. Isn’t our first identity in Christ? How can we oppose the critical race theory jockeys and still look to somewhere else other than our creator for our identity and worth? I discuss this on a elevated social plane in my piece A State of Being.
That being said, I am one of these people who believe that we should come to work and do our best, and apply our mind to effectively do the task that is in front of us, up to and including challenging the concept of “we’ve always done it this way.” But when it’s time to “lay our burdens down,” it’s time, and heaven ultimately is that time. Klee laments that one Evangelical says that there will be no orgasms in heaven. The Evangelical is right, but what we will experience in the presence of God will be far more intense and sustained than any orgasm we experience here.
At that point, the work will cease and the celebration will begin and never end. Don’t miss it.