In the video I talk about the essential relationship between doctrine and practice, how this was exemplified by the great evangelical social reformer William Wilberforce, workplace Christians as the often overlooked engines behind the spread of the gospel today.
This is a message I gave at a Fortune 100 company recently on how to be a Christian in a secular workplace. I talk about avoiding the twin errors of spiritual weirdness (such as thinking you need to insert the gospel into every conversation, or call attention to God through strange trinkets like the “Faithbook” t-shirt I came across at a truck stop once) on the one hand and, on the other hand, thinking that our faith bears no relation to our work at all.
Then I talk about the chief way that God intends our faith to inform our work: namely, love. Love is to be the guiding principle for Christians in their work, and I show what that looks like and how even many leading secular thinkers are echoing this truth in very significant ways. At the end I talk about the results of going about our work in this way.
Update: Here’s a timeline of the message that Joshua Van Der Merwe wrote up (thank you, Joshua!):
- (3:53) Error #1 regarding faith and work: Our faith doesn’t relate to our work at all
- (4:26) Error #2 regarding faith and work: Spiritual weirdness, i.e., Work is only a platform for evangelism
- (5:32) Being boring on the Biblical doctrine of work
- (9:03) A Christian work ethic goes way beyond, “Work hard and be honest.”
- (9:57) The solution: Work matters in itself, and is a place where the gospel can spread. Your secular work matters in itself, and it can be a place where the gospel is proclaimed.
- (11:01) Love as the guiding principle and motive in the workplace
- (22:01) Seeing our work as service to others brings great meaning to our work, and serving others is the way to be most effective in our work.
- (26:30) Principle 1: Do your work as service to God, as an avenue of worship
- (28:04) Principle 2: Make the good of others the aim of what you do.
- (28:45) Principle 3: Be on the look out for good you can do. Isaiah 32:8. Make plans for the welfare of others.
- (31:29) Principle 4: Make your work easy for others to use. Care about usability.
- (33:06) Principle 5: Know how to do your work really well.
- (34:06) The effect of all this: God can use your work to change the world — this is redemptive. God is at work in our work.
- (38:15) Q&A time.
Sometimes in evangelicalism today, it can be looked down on when somebody works a lot, or works hard, or takes risks for the cause of the gospel. The first thought is not always “way to go,” but rather “you must be doing something wrong.”
The Bible does not share that perspective. Paul tells us that “his grace toward me was not in vain….I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:11) and “we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Perhaps most of all, he holds up to us Epaphroditus:
Receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me (Philippians 2:29-30).
So if you find yourself working a lot, and working really hard, by all means do seek to work less and find the right balance in your life. I’ve even written a book to, in part, try to help you do that.
But, in the meantime, way to go — and, thanks.
As I learned from Tim Sanders’ excellent book Love Is the Killer App several years ago, the best answer is: always be on the lookout to share your knowledge, networks, and compassion.
I show what this means and some biblical foundations in my guest post at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics blog.
That’s the title of my guest post from yesterday at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. I will be guest posting there twice a month on the connections between theology, work, and economics, along with how we can live out the biblical doctrine of work in practical ways.
I am very excited about the work that is being done by the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. They exist to educate and inspire Christians to think Biblically about issues of faith, work, and economics and “to steward their whole lives in a way that benefits society and glorifies God.” Thus, one of their chief aims is “to awaken Christians to the strategic role their work plays in God’s loving and redemptive narrative in the world.”
One of the reason I’m so excited about the institute is that creativity, purpose, and freedom are three of the core biblical principles behind everything they do. Here’s how they put it on their site:
- Each person is created in God’s image and, like Him, has a desire to be creative and fulfilled using their God-given talents through work.
- As we explore a comprehensive Biblical view of work, we understand that our work – whether paid or volunteer – matters to God and is an integral part of His purpose in this world. For many of us, this is a paradigm shift in how we view work.
- Indeed, God’s call to Christians is to pursue excellence throughout the week – not just on Sundays – stewarding all that we’ve been given for the good of others and God’s glory.
- Therefore, if this is true about work, we as citizens must cherish and sustain an economic environment that not only provides us the freedom to flourish in our work but also reflects the inherent dignity of each human being.
In my view, those three principles are precisely what needs to be at the forefront if we are going to truly recover the biblical doctrine of work for what it really is.
Well said by Brad Lomenick in his book The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker:
The next generation of Christian influencers is passionate about finding and pursuing their divine purposes. They don’t want to work thirty or forty years in a job that fails to fulfill their deepest longings. Instead, this generation wants to find career paths that utilize both their talents and their passions. They are locating and living their callings, and we’re all better for it.
Amen. Don’t settle for forty years in a job that doesn’t call on the best of you. Find something that calls on your strengths and passion, and do it with all your heart.
Most of us immediately recognize that the answer, of course, is yes. But there is no shortage of overspiritualizers out there today who like to rain on the parade of common grace, and sometimes (strangely enough) the quest for competence can be wrongly labeled as idolatry.
Hence, it is important — not to mention interesting — to see the biblical foundation behind truths that are very clear simply from the light of nature alone. Competence is one of them.
One of the most fascinating passages here is Proverbs 2:2-4, where competence is said to be a component of wisdom, and we are exhorted to seek it diligently.
You don’t see this directly in many translations, because they tend to translate the term for “competence” here simply as “understanding” (and, obviously, there’s a relationship). But Tremper Longman brings this out most clearly in his more precise translation of the passage in his commentary on Proverbs:
My son, if you grasp my speech and store up my commands within you, bending your ear toward wisdom, extending your heart toward competence — indeed, if you call out for understanding, shout for competence, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure…
So, to everyone who has an innate desire to do good work and be effective at what you do: be encouraged. This desire is not unspiritual, but is a reflection of the image of God in you. It is a very spiritual thing to be competent; indeed, God exhorts us to it.
Matt Heerema recently preached an excellent sermon on how the gospel affects our work. This is the first message in a series his church is doing on the doctrine of vocation.
Here’s a great section where Matt summarizes why it is so important to understand God’s design and purpose for our work:
If we don’t get this right then we will sense, as I’m guessing many of us do, a disconnect between our spiritual life and our work life, and we will fall into one of several traps.
If we consider our daily work as eternally meaningless then some of us might put zero thought and effort into a potential career in the marketplace that could very well be one or five or ten of the talents that our Heavenly Master is entrusting into our care!
Or some of us might buy into the World’s system of doing work, according to the world’s philosophies of how to conduct business and treat each-other, and if you are a believer this will likely cause you a great amount of guilt or confusion and distance from God.
Or perhaps you will simply resign yourself to the drudgery of a “meaningless” work life, gritting your teeth against the inherent worldliness and worthlessness of it all.
And in every case we will miss the joy, pleasure, and power we can experience when we realize our daily “mundane” and “secular” tasks can glorify God and expand His kingdom in real and ways. And I’m hoping that as a result of this series, we’ll learn to be encouraged that our daily work matters to Him and will count for something eternal.
And most of all, because of that, we’ll become equipped to live every moment or our life with a constant awareness of His presence, His help, His concern, and His pleasure with and for our work, and let us do all that we do for His Glory!
You can both read and listen to the sermon online.
Here’s the audio from the breakout session I did on productivity and the gospel at the Gospel at Work conference at Covenant Life in January.
I talk about three main things:
- Why we need to be theological and practical as Christians.
- A new vision for the things we do every day: how understanding our work and lives in light of the gospel changes the way we go about everything and gives us new purpose, direction, and meaning.
- A new understanding of how to be truly productive: I argue that love — that is, putting the other person first and treating people the way you want to be treated — is actually the way to be most productive, both before God and in this world (usually!).
And in the midst of this I answer a bunch of questions about motivation, leadership, the world of work, and other things. (Wait — it sounds like the questions are not included; very sorry!)
It was a fantastic conference and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it. (You can also watch the keynotes and listen to the other breakouts on their site.)
A good article by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today on how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are taking a leap of faith to create technology that makes you more human.
It turns out that there are lots of Christians in Silicon Valley, and it is very encouraging to see how they are thinking about things and what they are doing.
Here’s a key part that gets at the essence of what Crouch has found:
Like the other Christians profiled in this story, Saber and Munro are not in the least interested in starting or running a “Christian company.” And also like the others, they relentlessly ask how their Christian faith shapes the company they have founded and run.
That’s a conjunction that I find very interesting. These Christians have a holistic perspective. They realize that the gospel matters for all of life, and yet also realize that the gospel calls us to avoid being spiritually weird (for example, promoting yourself as a Christian company while doing bad work, and not realizing the mismatch). The gospel is to shape the things we do in real ways, not artificial ways.
This is a much better testimony to the gospel than the guy who hands out tracts at the water cooler but who nobody wants on their team because he doesn’t realize that God wants him to actually care about his job.
Here’s another great quote:
We see business as a powerful instrument for aligning the human experience with its original design….Poverty, sickness, environmental degradation—we think God cares about these things and wants to be involved. So we believe he will be present when we ask.