Working For God

Blog

Working for God. A false dichotomy?

For most of us, following Christ and holding a job prompt nagging and important questions about the place of work in our Christian walk. Try these.

How do I decide between two great, but different employment opportunities?

Is there an ideal place for me to work as a Christian?

Or perhaps even more challengingly.

Shouldn't we all quit our jobs and work for God?

At heart, these questions all get at the same underlying desire which could be expressed as I want to serve God in my work.

What a great desire!

However, the question remains. How? Or rather, as some of these questions get at, How best to do this?

A constellation of questions follow. Is there more godly jobs for me? Is there one right, true or perfect job for me to do to serve God? Are there professions that are more or less profitable for glorifying God? What is the place of work in my life this side of Jesus' return? Is work useful, important or necessary (or all three)? Does God care about the product of my work?

… and so on!

We don't have the space to go into a full theology of work here. Instead, we'll just open up the tin a little and try and get a handle on some principles for work at a macro level.

Let's take the last question as a starting point. Shouldn't we all quit our jobs and work for God? The common phrasing of this question sets up a dichotomy between our (secular) work and work that we could do 'for God' (presumably for church in some capacity). The inference is that our secular work is not profitable in any way, whilst 'working for God' should be our singular pursuit.

However, this distinction is not Biblical.

We all 'work for God'.

The Bible's view of our lives this side of the cross is far more radical. Just like there is not a Sunday life to live amongst church friends and a Monday life to live amongst 'the world'. We are called to a God-glorifying life 24/7—and this includes our work.

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

In a word, our call is to 'proclaim the excellencies of God', to present our lives—24/7—as a kind of 'living sacrifice' (cf. Romans 12:1–3): given unto God. As you can see, there are no caveats here like, 'do this just on Sundays', or, 'do this just when you aren't at work'. It's a Monday-to-Sunday, wake-up-to-shut-eye endeavour.

Crucially, the instruction is not a time-of-day or time-of-week instruction, but instead, it is addressed first and foremost to our new identity, not how we use our time. Peter reminds his readers who they are, which commands how they should live. This has significant and helpful implications for our work-related questions. And leads to our first principle.

 

Principle of Work #1:  Work is no different. Our chief aim remains: glorify God.

In Christ you have a new identity. This identity is with you every second of every day. Thus, the purpose of your new identity is with you every second of every day.

In this sense, we all work for God. Every second of every day.

Work is part of (the Christian) life.

The second thing to note, flowing out from this 'new identity' or 'unity' view of time and calling is that the Bible is upfront about the usefulness and necessity of work for Christians in the world.

Indeed, the normal perspective of the New Testament seems to be that followers of Jesus will work. It is the exception that some will be set aside to do the honourable work of 'full time paid' ministry (Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13): idleness is to be admonished (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and the thief is to work for money so that he might 'have something to share with anyone in need' (Ephesians 4:28). Indeed, Peter, like Paul in Ephesians (cf. Ephesians 6), goes on to explicitly mention the workplace as one in which we are to live out our new identity. The take-home message is clear: (paid) work is normal and useful for Christians.

 

Principle of Work #2:  Working for money is an expected part of Christian life. It helps provide for family, church and those in need along with preventing idleness.

But is there an ideal workplace or job? I have searched the Scriptures and I cannot find this question asked. Again, Principle 1 is sovereign. So long as you are seeking to glorify God in your word and deed by living such a distinctive life that others will ask you for the hope that you have in you (1 Peter 3:8–17), you are living out your calling.

Clearly, there are some workplaces which are unhelpful since they trade in sin (pornography houses and other places of sexual exploitation are obvious examples). But the vast majority are not like this. In Australia this is especially true where commonly the moral universe of the Bible on the 'good' and the 'evil' workplace are generally aligned in secular law. There are few legal places to work which trade in evil (though personal consciences should weigh each).

One note on this point, stay-at-home mum or dad work is seen by the Biblical authors as identical to 'paid work' (a salvation from idleness, e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5). Something our culture continues to be wrong-headed about.

The Freedom to choose

So what next? Maybe you have a redeemed view of work, yet you still feel compelled to asked the question, But which job is perfect for me?

I put this question under the heading, 'Christian optimisation'.

It comes from that wonderful desire to 'do the best' for our Lord, but at the same time, its expression can cause enormous unnecessary anxiety.

Let me re-apply Principle 1 to this question. Let's suppose you are thinking of job X. Ask the following questions:

  • Is being an X lawful?
  • Is being an X conscionable to me? (e.g. some may hesitate to work for a cigarette manufacturer, others may consider this okay)
  • Does being an X provide enough money to support me, my family, my church and those in need? (careful here! consider that the Australian minimum wage rate is around $17 per hour, or $33,000 p.a.)
  • Ultimately, does being an X provide me with the context to, 'proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light'?

Let me summarise thia in another principle.

 

Principle of work #3:  Between two lawful, conscionable, paid positions, you are free to choose and pursue godliness in either.

It's on this last question where people often fall back into 'Christian optimisation'. The thought line goes something like this. 'But doing Y would mean more gospel conversations since it's a bigger workplace; though... X gets to influence public policy potentially towards Christian ethics; though... Y means I get to potentially share the gospel with the CEO; though... X means … and so it goes on. Like some kind of cosmic salvation calculus.

What's missing here is a good dose of Principle 1.

The point of work is just like the point of being on the bus to work, or being at home with flat-mates or your wife, or at footy with your mates, or… it's Principle 1: be a God-glorifying person. This is enough! This is your purpose.

Everything else is incidental.

But you can easily stress over 'strategic' positions or 'gospel opportunities'. I think this makes incidental things the main thing. The main thing is glorifying God in how you do your work.

Get this right, and the rest will follow.

I hope you see the freedom this provides.

Deciding between being an accountant at this firm versus that firm? Choose one, and be godly there.

Can't decide between staying in the sciences or switching to engineering in study? Choose one, and be godly on campus.

You are about to enter a period of stay-at-home mum or dad to bring up the kids. Principle 1 is entirely applicable here. Be a God-glorifying mum or dad and model of Christian life and living to your kids, neighbours and mum/dad group.

You have been offered a sales position here, versus running your own business there? Choose one, and be a godly sales officer or businessman.

At this point, you may find my perspective entirely unsatisfactory. You may feel deep down that some roles really pull you to do them whilst others just turn you off.

Let me say a few more things.

Credo 1: We're not identical.

Firstly, between two jobs which pass Principles 1 to 3, you might as well choose the one that is more enjoyable to you.

Christians are not blank slates—God has not called to himself a flat-packed IKEA warehouse of identical Billy bookcases.

He's called a 'chosen people'—each one of us he has formed, known and watched over. We each have passions and preferences. The Bible encourages us to reflect deeply and weightily on our gifts for the edification of the body (1 Corinthians 7–12) so I think it is fair to say that the use of our gifts for our workplaces is completely reasonable (albeit a first-world luxury). Not only will you likely enjoy the work more, you'll likely find it easier to glorify God through it and in that workplace.

Credo 2: What's your club?

Second, in my own line of work, I've come to see that I work in a club.

I don't mean that we have printed membership cards per sae or that we head off on road-trips together or play in sporting carnivals. I mean that my workplace is really hard to get into.

It's an exclusive club. You need to be a member.

To get into my workplace—an academic department on a major Australian campus—it takes about 10 years of study, numerous exams, serious amounts of anxiety and confidence-sapping critique and the production of a curiously mercurial output, 'creativity'.

My department of around 60 academics spend their life largely cordoned off from the world. They interact with few, other than their immediate department colleagues (apart from the odd scurry onto the campus to give a lecture). Their existence is rarefied, cloistered. Pure isolation in their mental worlds.

It's not easy to get into, and as such, it’s an exclusive club.

The penny dropped for me early on in my PhD when friends on campus were all heading off to workplaces (international mission included) that all seemed to 'fit' so well with them. I had no idea what to do.

But when I realised that if I finished my PhD I would hold in my hand a membership ticket that perhaps 1 in 10 000 Christians held, I knew with crystalline clarity what I ought to do—to find work in an academic department and be that 'Christian academic'—both to my colleagues and to my students. To get to know that club, to understand its members, minister and witness to them, by working alongside and with them.

From there, the decision seemed simple. Have membership card, will use it.

Clubs are everywhere: from hairdressing salons to the CEO circles of industry, from bars and building-sites to child-care centres and campuses.

So my final reflection is to consider for which club you hold a ticket. Is there something in your upbringing, your education, your accent or your languages? Is there a set of experiences you've had or perhaps your conversion experience? All of these things can be tickets to clubs where few others could get in to.

I've told you my club. What's yours?

Author: Simon Angus
Published: 29 Aug 2013


Latest Posts:

  • Join the Team – Community Pastor (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Generations Pastor (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Women’s Ministry Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Training Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City Kids Coordinator (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City on a Hill Melbourne

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Services Director (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Key Themes: Suffering

    Key Themes: Suffering

  • Key Themes: Poverty & Wealth

    Key Themes: Poverty…

  • Key Themes: Now & Tomorrow

    Key Themes: Now &…

  • Key Themes: Wisdom

    Key Themes: Wisdom

  • Key Themes: Faith & Works

    Key Themes: Faith…

  • Opportunity to Serve – Communications Coordinator Melbourne

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • Fasting: A Brief Introduction

    Fasting: A Brief…

  • Unlocking a New Room

    Unlocking a New Room

  • Join the Team – Many Rooms Kitchen Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Opportunity to Serve – City Kids Team Leader

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • On Mission with Milene Tan

    On Mission with Milene…

  • On Mission with Kenneth Webb

    On Mission with Kenneth…

  • On Mission with Debbie Bognar

    On Mission with Debbie…

  • The Structure of Proverbs

    The Structure of…

  • City on a Hill Church Planting Fund

    City on a Hill Church…

  • His Story Our Story – Recap

    His Story Our Story…

  • 3 Tips for Reading Proverbs

    3 Tips for Reading…

  • Join the Team – Research Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part III

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part II

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part I

    Why should we trust…

  • Tacos of Grace

    Tacos of Grace

  • City News September

    City News September

  • City News August

    City News August

  • Join the Team – Operations Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Welcome Dave Miers

    Welcome Dave Miers

  • City News July

    City News July

  • On Mission with Paul Distefano

    On Mission with Paul…

  • On Mission with Steve Murray

    On Mission with Steve…

  • On Mission with Rick Jordan

    On Mission with Rick…

  • Welcome Leighton Cantrill

    Welcome Leighton…

  • The Lost Art of Sorrow

    The Lost Art of Sorrow

  • Interview With Sam Wright, Pastor of Redemption Church

    Interview With Sam…

  • The Reality of Suffering and Evil

    The Reality of Suffering…

  • Join the Team – Accounts Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • The Attentive Life - Book Review

    The Attentive Life…

  • A Date with the King

    A Date with the King

  • Trusting the Grand Weaver

    Trusting the Grand…

  • City News February

    City News February

  • Songs of Summer II

    Songs of Summer II

  • City News January

    City News January

  • Generous – Quarterly Update

    Generous – Quarterly…

  • City News December

    City News December

  • Join the Team – Community Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Engage 2014

    Engage 2014

  • Planting with PlantED

    Planting with PlantED

  • Join the Team – Video Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Introduction to Promises

    Introduction to Promises

  • Join the Team – XD-Ops

    Join the Team –…

  • City News November

    City News November

  • His Story Our Story – Photo Journal

    His Story Our Story…

  • Kirsty’s Story

    Kirsty’s Story

  • Pete’s Story

    Pete’s Story

  • Amy’s Story

    Amy’s Story

  • Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian

    Surviving Same Sex…

  • Generous Campaign

    Generous Campaign

  • Why Bother With Predestination?

    Why Bother With Predestination?

  • City News October

    City News October

  • This Is (True) Greatness

    This Is (True) Greatness

  • The Call to Mission

    The Call to Mission

  • What About the Warnings?

    What About the Warnings?

  • The Peril of Porn

    The Peril of Porn

  • Dating For The Glory Of God

    Dating For The Glory…

  • City News September 2013

    City News September…

  • Adoption: The Gospel Made Visible

    Adoption: The Gospel…

  • You Knit Me Together

    You Knit Me Together

  • Working For God

    Working For God

  • Australia – The Results Are In

    Australia – The…

  • Thorn in the Flesh

    Thorn in the Flesh

  • Tough Questions

    Tough Questions

  • Good Grief

    Good Grief

  • An Honourable Office

    An Honourable Office

  • City News July 2013

    City News July 2013

  • Faith and Work

    Faith and Work

  • We Are Family

    We Are Family

  • WWJD: Responding To Begging

    WWJD: Responding…

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part II

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • City News - May

    City News - May

  • Salvation Happens To Us, Not By Us

    Salvation Happens…

  • Doves & Snakes

    Doves & Snakes

  • Planting & Pregnancy

    Planting & Pregnancy

  • Lest We Forget

    Lest We Forget

  • Introduction to 1 Peter

    Introduction to 1…

  • Easter 2013 – Photo Journal

    Easter 2013 – Photo…

  • More Than Gold

    More Than Gold

  • Join The Team – Music Director

    Join The Team –…

  • Jessica’s Story

    Jessica’s Story

  • Changes

    Changes

  • Andy’s Story

    Andy’s Story

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part I

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • Join The Team – Biblical Living Pastor

    Join The Team –…

  • Eat, Drink & Be Merry Melbourne!

    Eat, Drink &…

  • City News – March

    City News – March