Dave and I read a brief article on the issue of work this week. It wasn’t hugely demanding but I thought it was hugely helpful; perhaps especially so once we started pursuing the lines of thought which the author, J.D. Grear had outlined. He suggested five qualities that make our work distinctively Christian. Given that most of you work for a living and spend much of your week in the workplace, I thought you might benefit from his insights.
Work that’s done through faith in Jesus Christ is first of all, creation fulfilling. In other words, when we work we’re doing what God created us to do. We’re taking his creation and cultivating it. We’re preparing and developing it. We’re shaping it into something useful and beneficial for others. And through that activity God is sustaining and blessing his world. And so the accountant takes chaotic figures and turns them into something legible to help business people make sensible decisions. Composers take notes and shape them into an ordered and beautiful piece of music for our enjoyment. And the stay at home Mum takes a young infant and nurtures them through childhood, past adolescence and into maturity. Our work is part and parcel of God’s on-going care for his world.
Secondly, Christian work is excellence pursuing. We will try to maintain the very highest standards in our work. Shoddy won’t do. And that’s not because it won’t get us noticed and rewarded by the boss. We do the best that we can because, according to Colossians 3:17, we work for the Lord. He’s our ultimate employer and we do it for him. Most of what we do in the workplace goes unnoticed (unless we do it badly). But that’s alright because the Lord sees what we do and how we do it and why we do it. And we want him to take pleasure in our work.
Thirdly, our work as Christians is holiness reflecting. It’s a window through which people ought to appreciate the character of God. Our work ought to make it obvious that we serve a God of justice and kindness. So if we’re deceitful, people may come to the conclusion that the God who makes these amazing promises in the gospel is in fact economical with the truth. But if we care for our team with genuine personal concern then they’ll realise that God is a God of compassion. This means that it’s not good enough to be good at our job but no good with people. Those of us less well developed in social skills need to work on being relationally strong.
Fourthly, the work we do as a disciple of Christ is redemption displaying. In other words we go to work not to get but to give. Because the way that we think about our jobs has been unavoidably shaped by the sacrificial generosity of Jesus Christ. It’s not simply that having been saved by grace, we’re gracious to others. It’s that our whole demeanour is about using what God has given us to benefit others. And so the abilities, capacities and opportunities that God has given us are not simply to be used to advance our own career agenda. They’re to be used to bless others.
Lastly, our work is mission advancing. The point is not that we can earn an absolute packet by working our fingers to the bone so that we can fund a lazy staff team (though you should know that we do appreciate getting paid and we haven’t played table tennis for months)! The point is that our work can give us access to places so that we can reach people with the gospel. I had a friend whose business acumen enabled him to run a factory in the Far East from which he reached hundreds with the gospel. But many of you have the skills and abilities prized by many in this city so that you can earn enough to stay put and help CCB reach Balham with the gospel. Not every Christian can do that. But many of you can and are. And that’s brilliant.
If these five principles shape our thinking, we’ll never work the same way again.
The full article can be found in the 9Marks Journal entitled ‘Pastoring Christians for the Workplace’.