Years ago, I was speaking to an old friend as he was preparing to become an architect and I was about to enter seminary. I’ll never forget him saying: “It’s easy to serve God as a pastor, but how you do it as an architect?” I could hear the frustration in that question. He was really wanting to know and so far he hadn’t been given a satisfying answer. If I had a time machine, I would go back and give him Tim Keller’s new book, Every Good Endeavour. Christians love God but many have a hard time seeing how what they do for a living is related to that faith and devotion. How is God related our labour? How is our labour related our faith in God? As a pastor (whose vocation is obviously attached to my faith), why do I care so much about this issue?
As a working pastor, I am concerned about this issue for the sake of others. I encounter Christians who are deeply frustrated with work. I also meet some for whom work becomes an idol. I also know that some feel that their job is not as much a ‘calling’ as vocational ministry, or is not as important to the Kingdom. I also know some who have been burned by not finding their purpose within the Church (they probably should have found it elsewhere). Tim Keller addresses all of these with a fine concise theology of vocation and labour.
It seems to me a remedy to many frustrations regarding work is to embrace how we can serve God no matter what we do for a living. In the introduction to the book (pg 22), Keller sketches out 8 possible ways to serve God through our working lives. According to Keller, the ways to serve God at work are:
-to further social justice in the world.
-to be personally honest and evangelize your co-workers.
-to just do skillful, excellent work.
-to create beauty.
-to work from a Christian motivation to glorify God, seeking to engage and influence culture to that end.
-to work with a grateful, joyful, Gospel-changed heart through all the ups and downs.
-to do whatever gives you the greatest joy and passion.
-to make as much money as you can, so that you can be as generous as you can.
Keller sees a problem when Christians regard one way to serve God at work and disregard others. These eight ways are in fact possibilities which do not contradict one another. Incredibly, after listing them, Keller does not expand on these eight ways. It is my only criticism of the book. So for the next eight Wednesdays, I’m going to reflect on each, drawing from the wisdom of Keller and others along the way.
So…how about each one of these ways to serve God at work? Which one resonates the most with you?