Drawn into worship : a biblical ethics of work
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In the 20th-century, the advent of Taylorism led to a radical reconceptualisation in the organisation of human work. The formal scientifically-conceived aim of increased “efficiency” behind this project masked the moral and psychological changes which were also inherent in the project which is still ongoing. Now, at the turn of the 21st century, given the profusion of corporate scandals and the complicity of unscrupulous business practice in the current ecological and economic crises, researchers in a number of fields focused on work and its organisation have begun to warm to the possible relevance of religious ethics to social responsibility in business practices, offering some promise for a new rapprochement. In this dissertation, I offer a close study of the biblical texts that have nourished a moral vision of work for Christian and Jewish communities. I seek to nuance my study of these texts in Hebrew and Greek with an agrarian sensibility in order to highlight the moral vision of human / non-human interaction in the forms of work described and the ecological sensibility which undergirds this ancient vision of “good work” which is preserved in these texts. More specifically, I explore the moral relationship between work and worship through a close study of two related themes. In Part 1, I begin with a sustained look at the details of “good work” as narrated in the Tabernacle construction account in Exodus 25-40. This study of Exodus provides a platform upon which to explore work themes of volition, design, tacit knowledge, and interaction between the sociality and agency of work. In subsequent chapters, I go on to analyse subsequent temple construction accounts in 1 Kings, Jeremiah 22, Isaiah 60, Zechariah 14, 1-2 Chronicles, and across the New Testament. In this deliberately intertextual study, I attend to the transformation of the meaning of the Tabernacle/Temple across the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, as temple building texts in particular assume an eschatological aspect. My study of these subsequent construction accounts also adds nuance and texture to my account of moral making in conversation with several contemporary theorists, particularly with regards to work agency, aesthetics, sociality, skill and wisdom, and the material culture of work. This section culminates with the conclusion that in the New Testament, the church becomes both the product and the site of moral work building a new “temple”. Following this conclusion, in Part 2 of the dissertation, I develop a more detailed account of the relational dynamic between work and worship as it is delineated in Hebrew and Christian offertory practice. For this study, I turn to close readings of offertory practices in the Hebrew Scriptures (with special focus on Leviticus 1-3 and other Pentateuchal offertory texts), the New Testament and early Christian (1-4c.) moral philosophy. I highlight the relationship between worship and work in these liturgies and argue that in their practical logic, work is “drawn into worship.” In particular, I argue that three aspects of offertory practice may provide a framework for rehabilitating contemporary worship so that it may once again draw work into a morally formative dynamic. These three aspects correspond to the material and practised details of specific offerings and include: (1) the relativisation of utility with the burnt offering (2) the engagement of work quality and aesthetics through consecratory firstfruits offerings and (3) the sociality of liturgical work with the shared meal in the peace offering. These texts and the early Christian practices through which their liturgies were deployed hint at possible avenues for a rehabilitation of the moral work life of contemporary Christians. I argue that the proper performance of worship must “draw in” and engage the ordinary work of the people of God, and that a rehabilitation of offertory practice, particularly in light of the rich range of practices demonstrated in the Christian tradition offers a promising place for the reconceptualisation of work.