If a person went to church every Sunday from the age of 25 to age 65, they would spend around 3,000 hours gathered with the body of Christ. If the same person worked full-time during that span, they would put in around 80,000 work hours. My point? It is the workplace, not the sanctuary, where most Christians live out their faith. If God’s reign shapes all of life, then it must shape one’s view of work.
How does faith in Christ inform our work? Many people immediately think of sharing the gospel in the office or making loads of money to give to ministry and missions. While neither of those is wrong—in fact, they’re vital—a kingdom vision of God’s reign over all of life instills our work with even greater meaning and motivation.
God at Work in Our Work
Many people think of God’s work in the world solely in terms of spiritual salvation. And while spiritual salvation is paramount, the biblical vision of the kingdom of God is not just about plucking souls from a fallen creation; it is about God saving people in his renewal of creation. God is constantly at work in sustaining and serving the world, and he does much of his work through us, often working through our work.
The Bible says the Lord “gives food to every creature” (Ps. 136:25, NIV). But how does he feed them? God doesn’t snap his fingers and make food appear on a plate. Rather, he feeds people through the farmer, the truck driver, the grocer, the cook, and the server. As Martin Luther said, “God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting, but he does not want to do so.” God provides through the vocations of people. He is milking the cow through the vocation of the milkmaid, as Luther argued.
God Cares about All Work
This means that all types of work matter in the kingdom of God. Jesus is working through the vocations of his people, who are salt and light in the industries where the Lord has placed them, witnessing in the way they do their work to a better kingdom. That’s why in Scripture many of God’s people have vocations that would be considered “secular” today. Joseph was in politics, Daniel was a student, Boaz was a businessman, Nehemiah was a city planner, Lydia was a designer, and Jesus was a carpenter.
According to Amy Sherman, God is at work in the world in a variety of ways, and the myriad of human vocations give expression to the different aspects of God’s work. How do we discover our individual callings within this holistic vision of work? A good place to start is by pondering the words of Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (There is more to a biblical call, of course, but that’s a start.) Whatever you do, whether as a pastor or a painter, do it for the glory and pleasure of God (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23).
Excellence in Character and Craft
One way to avoid the sacred/secular divide is to remember that “Christian” works better as a noun than as an adjective. For example, there is no such thing as “Christian coffee,” even if it’s served in a café called Grounded in Christ or Bean Redeemed. There are Christians, and some of them make good coffee and some make terrible coffee. The same is true for filmmakers, musicians, nurses, dentists, and almost any vocation you can consider. If you have put your faith in Christ, you are a Christian, and you are called to steward whatever the Lord has entrusted to you vocationally, whether a scalpel or an electric guitar. Pursue excellence in your character and your craft.
There is no such thing as ‘Christian coffee,’ even if it’s served in a café called Grounded in Christ or Bean Redeemed. There are Christians, and some of them make good coffee and some make terrible coffee.
When our work is understood within the story of the kingdom, people will want to be lawyers because they care about justice and not social status, doctors because they care about health and not wealth, businesspersons because they care about people and not profit, and artists because they value beauty and not celebrity.
For many people today, work is a way of building our own kingdom and making a name for ourselves. The good news of Christ’s death and resurrection frees us from looking to our work as a way of justifying ourselves, and allows us to see work for what it was meant to be: a calling from God to use our gifts and abilities to serve others for his name’s sake.