Thinking About Work in the Twenty-First Century

An essay contest for undergraduate students.

Too often, when Christians reflect on the work that they do, they talk about everything but the work itself. Christian professors, for instance, talk about the importance of getting along with colleagues, loving their students, working with integrity, being transparent about their faith, leading Bible studies, evangelizing, and so on. These are all good things, but what about the work itself? Is work a necessary evil that we simply have to put up with? Is it a point of indifference? A luxury? Whether it is work that we pay to do (as students), work we get paid to do (as employees), or the work that we do day after day (where no money is involved), how might biblically sound, theological reflection help us think about the work that we do?

Answering this question has always been challenging, but the challenge has become still greater in our late modern setting. As the industrial revolution continues to unfold, workplaces are transformed, technological frontiers broken through, social and economic structures impacted, and the very notion of the Human challenged, how shall we bring biblical wisdom to bear? What cultural challenges do we most need to recognize, and how shall we address them?

So the question is: What contemporary challenges most impact the work you anticipate doing in coming years, and how might biblically sound, theological reflection frame that work in our current cultural setting?

In the fall of 2015, we invited undergraduate students (currently enrolled for a minimum of six academic hours at a college or university) to submit essays in response to this question. We specified that essays should be approximately 2,000 words long and should offer both biblically sound, theological reflection and cultural awareness and engagement. The deadline for submissions was January 16, 2016. We are very pleased with the submissions we received. The essays showed thoughtful consideration of faith, work, and culture. We are grateful to all of the students who shared their thoughts with us and spent valuable time and effort to participate.

During January and February of 2016, the essays were evaluated on both content and style by a panel of CSC staff and advisors. Biblical insight, cultural awareness and engagement, and thoughtfulness were central, but spelling and grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph development were also taken into account. Because of the high quality of essays we received, our five judges faced a difficult decision. To make sure the process was as fair as possible, we submitted all of the essays to the judges with out any of the authors’ names attached, so that none of the judges on our panel ever saw the names of the essay authors. Based on their careful evaluation, all of our judges have agreed on the following winners:

First Place ($1,000 Award): Reconsiderations Vol 16 No 2 Sept 2016 pic

“The Trees Will Probably Clap Their Hands At This,” written by Caroline Hament

Second Place ($700 Award):

“The Act of Choice, or, How To Decide What To Do With One’s Whole Entire Life,” written by Scott Trinkle

Congratulations, Caroline and Scott! Both winning essays are published in Volume 16, Number 2 of Reconsiderations, the Study Center’s semi-annual publication of essays from our educational program.

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