Tim Keller lists 8 ways Christians can serve God through their work. Every Wednesday, we build off his list and explore one of these ways. Previously, we’ve looked at serving God through work by furthering social justice, evangelizing co-workers, skillful excellence, and creating beauty. These do not contradict but in fact are complimentary ways through God can use us in our day to day. Another way to serve God is by influencing culture. If you follow Christ, you are not a Wage-Slave but a Culture-Maker!
The way to serve God at work is to work from a Christian motivation to glorify God, seeking to engage and influence culture to that end.*
Why Influence Culture? Some Christians don’t believe we should influence culture. They think we should withdraw from the world and not seek to influence it for God’s glory. Some Christians believe we should take over culture and make everything conform to our faith. Both of those are ditches to fall into and, I’ll argue, less than fully Biblical. Culture is the sum total of human expression (both good and bad). It involves how we perceive our world, all our presuppositions, right down to how we live our lives. Culture, because it is part of being human, is a creation of God. But like everything in this world, because of the Fall, it is both good and bad. Bad because of our sin. Good because of God’s common grace. The result is that every culture will have some things beautiful and good, and some things bad and destructive. God gave a command to our first parents to cultivate this world in a way pleasing to Him. Even though things did not perfectly, that command has never been repealed. As followers of Christ we can carry out God’s purposes for this world, even in its brokenness. That means working to cultivate the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in everything we do.
What Does That Have To Do With Our Jobs? Just like the idea of serving God through skillful excellence is deeply indebted to Martin Luther (even though he didn’t invent it), serving God through cultural influence is indebted to that other great Reformer: John Calvin. Calvin, and the Reformed tradition which followed him, saw all work as a calling from God. They weren’t the only ones to discover this truth but they did explore it with special emphasis. Work was not only a way to care for creation but a way to structure it. This means that whatever field we are in – politics, medicine, law, education, the arts, architecture – we are to cultivate the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. And we’re to do it for the benefit of every person in our culture, not just the churchy ones! There was once a pastor/theologian who believed so strongly in this principle that he quit and became the PM of the Netherlands!
What Does This Mean For Us? Not every Christian will have an equal opportunity to be a cultural influence (remember there are many ways to serve God at work) but there is application for almost all of us: **
1) It means that we are not to retreat from this world but be in it. For many, our jobs are the main way we interact with the world. Christians need to be ‘out there’ graciously taking part in every part of society. We’re to serve this world for the good of everyone whether we’re a doctor, a musician, or farmer there are ways to bring God’s influence. Everything that advances the Good, the True, and the Beautiful is, in essence, a service to God and obedience to His very first command.
2) It means every job is a calling. One of the biggest lies around is that only pastors and missionaries are really serving God. It isn’t true. Whatever we are doing, we have been called to it – even if it is not what we will do for the rest of our lives. Many of us perhaps need to repent of complaining about our jobs. God has placed us there and we are to influence our society through what we’re doing. We are to make this world (of which culture is the human part) a better place.
3) It means we must seek to be influential. This does not mean we try to take over every aspect of culture – we’re to be servants not conquerors. But we are to look at how we can bring God’s goodness to institutions, policies, workplaces, and individual lives. The opportunities are as limitless as our Spirit-empowered imagination…
-A Christian teacher may seek to establish a culture of care within the public school system.
-A godly businessman may labour for more ethical dealings in her organization.
-A faithful politician may endeavour to pass laws that are just for all citizens.
-An church-going artist may try to educate the wider public about art appreciation and its advantages.
…how many more possibilities could there be???
* Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavour, page 22.
** Vocational ministers are actually the least able to serve God in this way!!!