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You Didn’t Build That…Alone

The theme of the first night of the Republican National Convention was “We Built It.” This was inspired by dramatically decontextualizing something President Obama said in Roanoke in July: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (emphasis mine) President Obama has since said that he regrets his “syntax” in Roanoke, but stands by his point.

It’s clear that, in this instance at least, President Obama is the one with the more Biblical understanding of work, as illustrated by something I just read in David H. Jensen’s Responsive Labor: A Theology of Work:

As human persons respond to God’s creative, redemptive, sustaining work, at least two consequences emerge for how we envision human labors. First, the cooperation of divine activity shows us that fullness is achieved not through competition for scarce resources or the elevation of some workers over others, but in the recognition that one’s work is incomplete without the work of others…There is no such thing as work one does alone; good work always owes itself to other workers.


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