A number of conversations recently have turned to the subject of work.
Perhaps it has been on my mind - as you probably know, we have been recruiting for a new Head of Fundraising - but perhaps I've been discovering that other people are also concerned about the subject.
On top of these conversations, I have found various reports and studies on healthcare which say there are 'two major determinants of public health' (two things which affect the health of people more than anything else): a home, and a job.
I don't think it is a coincidence that our two longest running projects focus on precisely these two needs: helping people find and keep a home, and helping them find and keep a job.
Of course, this is not news to anyone who reads and takes seriously the Old Testament. We are told that after the first man was created, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)
The very first thing God did for Adam was to give him a home and a job. It's not surprising: He knows what we need.
After the fall, work becomes harder, but work is not a result of the fall, and it is not something we shall be redeemed from. "Do you not know that we will judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:3) Who knows what other work we will be given to do in Heaven?
As soon as we start to talk about work, all kinds of other things need to be said.
Not all work is equally good. There are good jobs and bad jobs, work which helps other people and encourages you to grow as a person, and work which is harmful and soul-destroying. God created us to do good work, so we have to choose the right work.
Of course, not all work is fun, and sometimes we just have to grit our teeth and get on with it. And sometimes work is good for us precisely because it makes us do things we don't want to do.
Not all work is paid. People sometimes seem to assume that if work has no salary, it has no value. We know this is not true. This whole ministry depends on the work done by hundreds of volunteers who work and love and give themselves without payment.
And there are many other forms of unpaid work, the most obvious one being the work done by parents and grandparents in caring for and nurturing the next generation. People don't stop working just because they retire. Society may not fully value this unpaid work, but God does.
We should not be defined by our jobs. You may work as a dustman, dentist or delivery driver, a sales assistant, secretary or surgeon, but you are a child of God, created in His image to reflect His character by the way you live. And much of the way you live, the opportunities and challenges, will be shaped by the work you are called to do.
We live in a society in which work has been devalued, regarded as only an economic activity. We live in a society in which many people have bought into the lie that work is an imposition, to be avoided where possible.
Affirming the Biblical truth is a good start, but we need to go beyond this. People need jobs, so we need to create jobs - good jobs. Jobs that can be done by the people who need them, not just the highly educated and the privileged, jobs that can grow with the skills and confidence of the worker.
A few organisations have made a start in this area - Aspire and Emmaus are two obvious examples. But we need much more. We need to pray and think and plan and work to create the jobs that can get people off benefits and enable them to start building a future they want to live in.
Work - good work - is a blessing. And it is a blessing everyone should have the opportunity to experience. Because that is what our Father wants for all His children.