Most of us spend just one or two hours every week “at church.” But we spend a third of our entire adult lives at work.
So it should come as no surprise that our workplace is a primary place where we both serve Jesus and grow to be more like him. God is using the unique way you are wired and gifted, along with your work situation, to lead you to maturity.
But often we have our noses so close to the grindstone that we miss what God is doing in us and through us. Or we’re so intent on ticking off our to-do list that we fail to savor the opportunities to serve, even as we complete our daily tasks.
In order to lift our gaze, here are six ways you can intentionally leverage your job to serve God and grow in grace.
“God does not need your good works, your neighbor does,” Martin Luther said. Your workplace is God’s ordained space for you to love your neighbor (Matt. 22:39). You’ll have opportunities to bless, encourage, and practically help those you work with.
Wherever you work, interpersonal conflict will be a pervasive frustration—but you have the opportunity to befriend, support, and care for others. Our work itself might be a direct expression of neighbor love. For example, if you work as a janitor, providing a clean environment for others is a concrete way to love and serve them.
2. To teach you to love and do justice.
Workplaces are filled with the brokenness and chaos of Genesis 3. Our work can serve God by doing justice through relief or reform.
Relief is doing justice by caring directly for the poor—say, working in the unemployment office helping people find work or working at a homeless shelter. Reform is justice done by rectifying unjust systems. And this isn’t limited to politics. Reform could include managing your office in a way that prevents sexism, racism, or homophobia; or ensuring your business pays all your employees a living wage.
3. To share the gospel.
For most of us, our workplace is where we most regularly spend time with unbelievers. The way we live before them is what will give plausibility to the message we speak.
Let me give an example of what that might look like. No doubt many of you work with people who are worn out. If you work in a place long enough, the people you work with will get cancer, get sick, see family members die, get demoted, or face any number of tragedies. Under the same stresses and strains, though, you will respond differently. What crushes some will not crush you. Through the power of Jesus, you’ll be able to forgive and show love, where others will not. Your life will “adorn” the gospel, and make it both plausible and attractive for those you work with.
4. To do good work well done.
Dorothy Sayers said the only truly Christian work is “good work well done.” God desires our work to lead to the flourishing and expansion of human societies (Gen. 1:28)—so good work from accountants, software developers, carpenters, or dentists is incredibly valuable. These workers will help individuals and businesses to flourish. Good work well done gets at the heart of Paul’s words: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you’ll receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).
5. To create beauty.
Art, music, poetry, dance, and literature can all point to a transcendent beauty beyond themselves. In many ways, God was the first artist, fashioning a beautiful world from formless chaos. What he created demonstrates his power and his goodness.
Creating beauty is a way to point beyond this earth to our Creator God, and to speak to humanity’s deepest questions and longings.
6. To enable generosity.
Some kinds of work will enable us to be financially generous because they pay well. But not all vocations do this. The downside of high-paying jobs is that they often demand significant time and energy. Other jobs may give you the freedom to give large amounts of time to others, or equip you with skills to serve in more technical ways. Those who intentionally live below their income could enable one spouse to work in a non-paid contribution—perhaps staying at home with children, volunteering in a school, or serving with a charitable organization. Or those who live below their income can give generously to the church and to the poor, or they can pour resources into companies to help create more jobs. Scripture’s principle is that we “do good to everyone, especially to those in the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Christian, be encouraged. Whether your job feels like a dead-end or a relentless treadmill, God is using it in these ways and so many more to shape you into the likeness of his Son. What could be better than that?
Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Tom Nelson’s Gospel Shaped Work, a new curriculum from The Gospel Coalition and The Good Book Company. Eight sessions will encourage the whole church to connect Monday to Sunday by putting the gospel at the heart of everything we do at work. It’s part of the five-track Gospel Shaped Church curriculum, which is based on TGC’s ministry distinctives.