Whatever you do… (how would Jesus do your job?)

workplace

 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

I remember working in a group home with some young men with developmental disabilities.  It wasn’t glamourous.  But I remember being able to find meaning in it when I decided to do my work “as a Christian”.  That didn’t mean a fundamental change in the tasks accomplished.  What that did mean was that I decided to do them for the Lord.  It made all the difference.

Dallas Willard even encourages us to see our daily work as a place of glory – an opportunity for discipleship:

Consider just your job, the work you do to make a living.  This is one of the clearest ways possible of focusing upon apprenticeship to Jesus.  To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it.  New Testament language for this is to do it “in the name” of Jesus…

But how, exactly, is one to make one’s job a primary place of apprenticeship to Jesus?…

A gentle but firm non-cooperation with things that everyone knows to be wrong, together with a sensitive, non-officious, non-intrusive, non-obsequious service to others, should be our overt manner.  This should be combined with inward attitudes of constant prayer for whatever kind of activity our workplace requires and genuine love for everyone involved…

But, once again, the specific work to be done – whether it is making ax handles or tacos, selling automobiles or teaching kindergarten, investment banking or political office, evangelizing or running a Christian educational program, performing in the arts or teaching English as a second language – is of central interest to God.  He wants it well done.  It is work that should be done, and it should be done as Jesus himself would do it.  Nothing can substitute for that.*

 

 

* Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, pages 285-286

Doing the Lord’s Work the Lord’s Way

Everyone who follows Christ wants to do His work.  But how do we do it in a way that lets His Spirit move through us.  Sometimes we fall into approaching Christian work where muster up all of our resources and try to get it done ourselves.  This surely is not letting the Holy Spirit work through us.  Instead it is us trying to accomplish it in our own strength.  But when we are moved by the Spirit, does that mean we will be expending no effort on our part.  It is always as though God swoops down and does it requiring no cost/effort/initiative of ourselves?

I have often wondered about this dynamic – and been confused by it.  A great help has been the wisdom of Francis Schaffer who comes at the issue with his trademark balance and thoughtfulness:

Let us not think that waiting on the Lord will mean getting less done.

The truth is that by doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we will accomplish more, not less.

He's working right now - in the Spirit.

He’s working right now – in the Spirit.

You need not fear that if you wait for God’s Spirit you will not get as much done as if you charge ahead in the flesh.

After all, who can do the most, you or the God of Heaven and earth?

Nor should we think that our role will be passive. The moving of the Holy Spirit should not be contrasted with either proper self-fulfillment or tiredness.

To the contrary, both the Scriptures and the history of the church teach that if the Holy Spirit is working, the whole man will be involved and there will be much cost to the Christian.

The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used, the more there will be personal cost and tiredness.

It is quite the opposite of what we might first think.

People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit and yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there is always tremendous cost to the people of God-weariness and tears and battles.

Francis Schaeffer, “No Little People”

via Justin Taylor

God + Work Wednesday – Making $$$ to Give Away

Writing cheques to the glory of God - the call of every disciple?

Writing cheques to the glory of God – the call of every disciple?

God can be involved in our work and our work can be involved with God’s purposes.  The work need not be explicitly religious, in fact, for some purposes of God it is best if it is not.  We’ve previously looked at other ways to serve God through work and now I’m going to mention one final one.*  A way to serve God through your work is:

To make as much money as you can, so that you can be as generous as you can.

This one might come as a bit of a surprise.  It might even seem like the most unspiritual.  Maybe some Christians have something against money.  But most work involves the earning of money.  Here’s a few qualifying ideas.

Money doesn’t seem very spiritual.  It doesn’t seem like money is a very spiritual issue but guess what?  It is.  Jesus talked about money all the time.  In fact it was one of his favourite illustrations.  The Old Testament has lots to say about acquiring and sharing righteous wealth.  The New Testament teaches radical generosity (the Old does too) and you can’t give to those in need without having something to give.  Money is spiritual because our relationship to it can reveal much about how we relate to God, our neighbours, and our own idolatries.

Making money isn’t always a bad thing.  The Bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil.  It says:  the love of money is the root of all evil.  In other words, its not the money but our relationship to it that can go wrong.  Making money isn’t inherently wrong.  Money is needed to provide for your family (a Scriptural command).  Trying to make more money isn’t necessarily wrong either.  To use a higher income to be able to give more to furthering the Gospel

Gospel ministry costs money.  The fact is that ministry, of word or deed, takes money.  Contributing funds for helping the poor or furthering the Gospel can be even be called fellowship in the NT.**  When we do that we are serving God.  Of course, we should not just turn into cheque writers; God calls us to more hands on service than that.  But it is undeniable that giving of what we have is important.  The more we have, the more we can give, hence why seeking to make more can serve God’s purposes.

Christians are really generous.  We love to give.  We’re cheerful givers – God loves us for it.  We give because Christ has been so generous to us.  There are many accounts of wealthy persons giving vast amounts out of their Christian convictions.  It should probably be happening much more but nevertheless, it is service to God.  Substantial gifts have launched great ministries here in my city.  I’m sure it is the same in many places.  Money can after all be used to serve God.

In short, making money in order to contribute it to Kingdom work can be a substantial way to serve God through work.  This does not negate the many warnings about bad relationships to wealth in Scripture.  Instead, it gives a follower of Christ new motivation to earn so that they may give.  If a Christian is a business person, this way might be the primary way in which they find God’s purpose in their work.

*  these way to serve God through work are briefly listed on page 22 of Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour (the inspiration for these posts).

**  the Greek word koinoneia can be translated as fellowship, contribution, or participation.

The Importance of the Workplace to the Gospel

You heard it from me before but here’s a wiser man than me arguing for the importance of the workplace in evangelism:

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 1.14.35 PM

Jerram Barrs

The front lines of evangelism in any moment of history will be, first, the family and then the workplace.  For most adult believers (unless our immediate family members are non-Christians), the context in which we are most likely to meet unbelievers is our place of employment.  There day after day, for eight or nine hours or even longer, we will be working under, over, or alongside people who do not know Christ…This was as true in the New Testament period as it is now.

God wants people to be farmers, schoolteachers, nurses, janitors, lawyers, homemakers, doctors, tradesmen, accountants, etc.  He delights in raising up people to serve Him in every job.  We are to regard very kind of work as a sacred calling, and we are to teach all God’s people to work as those who are working for the Lord.  As we do this spiritual and blessed daily labor, we are given the added blessing and possibility of being living testimonies to the power of of the Gospel by the way we work…For this we were created, for this we have been redeemed, that our lives might be a constant praise to Him in all we do.

Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism, pages 59 & 62

God + Work Wednesday – Following Your Passion

The Apostle Paul that ‘whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,’ (Col 3:23)  The immediate context is referring to the work that each Christian does.  In short, we are never just working for ourselves or for an employer but for God.  God needs to be involved in our work and our work needs to be involved in God’s.  Most Christians don’t do religious work – they shouldn’t! – because God calls most of His people to be out in the world.  The challenge is sometimes to understand how we can serve God through our work.  Tim Keller lists eight ways that Christians can serve God through their work and each week I take a look at one.  This is week is the seventh, which is:

This guy is passionate about his work, which must be something he needs a hard hat for.

This guy is passionate about his work, which must be something he needs a hard hat for.

#7  The way to serve God at work is to do whatever gives you the greatest joy and passion.

The idea here is that there is something that can inspire and excite us and so that is what we should be doing.  There is the cliched question asking if you won millions of dollars what would you do with your life?  The answer is supposed to be what you should do with your life.

God is introduced into the mix because it is when we do what we are passionate about we are living out the way God intended us to be.  I actually like this idea.  I am blessed to be able to do what I love, and many others are as well.  It is certainly true that God makes each of us for a purpose.  He gives us the desires of our hearts.  He will give us work that He has made us for.  To follow our passions to serve God is totally valid* but it does need to have a couple of caveats.

 Not All Our Passions Are Good.  While passion can be good, we are warned many times in Scripture that not all passion is good.  Some (if not all) of desire in our hearts is sinfully misguided.  Some passions need to be run away from.  Our passions can be help lead us but they shouldn’t rule us.  I mean, what would you say to someone who is passionate about playing Playstation?  Hopefully a gentle version of ‘Get A Job!’

All Things Must Be Balanced.  One of the great things about Keller’s Every Good Endeavour ( the basis for this series) is how he balances many motivations to serve God through work.  Not one of them needs to stand on its own.  Passion, likewise, can be balanced by other aspects like, for example, responsibility.  We don’t need to live passion-less lives but we need to find balance.  This way to serve God can seem far away from some.  Many don’t like their jobs.  There may have to be other reasons to stick with it or keep searching for something else.  Following your passion isn’t the only way to find God’s purpose in work.

Passion Can Be Wonderful.  It is wonderful to talk with someone who works at what they believe they put on the earth to do.  Having passion for your work can help you make sacrifices – like working for less money.  Being passionate about your work doesn’t mean that everything will be free of frustrations.  In fact its often the opposite.  But to work at what God has made you passionate about can be a great gift.  It is not self-serving to follow this kind of passion because it honours God the Passion-Giver.

*  If you’ve not read John Piper’s Classic Desiring God yet, stop what you are doing, get the book, and devour it.  In it, he shows how seeking our own greatest happiness is not anti-thetical to serving God but in fact essential for it.  If you’re a member of my church, The King’s Fellowship, I have a free copy waiting for you in my office.

God + Work Wednesday – being grateful, being joyful through all the ups and downs

ups and downsEvery week, I look at ways Christians can serve God through their daily work.  Here’s where I got the idea.  Previously, we’ve looked at serving God by furthering social justiceevangelizing co-workersskillful excellencecreating beauty, and last week by influencing culture.   This week is a much more personal way to serve God.  It comes out of our attitude towards work – whether we like our job or not.  So we come to our 6th way to serve God at work:

The way to serve God at  work is to work with a grateful, joyful, gospel-changed heart through all the ups and downs.*

This One’s Important.  I was chatting with a friend who has his own business.  I showed him the list of 8 ways to serve God through work and asked him which one he thought was most relevant to him.  I thought it might be the creation of beauty or skillful excellence as he is an artisan of some skill.  Or it could have been furthering social justice because I knew of the choices he made in his supply purchases.  But no, serving God gratefully, joyfully through good times and bad was it.  Why?

Work Can Be Wonderful.  Human labour is created by God and so has the potential to bring great satisfaction and joy.  In the Garden, our first parents were given work to do.  It was part of the Creator’s plan for us to cultivate His good world.  There can be immense satisfaction in creating, building, accomplishing, helping, problem-solving in whatever work we have been given to do in this world.  Many people experience their vocation in this way; it is more than just a way to make money but gives them satisfaction.  The Psalmist knows this as he prays establish the work of our hands.  But that is not the only side to working life…

Work Can Be Frustrating.   Everyone knows that some of our greatest struggles can take place in the realm of our work.  This should not be a surprise, when our first parents fell their experience of labour fell with them.  Many of us don’t like our jobs.  Or even if we do like our jobs, they can be immensely frustrating much of the time.  Stress, risk, relational strife, disappointment, failure…all these can be experienced throughout our working lives.**  I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but this world does not just open up for us and provide us with an abundance of ease.  Work can be tough and frustrating.  The same vocation can be rewarding and satisfying, and tough and frustrating – even on the same day.  But because of this dynamic, not in spite of it, we have opportunity to serve God.

It’s About Your Heart.  When God gets ahold of our lives through the Gospel we are changed.  We have access to a joy we didn’t before – one that does not depend on circumstances.  We become grateful not only for our salvation but for every good thing in our lives.  God provides for us through our work and we can be grateful.  When we trust God in tough times, and thank Him in good times, we are living out Gospel-changed lives.  Because so much good and so much difficulty comes our way in our working lives – through risk, stress, hard days/seasons, good days/seasons – there are few better testing grounds for us.  We are mixing with non-Christians so often in our workplaces and they are watching!  It can also be a great witness to them as to what a life that trusts God looks like.  For as God Himself tells us:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world… Philippians 2:14-15

*  The full list of eight ways to serve God at work is lifted from page 22 of Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller.  Buy it and read it!!!

**  For those of you who think vocational ministry is any different, it ain’t!

God + Work Wednesday – Influencing Culture

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 3.05.42 PMTim 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 Endeavourpage 22.

**  Vocational ministers are actually the least able to serve God in this way!!!