Work, Rest, and Play from a Kingdom Perspective

Every salesman will tell you that getting turned down is a fact of life. It is the same with volunteer recruitment. However, you don’t have to give up immediately. Over the years, I have developed these responses to the most common volunteer objections.

Christians have some peculiar ideas about work. They tend to view it as either the curse or the cure of human existence, as either a necessary evil or the very reason for their existence.  From a Kingdom and Wesleyan perspective it is neither. We are not simply what we do, nor are we simply defined by what we do. Nevertheless, it is amazing how often I hear these responses when I ask someone Who they are. They tend to respond with their profession or occupation. In my books  Work. A Kingdom Perspective, and The Rest of Life,   I try to inject some actual theological and ethical reflection into how we view such matters.

Work, for example, is simply our service to God, others and ourselves, so that we may go on living, loving and worshipping.  We do not live to work, we work to live.  I was deeply disturbed by the results of a survey I saw recently that suggested that the reason a majority of ministers die within five to ten years of retiring is because of a loss of a sense of purpose, or raison d’etre, in life.   Their lives were so bound up in their professional tasks that they felt worthless. Life was now meaningless or trivial upon retirement.   This is unfortunate as ‘retirement’ is not a Biblical idea at all.   It is a modern, post-industrial revolution concept invented to keep workers working hard until they can’t do it any more.   The carrot at the end of the stick is pension and retirement or Social Security and retirement.   The question at the former Methodist Annual Conference meetings used to be: “Who are the worn out ministers?”  This question referred to those no longer able to itinerate around a circuit of churches.  You bop until you drop.

While John Wesley had good things to say about the need for healthy eating and resting every day in a balanced way, his Puritan upbringing did not lead him to suggest that ‘play’ was a good thing.   To him, that was wasting time, or trivial.   A more healthy Kingdom perspective suggests that a balanced Christian life will include both rest and work, both play and study, and so on.  I make the case for seeing play as a celebration of the joy of life and of the physical capacities God has gifted us with. Play points us forward to the full Kingdom come on earth where the goal is reached, the race is won, and so on.


Dr. Witherington joined the Asbury Seminary faculty in 1995. A prolific author, Dr. Witherington has written more than 40 books and six commentaries. He is a John Wesley Fellow for Life, a research fellow at Cambridge University and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the New Testament and the Institute for Biblical Research. In his leisure time, Dr. Witherington appreciates both music and sports. It is hard to say which sound he prefers: the sophisticated sonance of jazz sensation Pat Metheny or the incessant tomahawk chant of the Atlanta Braves faithful. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, he is a dedicated Tar Heels basketball and football fan. He and his wife, Ann, have two children.