Faith Values Are Social Work Values
July 31, 2019
Anyone interested in entering the field of social work is quick to learn that they cannot do so without a deep belief in the social work core values. These core values are what guide everything from social work ethics to how the profession is carried out across the country and at times our world. As a person of faith, I believe that my relationship with the creator and conviction of scripture led me to believe in these core values long before I was aware of their importance in social work. So, how exactly do the social work core values and faith values line up?
I will examine the six social work core values and how they line up with a faith calling (I am pulling from my Christian faith lens, but these values can transcend across multiple faiths):
Service is something we see Jesus doing throughout the gospel. In John 13, we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, a gesture of humility and service. Soon after, he instructs his followers to “wash one another’s feet,” not just literally, but also in how they were called to humble themselves serve others.
2. Social Justice
Social justice is another theme we see in stories and commandments across the Bible. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see references to welcoming those on the margins of society. A specific call in Deuteronomy 27:19 warns against withholding justice from the immigrant, orphan, or widow.
3. Dignity and Worth of the Individual
A parable in Matthew 18 describes a shepherd who leaves his herd of 99 sheep to go find the single sheep that is lost, and compares that situation to the way God pursues his people. This highlights the heart of the text, illustrating that God cares so deeply for his people that he desires a personal relationship and values each and every person.
4. Importance and Centrality of Human Relationships
From Genesis we see the Trinity as the Godhead three in one, living in relationship before time even existed, and we see relationships (between people and God, between individuals, and between groups) referenced in pretty much every chapter onward. From giving to one another to pursuing conflict resolution with your neighbor, human relationships (and healthy ones at that) are central to the Bible.
Integrity, simply put, is the value of honesty. The Bible tells us, quite literally, “Do not lie” in Leviticus 19:11. We also see God calling upon humankind to have integrity, both with God and with one another, in several scriptures including the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
Competence is interesting in a faith/social work cross over. Usually when we see things relating to a person’s ability to do something successfully (i.e. competent) in the Bible, it is either attributed to God, or emphasized as something you don’t need for Jesus to accept you. However, the Bible does warn us against laziness and lack of work ethic. In Colossians 3:23 it reads, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” In Proverbs we also read wisdom around the correlation of a strong work ethic and the blessings that come from it.
While there weren’t social workers in biblical times, the same urgings all those years back are still applicable to our work and relationships today. An honest and competent day’s work for a social worker is certainly not for those without belief in individual dignity, valuing the importance of relationships, integrity, and a strong work ethic.
Afton Neufeld is a NETWORK volunteer currently obtaining her Masters in Social Work at University of Nevada, Reno. Her social justice heroes include Jesus, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Catholic Sisters.