Thursday 14 September 2017

Book Review - 'Every Job a Parable' by John Van Sloten


A Walmart greeter, a nurse, and an astronaut walk into a church. . . .

They each bring with them their own exhaustions and exasperations, their own uncertainty about whether and how their work matters to God. Good news: All work matters to God, because all work reflects some aspect of the character of God. God created the world so that it runs best when it mirrors Him, and we ourselves find the most fulfillment when we recognize God behind our labor.

John Van Sloten offers a fascinating and innovative reflection on vocation: Our work is a parable of God; as we work, we are icons of grace.

This is a great read for anyone who finds their daily grind a bit of a drag, or can't help thinking of their spiritual self as separate from their daily, nine-to-five self. John Van Sloten believes we can stretch our minds to think of any job or occupation as a parable for the way God works. After all, he's always made himself known through real people doing real work.

First, Van Sloten knocks down the vocational hierarchy we might have all bought into at different times. It simply doesn't exist from a heavenly perspective, where every humble job has its own dignity and significance. Throughout the book, he interviews and observes people in many different professions, and then has fun revealing their essential goodness to them. To mention just a few, there are astronauts, flyer-deliverers, psychologists, residential landlords, cleaners, electricians, automative repairmen, florists, language translators, geophysicists and hairdressers. It's great to think we're all on an equal plane.

We are urged to study God's signature moves, so we can more easily notice the way our jobs reflect them. Then we can pull our attitudes about them back into sync, in case they've been a bit off. There are three roles I've held; cleaner, writer and parent, which many people can probably relate to, and I enjoyed reading the thoughts about them.

Cleaners (including anyone who cleans or regularly tidies up messes) reflect God's heart for people to have clean and healthy lives. We remove unnecessary, used trash to make room for pristine new surroundings, which is what God does on a larger scale. Cleaners everywhere bear witness to his world-restoring power, whenever we leave anything better than how we found it.

As writers, we share God's heart for creativity, and attempt to figure out the way his world works through story telling, and clarity of expression. Pondering how we're going to form our sentences allows us to catch glimpses of God's own thoughts, and spread them, for the things we're passionate enough to write about are often the things he's passionate about too.

And needless to say, as parents we enter into God's heart to care, nurture and love each others with a giving, sacrificial love.

It's a mood-lifting book to read, with plenty of cheerful ways to regard the things we might not feel all that cheerful about naturally. John Van Sloten is aware that in our darker moods, this may all come across a bit platitudinal. He advises us to keep stretching our broader perspective muscles to go with it anyway. I think it really does work, and if you look for your own job, you'll be quite likely to find it in this enthusiastic and comprehensive book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House for my review copy.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.


  1. Thanks for sharing this one with us, Paula. I think we've often (well I know I have) separated our work life from our faith when we should walk through life hand-in-hand with the Lord no matter what we're doing, paid or unpaid.

    Vocation and/or employment are interesting topics when we consider our relationship with the Lord. I'm far from having many answers but I do wonder if I had truly put my relationship with the Lord first whether I would have done a few things differently in my early years.

    1. Hi Ian, that's an intriguing question we ask ourselves, especially when we see our kids grow into young adults. And as you say, retrospect doesn't always make these things clearer, and they're such a big part of our lives. That's why I appreciated this book, which attempted to put the spiritual and vocational sides of us into some perspective.

  2. What a refreshing take on our occupations. Thanks for this review Paula. We often overlook God's Perspective. Good for Mr Van Slaten.

    1. Hi Rita,
      Yes, he did a good job with the book, especially helping us to see that there is a heavenly perspective that we might overlook 😊


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