Tag Archives: vocation

“Does the Work I Do Matter?”

Labour day is the perfect time to be reminded that our work–be it accounting, construction, writing, housekeeping, farming, customer service, banking–can have eternal significance.

In his book Every Good Endeavor, pastor Timothy Keller makes the following claim:

“Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught…unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”

When I first became a Christian, my understanding of the gospel was little more than,  “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”  Inside of that definition there’s hardly a compelling vision for our work beyond perhaps a (re)commit to basic ethics such as “don’t steal.”  But when we allow the full gospel to inform our understanding of life here and now; a gospel that holds together the key truths that God came to rescue us (incarnation), through a sacrificial death (atonement) and by his resurrection offers to empower us into a new kind of life, our everyday lives become massively interesting and unimaginably purposeful.   We’ve been ask to join God’s mission to bring his redeeming, restoring love to bear on every sphere of life.  This will mean seeing our jobs as arenas of influence through which we have the privilege to creatively, thoughtfully, prayerfully, purposefully seek to honor God and bless our neighbours through our work.

When the gospel transforms our understanding of work,  we are no longer held hostage by the two great temptations we face regarding our approach to work.

1. Work as the foundation of identity and meaning. Many people in the modern world look to their jobs for supreme self-worth and significance.  Work, functionally speaking, is their god; an idol that promises salvation from insignificance (as long as we can keep producing and achieving).

But the gospel gives us an entirely new foundation for our self-worth and significance. We are treasured by God,  and immensely valuable to Him.  Our worth and significance is revealed most strikingly at the cross: God self-sacrifices himself on our behalf in order to save us from the power and penalty of sin.  This good news allows us to put our work into a larger perspective, one that liberates us from the need to wed our identity and value to what we do and how successfully we do it.  Inside of God’s redeeming love, work can become a noble good without becoming a destructive idol.

2. Work as burdensome, pointless drudgery.  For as many people who idolize their work, just as many fall into the opposite temptation: to see work simply a (burdensome) means to an (self-serving) end.  This view sees work as something that must simply be endured.  Our jobs are necessary evils, and the goal becomes to work as little as possible in order to get on with the life we want.  Of course, for many people this means simply doing work in order to access more money in order to fulfill self-serving ends (more recreation, more stuff, etc.).

But the gospel compels us into a vision for our work that explodes the “working for the weekend” paradigm.   In the resurrection God has revealed his intention to “reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20).  Christianity boldly declares that part of the mission of the church is to equip people to go into their workplaces confident that God will use their efforts within his broader conspiracy to overthrow the world’s brokenness with his restorative grace and goodness.  Yes, every job remains difficult at times.  But no job is insufferably purposeless and burdensome when we go into it knowing God has placed us there in order to express love, grace, care, integrity, and excellence.

Labour Day marks a time of transition.  Some of us are preparing to head back to school tomorrow.  Many of us are preparing to go back to work (at least in earnest after a summer lull).  As we move back into our workplaces, what posture will characterize our efforts?

Anxious striving?  Apathy and resignation?

Another way is possible.  But only through the hope and power found in Christianity.

 

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The 10 Commandments of Work

If you haven’t yet heard of the exceptional Theology of Work project, it’s time you were introduced.

www.TheologyofWork.org produces materials that focus on “how the Christian life applies to ordinary work.” The aim of this project is so important.  I strongly believe the church needs to reclaim a grand vision of vocation that applies to all forms of work.  I believe Christians need to (re)discover how the “ordinary” (i.e. non-pastoral) work most Christians find themselves doing is critical to God’s redemptive story, and how their faith connects to those “ordinary” workplaces.

Recently, @TheoWorkProject posted some great reflections on how each of the Ten Commandments apply to the workplace.  You could probably read through them all in one sitting, but using them as a ten-day devotional may be a better idea.

The 10 Commandments of Work

 

 

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One-Minute Review: “Wonder Women” by Kate Harris

I just finished reading Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity by Kate Harris.  Here’s my one-minute review:

Capture

“What’s ‘Wonder Women‘ all about?”
Part of the new “Frames” series by Barna Group, Wonder Women looks at the unique challenges that women face in today’s world. It’s an attempt to reconsider how our definitions of vocation, calling, and motherhood need reframed (see what I did there?) if women are going to have a coherent sense of personhood and purpose.  Wonder Women dives into the fray, and over a meager 84 pages attempts to provide women with an alternative vision for how their lives can find a greater alignment to both Christ’s kingdom call and personal sanity!

“Should I read it?”
Yes.  It’s short, so it’s a breeze to get through.  But for all of its brevity, Wonder Women packs a punch.  It’s not exactly a “how-to” book on how to manage it all as a modern mother.  If you read it as such, you’ll be disappointed. Instead Wonder Women seeks to work on a different level.  It’s trying to introduce new ideas to an issue that suffers from a litany of hackneyed “solutions.”  Harris’ reflections on identity and calling, and her distinction between balance and coherence are especially helpful–and not just for women!  While the target audience is women who feeling burdened to “have it all and be it all,” I really enjoyed Wonder Women.  It has given me new insights into the nature of calling and vocation, and has helped me better understand the core tensions that the women in my life face each and every day.

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Prayer As Incubator of Identity

Prayer is an incubator of Identity.  I realize that idea may strike you as kind of weird, so let me explain it.

During Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), verse 29  notes that Jesus’ appearance changes.  Jesus becomes glorious and bright.  After they wake up, Peter, James, and John see Jesus differently.   And just as Jesus revealed himself in new, glorious ways to these disciples during a time of prayer then, he offers to reveal himself more fully to us during times of prayer today.

All of us see Jesus through a very truncated and limited view.  Paul says, “we see through a glass darkly,” (1 Cor. 13:12).  Like the sleeping disciples, none of us are “awake” to how awesome and breathtaking Jesus is.  But through prayer Jesus’ glory and greatness becomes more real and vibrant to us.  Through prayer we come to see him differently as we spend time in his presence.  And coming to see Jesus more clearly has very specific personal ramifications, because as we see Jesus more clearly, two things become clearer as a result: our identity and our vocation.

It’s a very modern (or perhaps post-modern) idea that our identities are something we create and fashion through our own efforts and autonomy.  Over and against that assumption, however, the Bible presents us with the revelation that  “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).  That is, identity formation and vocational discernment are more a matter of discovery than creation.  If our truest and deepest selves are hidden with Christ, then prayer is one of the most important paths through which we uncover more of who Christ is, and at the same time who we are.  Prayer is an incubator for identity because through prayer Jesus’ glory becomes increasingly vivid to us, and as a result, our own identities come into view.  As our identities come into view, how God is inviting us to shape the world through that unique identity becomes increasingly clear as well.

“Who am I?” and “What on earth am I here for?” are two questions everyone is continually in dialogue with (whether they’re conscious of that fact or not).  Too many people, however, spend too much time looking at themselves in order to discern an answer to these questions.  But we are not the axes of our identities.  We are not the loci of our vocations.  Christ is.  We’d do better to look at Jesus; study him, spend time with him, meditate on his teachings, reflect on his encounters with people in the gospels.  If we did I believe we’d find our sense of self and our sense of vocation coming into view much faster than we would by doing lots of personality profiles, career match programs, etc.

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