In last week’s FAX OF LIFE, Timothy Keller began explaining four ways that our Christian faith influences and shapes our work. This is the continuation of that post, with his first two points summarized below. (See last week's blog for his full explanation on those.)
First, the Christian faith gives us a moral compass that takes us beyond the minimum requirements in any situation, and avoids the moral relativism that often confuses group discussions of what’s right and wrong.
Second, your Christian faith gives you a spiritual foundation that keeps your world from being rocked by either success, failure, or boredom.
Third, the Christian faith gives us a new conception of work as the means by which God loves and cares for his world through us. Look at the places in the Bible that say that God gives every person their food. How does God do that? It is through human work—from the simplest farm girl milking the cows to the truck driver bringing produce to market to the local grocer. God could feed us directly but he chooses to do it through work. There are three important implications of this. First, it means all work, even the most menial tasks, has great dignity. In our work we are God’s hands and fingers, sustaining and caring for his world. Secondly, it means one of the main ways to please God in our work is simply to do work well. Some have called this “the ministry of competence.” What passengers need first from an airline pilot is not that she speaks to them about Jesus but that she is a great, skillful pilot. Third, this means that Christians can and must have deep appreciation for the work of those who work skillfully but do not share our beliefs.
Fourth, the Christian faith gives us a new world-and-life view that shapes the character of our work. All well-done work that serves the good of human beings pleases God. But what exactly is “the common good”? There are many work tasks that do not require us to reflect too much on that question. All human beings need to eat, and so raising and providing food serves people well. But what if you are an elementary school teacher, or a playwright? What is good education (i.e. what should you be teaching children)? What kinds of plays should you write (i.e. what kinds of stories do people need)? The answers to these questions will depend largely on how you answer more fundamental questions—what is the purpose of human life? What is life about? What does a good human life look like? It is unavoidable that many jobs will be shaped by our conscious or semi-conscious beliefs about those issues. So, finally, a Christian must think out how his or her faith will distinctly shape their work.
How wonderful that the gospel works on every aspect of us—mind, will, and feelings—and enables us to both deeply appreciate the work of non-believers and yet aspire to work in unique ways as believers. Putting all of these four aspects together, we see that being a Christian leads us to see our work not as merely a way to earn money, nor as primarily a means of personal advancement, but a truly a calling—to serve God and love our neighbor.
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and is Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. Dr. Keller’s books, including Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages. His blog is: www.timothykeller.com/blog.