– Faith, Works and Academics

“For we are His workmanship (Poima) created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ergos), which God prepared in advance or us to do” Ephesians 2:10

A world of three gaps?

Let us begin with a question. Are Faith, Work and Academics pulling apart in our times?

The industry (work world) blames that the academia (student-faculty world) is not equipped enough to deal with the challenges or generate any break through fresh knowledge. On the other hand, the academia blames that the industry does not accept their new ideas and research, brushing it off as ‘bookish and unrealistic’. At the crux of this gap, both students and the work world, are unable to accept each other.

Similarly, there is a visible widening gap in the faith-work realm. Work produced by faith in God, in His plan against what is currently happening in the world in various segments. Add to that, the other gap; Faith- Academics gap, where there is a dearth of research that can bring solution to the pain points in the society seeking God’s wisdom that can be applied to that situation.

Can FAITH fuel our WORK (industry)? Can ACADEMICS show forth newer dimensions of each field with FAITH, in a pursuit of what God wants these to be?

As I write this, travelling through Central India, I see parched farm lands, less yielding agri efforts and news of farmer suicides (Reports inform over 3600 farmer suicides in the last accounted year- yes, it was over 10 suicides per day in these areas).

I wonder why!

Aren’t we the generation that boast of achievements in industry, academia and theology with the maximum number of PhDs in any field?

Where are the gaps?

Industry (work world) can’t take academia to solve this? Can’t the faith inspire industry / academia to receive breakthrough- reconciliations?

WORK- Is it Secular? Or a Holy ordination from God?

The Bible says that ‘WORK’ is a Holy ordination from God. It is unfortunately misunderstood by many, as a“secular” part of our lives.

WORK- Mel-aw-kah

The word ‘WORK’ appears first in the Scripture in Genesis 2:1. The Hebrew word, Mel-aw-kah, was used here as an expression of God’s own activity, as the creator. And the same word – Mel-aw-kah is used for the work humankind and means “to do”.

This Hebrew Word is a noun and appears 168 times in the Old Testament

Some of the notable verses that uses Mel-aw-kah;

  • Joseph @ Work- Genesis: 39: 11
  • Exodus 20:9- Six days shall thou labour and work
  • Bezalel @ Work: Exodus 31: 2-3
  • Nehemiah @ Work: Neh 2:16, 4:11,15,16,19,21, 5:16, 6:3
  • Daniel @ Work: Daniel 8: 27

From its active usages, it is about WORK as an expression of creativity and energy, an industrious occupation/ business with orderliness, duty, beauty, etc.

WORK- Aw-vad

In Genesis we find yet another Hebrew word for WORK,“There was no man to ‘work’ in the ground
(Gen 2:5)

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to WORK it and to TAKE CARE of it);

Here it relates to God’s expectation of humankind to WORK and TAKE CARE of the Garden of Eden.

The word Aw-vad is a verb in Hebrew and is used 288 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Prominent usages are like

  • Genesis: 2:5,15, 3:23; Working in the ground like TILLING
  • Genesis 14:4, 15:13,14, 25:23; 27:40: – Working for (Serving) a stronger person/ king / Deity
  • Exodus 20:9- Six days shall thou labour and work
  • Exodus 7:16; 8:1; 8:20; 9:13; 10:3; 10:7; 10:8; 10:11; 10:24; Let My people Go, so that they may SERVE / Worship Me(the LORD)
  • Exodus 23: 24 / Deut 5:9: – Not to bow down to their gods, nor SERVE/WORSHIP them
  • Joshua 24:15: – As for me and my household we will SERVE/Worship the Lord
  • Psalm 2:11, 18:43; 2:30; 72:11; 97:7; 100:2: – SERVE/WORSHIP (like Serve the Lord with gladness and worship the Lord with gladness interchangeably used)

It is a foundational verb that is inter connected and used with TILLING, WORKING- SERVING- WORSHIPPING.

Work/Aw-vad is an offering in worship to the Creator Yahweh God.

Our noble call to WORK – SIX DAYS YOU SHALL WORK (Mel-ah-Kah) & LABOUR (Awvad) Exodus 20:9

  • Mel-aw-kah- To work with God’s gift (and power) of creativity in our segments -faith that will work, creating new things, through 6 days LET THERE BE!
  • Aw-vad- To work – producing offerings of worship to God in our segments

Indeed, God wants to express His Mel-ah-kah creativity and power in the fields of our work and academics and that to emerge as offerings of worship (Av-wad) to the LORD, our creator.

In a world that is increasingly becoming a chaotic rubble, it is the Lord’s expectation that His disciples will emerge as the salt that prevents the decay and light in darkness, to bring it to an order.

Let us define WORK as such an opportunity/expectation/ordination from God with His style of “Let there be” Mel- aw-kah for His worship Aw-vad in and through us.

Work & Academics – Aren’t these made for each other?

Academics cannot be defined very easily. Here are a few definitions:

  • Synthesizing the learnings from WORK, for training for future applications.
  • Developing foundations for development of streams and segments
  • Research to predict behaviors scientifically, to save time in the trials and errors at industry
  • Researching to find breakthroughs for issues in different segments.
  • Measuring the knowledge levels people acquire in /through trainings /research and grading it.

From these descriptions itself, it is obvious that WORK & ACADEMICS are conceptually inseparable, existing for each other. There should be an intense integration.

Academics and the Legacy of Universities

The earliest universities (For eg; The University of Paris and the University of Oxford in the 1100s and several others that followed in Europe and elsewhere) was the work of God’s people, when they felt the need for deeper studies and debates on the various disciplines. These universities used to function in a close association with the church. The relationship between the scholars in the church and the University was profound and intriguing. These universities not only became centres of theology, philosophy, and science, but also, became incubators of the Renaissance and the

Reformation that followed in the world history.

In a sense, it was the scholars from the universities and the church together, that influenced the world further in its graduation from the medieval to the modern era. There can be debates on how much of ‘saltiness’ was there in the ‘salt of the earth’ at that time, yet history cannot deny the influence of several God’s people in the Renaissance, Reformation, and the world’s journey further towards the advancements that we find today.

Faith-Works-Academics Integration

The creation mandate to rule over (Gen 1:28), work and take care (Gen 2:15) of the creation calls us to explore the world and WORK (Mel-ah-kah and Aw-vad) fueled by Academics. Let us look at some examples from history.


Sir Isaac Newton, hailed as the father of modern physics, was a Disciple of Christ. He firmly believed in God and worshipped Him, deeply engaging in Physics, discovering and formulating the laws of motion, gravity and so on. He wrote many studies on the books of the Bible (studies on the prophetic books like Daniel and Revelation) alongside his thesis in Physics. It was not the secular and sacred sides of Newton’s life, but an integrated life. He drew his inspiration to engage in Physics as a quest to know more about God’s creation and the physical laws that He set in place. Those became foundational to Academics in Physics. Is it an exaggeration to say that Sir Isaac Newton, worshipped the Lord of Physics with His discoveries in Physics (and Mathematics)?

Newton is the unit of Force; Kelvin unit of Temperature; Joule unit of Energy, Ampere Unit of Electric Current, Pascal unit of Pressure. These people who laid the foundation to academic understanding in modern science, have one thing in common: their FAITH in God that propelled them
to WORK, their findings, that propelled further progress in WORK in science today.

When SmallPox was killing thousands in Europe in 1790s, Edward Jenner, pioneered the concept of vaccines developing the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine. His father, Pastor Samuel Jenner was burying hundreds in the city in pain. Edward Jenner sought God’s wisdom that led to the development of the world’s first vaccine. Even the terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term given by Jenner, who was often called “the father of immunology”, In Jenner’s time, smallpox killed around 10% of the population, with the number as high as 20% in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. Today it’s an eradicated disease, thanks to His mel-ah-kah research and discovery, one of his expressions of worship.

The year Edward went to be with the Lord in 1823, Louis Pasteur was born. He built the microbiology world further, with his deep faith in God. Here are a few quotes from Louis Pasteur,
“Posterity will one day laugh at the foolishness of materialistic philosophers. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” “Science brings men nearer to God.” I pray when I am engaged at my work at the laboratory” Louis Pasteur as quoted in Literary Digest (1902)

The inter connectedness of FAITH- WORKS- ACADEMICS is illustrated well in this. By FAITH, Louis pursued expressions of God’s wisdom in his field of microbiology. Here’s another stunning statement by Louis Pasteur;

“The Greeks have given us one of the most beautiful word in our language, the word ENTHUSIASM- God within. The grandeur of the acts of men are measured by the inspiration from which they spring from, Happy is he who bears God within” So, the “fathering” of microbiology with researches and inventions that will save and serve humankind, was the work Louis did, processed by God, en-theos. Can our WORK & ACADEMICS be en-theos?

Back to the world of three gaps?

Despite these models in history of active integration of FAITH-WORK-ACADEMICS, we often forget that the fields that we work with are created by God for His glory. The God of the Bible is the owner of the fields of our work engagement/our studies. May it be Pure Sciences, Applied Sciences, Banking, Economics, Commerce, Art, Literature, Culture, Law, Music, Design, History, Politics, and so on, He is the author and owner of these domains. He created these with His great plans and purposes as described in the Scripture right from Genesis. For by Him all things were created – things in heaven and on earth – visible and invisible…. All things were created by Him and for Him … In Him all things hold together. (Col: 3: 16-17).

Rays of Hope?

As I continued my journeying through Central India, I met Ashish and his College senior Deepthi (both names changed). They were born and brought up in the very killer fields of farmer suicides. They met during their student days and are among 10 college friends now leading a Farmer Producer Company with over 400 farmers from villages nearby as their share holders
Coming from farmer families they knew the pain of their world. And their college had several rural immersions to live and discuss the field issues
Ashish thought its mental health issues that aggravate the issue. And managed to do a masters in Mental Health. Deepthi and the others were listing their findings like the falls in commercial practices or lack of access to agri and other technologies, shying to reach the needy places.

The brief time that I could spend with the young band, fueled up energy in my systems. Yes, mercy drops round us are falling.

A question to ponder

If faith and prayer fuels academia and industry, what a synergy will it be?

Conclusion: :-

So many things in the industry and in academics are now not in accordance with God’s purposes and His plans for the future. Humankind with their sinful nature has corrupted these fields by their fallen priorities. However, God in His mercy, accounted for its redemption as we see in the mission of Christ “For God was pleased to have His fullness dwell in Him (Christ) and through Him reconcile to Himself ALL things- whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” (Col: 3: 19-20). The need for redemption of the fields of our studies /work engagements is now more than ever.

As people of God in industry and academics, we should work/study/research seeking God’s mind in our fields. As we pray and groan in our fields with their pain points, God will reveal His further plans with Mel-ah-kah – Let there be this kind of work, that would also be Av-wad kind of worship. Surely better and Godly things will emerge as a result
For instance, while studying Economics, praying to God, seeking wisdom to tackle the current world issues like poverty, unemployment, price rise, inflation etc, God will reveal better ideas- in line with His eternal purposes (Amos 3:7)

Throughout the landscape of human history, we find how God dealt with people on a variety of issues in their daily walks and challenges of their times. If studied in its context with prayers, we can get insights and answers to the problems in our contexts, our fields of studies and engagements too.

Let our WORK and ACADEMICS be expositions of our FAITH in God. Beyond innovations, inno-visions will emerge when followers of Christ WORK with Let there be- Mel-ah-Kah” in Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Political Science, Law, Engineering and so on.

Reji & Betsy make their home in Pune and are blessed with two children; daughter Monica is a lawyer, and son Roshan is a Social Science Student. The family cherishes friendships, open home, discussions on contemporary topics, organic terrace farming, creative healthy cooking and lots of baking.

Reji, a sustainability professional is currently working as Head- Sustainable Banking at ESAF SMALL FINANCE BANK

Actively involved in UESI since his student days in 1980s, Reji now serves in the IFES Board as South Asia Regional Representative (Hon)

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