Theology of Work: A Case Study in Myanmar Christian Community

by Cephas Van Hawi
April 27th, 2017
The purpose of this dissertation is to find how a biblical theology of work contributes towards transformation in Myanmar Christian community so that every Christian in the communities should come to understand that work is ordained by God, who created heaven and earth and all things that are in it as the Bible says. “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein (Ps. 24:1), and that God is the God of work (see Gen. 1:1). When Adam committed sin in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground; thus, work has become toilsome and a drudgery, though God did not curse work itself. Because of the Fall and the curse on the ground, work has been viewed as a negative issue that humanity would treat work as unpleasant and toilsome yet to be done in order to survive in this world. As a result, work is disdained and scorned by many scholars such as Greek philosophers; thus, it brought an idea of hierarchy in terms of work such as higher and lower or sacred and secular in which sacred is deemed holier and favorable or spiritual while secular is frowned upon and undervalued as second class.

The purpose of this dissertation is to challenge this erroneous idea and misconception about work that creates a negative impact on many Christians in Myanmar. In other words, the worldview inherited from Greek philosophy has confused many Christians who could be effective transformational agents in their communities to the glory of God, who gives different gifts to everyone of His children to maximize and increase.

Platonism originated from rationalistic thinking does not contribute to the community transformation because it divides work into sacred and secular; hence, every xiii work that does not directly relate to Christian service has been deemed unspiritual or ungodly. Consequently there has been a dichotomy between the people as clergy and laity. Clergy is considered superior or more spiritual, while laity is thought as second class in the Christian community. As a result, those Christians who go to marketplace find it hard to see and experience the presence of God at work; hence it happens to them as someone has said, “God on Sunday in the church; atheist on the other six days.” Many Christians who could be transformation agents in the communities ignorantly and unknowingly remain idle and impotent instead of living out the faith they claim in their daily life for the glory of God, who wants them to be “salt” and “light” to the world.

To this end, a survey was conducted in two locations among Christians in Yangon. A qualitative inquiry was carried out on a stratified sample of over one hundred Christians among seminar participants such as pastors, evangelists, and others who did not directly involve in church related work.

A literature review will focus on scholarly sources on the integration of the faith they claim with the demand of their work. It will also reveal different relationships between faith and work over centuries and discovered models and principles for community transformation.

In order to examine the thesis hypothesis, a pre-seminar survey was conducted to discover the participant’s understanding of the concept of work as well as the negative impact of dualistic worldview spawned by Platonism for centuries in Myanmar Christian communities.