Christianity and All Forms of Work
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:00AM
Ben Simpson in Every Good Endeavor, Theology, Timothy Keller, gospel, work

Janitor brushing the walkway

Christians have varying attitudes toward work, but many fail to make a connection between their form of work and belief in the gospel. If work is to be Christian, it is thought, it will fit within a particular kind of subculture, somehow distinguished from other businesses, not only in terms of form but also in content. But if you work as a handyman or craftsman, you are left out in the cold. How does one work as a "Christian" floor tile expert, or "Christian" roofer? Nothing about those particular fields of endeavor is uniquely Christian, at least in terms of the finished product.

This week, I'm meditating on work, using Timothy Keller's book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work, as a guide. In his chapter "A New Story for Work," Keller makes a helpful distinction concerning how Christians should view the gospel as it pertains to their work. Instead of the gospel serving as something to "look at", Keller suggests Christians should see the gospel as something to "look through."

Keller states:

[W]hen we say that Christians work from a gospel worldview, it does not mean that they are constantly speaking about Christian teaching in their work. Some people think of the gospel as something we are principally to "look at" in our work. This would mean that Christian musicians should play Christian music, Christian writers should write stories about conversion, and Christian businessmen and women should work for companies that make Christian-themed products and services for Christian customers. Yes, some Christians in those fields would sometimes do well to do those things, but it is a mistake to think that the Christian worldview is operating only when we are doing such overtly Christian activities. Instead, think of the gospel as a set of glasses through which you "look" at everything else in the world. Christian artists, when they do this faithfully, will not be completely beholden either to profit or naked self-expression; and they will tell the widest variety of stories. Christians in business will see profit as only one of several bottom lines; and they will work passionately for any kind of enterprise that serves the common good. The Christian writer can constantly be showing the destructiveness of making something besides God into the central thing, even without mentioning God directly.

Keller goes on to argue that while the Bible is not "a comprehensive handbook for running a business, doing plumbing, or serving patients, it does speak to an enormous range of cultural, political, economic, and ethical issues that are very much a part of how we all live." Looking through the gospel at any field of endeavor can make a tremendous difference for how that particular work is undertaken, with the applications as diverse as the fields themselves and the practitioners who peer through a gospel lens, seeking to do their jobs under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

How might understanding the gospel as lenses to "look through" influence how you approach your work?


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