MPM / BAM Thought Leadership Profile: The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (IFWE)

Evangelical Christians today find themselves living in an environment of economic strain, and are asking tough questions about how to think biblically about economics. They have also come to believe that their everyday work six days out of the week doesn’t matter to God, and has no meaning. The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (IFWE) was founded in August of 2011 to address these critical issues with biblical truth and sound economic teaching.

At IFWE, we seek to educate and inspire Christians to live out a biblical theology integrating faith, work, and economics. We want to awaken Christians to the strategic role their work plays in God’s loving and redemptive narrative in the world. By rediscovering the biblical doctrine of work and by viewing economics through this lens, Christians, through their work, will bring about flourishing in their communities, our nation, and our world.

Each person is created in God’s image and, like him, has a desire to be creative and fulfilled using God-given talents through work. As we explore a comprehensive, biblical view of work, we understand that our work – whether paid or unpaid – deeply matters to God. It is an integral part of his purpose in this world.

For many Christians, this is a paradigm shift in how they view their work. Sadly, many have been taught work is just a place for evangelism, or to earn a paycheck to donate to the church and missions. I worked for years in the business world, seeing little to no connection between what I did as a businessman and God’s Kingdom. I secretly envied pastors, missionaries, and others who got to work “full-time” for God.

It wasn’t until I began taking seminary classes that I discovered the church’s historical teaching on the biblical doctrine of work. I helped start IFWE to help Christians realize that their vocations are the means God has given them to change the world.

In addition to this life-changing message about work, what many Christians fail to also realize is that their ability to freely live out their vocation requires liberty and economic freedom. As citizens, we must sustain an environment of economic freedom – one that not only allows individuals to flourish in their work, but also reflects the inherent dignity of each human being.

As a biblical advocacy think-tank, we believe that changes in attitude and practice can come through building awareness, presenting scriptural evidence, and challenging individuals to believe the truth of scripture.

To carry out this life-changing mission, IFWE partners with leading Christian theologians and economists to develop a biblical theology of work and economics. We bring these thought-leaders into conversation with one another, and we translate their research into practical resources.

These resources include our first book, How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work, and “Why Does Income Inequality Exist? An Economic and Biblical Explanation,” one of our first published research reports. Yet another practical resource is our blog, Creativity.Purpose.Freedom.

We are currently producing a book on poverty and the poor entitled From Poverty to Shalom: Applying Biblical and Economic Principles for the Flourishing of All Mankind. This edited volume aims to equip Christians with a biblical and economic understanding of how to best care for the poor. Expert Christian theologians and economists are contributing chapters. Among the contributors are Dr. Walter Kaiser, Dr. Art Lindsley, Lord Brian Griffiths, Marvin Olasky, Jay Richards, Fr. Robert Sirico, Peter Greer, and others.

Other IFWE resources include op-eds, white papers, talking points, videos, and curriculum, which communicate these principles of work and economics to the Christian community and beyond.

We’re starting to see the impact of our message. People who felt weary and heavy-laden by guilt or a sense of meaninglessness in their vocation are freed up by the truth that ALL work matters to God.

While we’re seeking to reach all ages with our message, we feel particularly compelled to reach those just entering their career. One young woman thought that in order to serve God well she must go work in Africa, even though she wasn’t necessarily passionate or gifted for that work. When she learned that all work matters to God, she rejoiced, realizing she could still support the poor in Africa, but instead seek work that was a better fit for how God designed her.

One college student was motivated to enter the field of politics, but thought that it would be more valuable to God to become a pastor. A half-completed application to seminary had been sitting on his desk for weeks. When he learned that all work matters to God, he was ecstatic and eagerly completed internship applications to work for various public policy organizations.

These are just two examples of people whose lives have been impacted by the biblical doctrine of work. As Christians begin to grasp the biblical meaning of work, the importance of economics and whole-life stewardship comes into focus. People begin to understand how economics can help them be better stewards not only of their finances, but of their God-given gifts and abilities as well. Comprehending the biblical doctrine of work is the first step in transforming how Christians think about work and economics.

Through this work, we are seeking to help Christians embody Jeremiah 29:7, which says Christians are to, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The outcome we seek is the flourishing of all mankind to the glory of God. 

Hugh Whelchel is executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.

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