How can we glorify God through our careers?

(Joshua Spare) #1

One of the “objections” to Christianity, if it may be called such, that I encountered recently, was a fear that if the Christian gospel is truly believed and understood, one would be certainly called to abandon their career and home and move to a foreign country with neither running water nor electricity. A fascinating consideration, and a challenge too, I think. However, while there is certainly a need and a call on some individuals to such a ministry, I think it is also the case that there are many Christians who are reasonably justified to believe that their careers in business or medicine or the arts are also fully in line with an appropriate application of Godly principles of work and responsibility.

There are at least two perspectives on these types of jobs that I can see:

  1. Someone has to take on the responsibility of making money so that they can tithe and support the ministries both of the local church as well as the missionaries to far off places.
  2. There is something intrinsically God glorifying to this type of work. The making of money in support of ministries (local and far off) is a great benefit, but it is not the primary thrust and justification for the work.

Based on these two perspectives, I have three questions that follow:

  1. Do you agree with my categories, or would you add or subdivide or categorize the perspectives differently? If so, how so?
  2. Which one do you think is a more accurate and faithful representation of the Biblical perspective? Why?
  3. How do you see and live out the interplay between your job/career/calling and your commitment to serving Christ and seeking to grow His kingdom? (I would love to hear stories and examples of what this looks like day-to-day in your lives!)

I hope to hear from some in the @Interested_in_Business group!

(Jean Daniel Slabbert) #2

Hi Joshua @jspare ,

Thank you for this very intriguing question. I’ve also been asked, ‘Why don’t you quite your job and go into full time ministry and preach the gospel to people who do not know Christ yet?’

My answer is simply this: “I am in full time ministry… Perhaps not professionally, but definitely full time.”

It’s not just in foreign impoverished countries where people don’t know God and the gospel is needed. There are many people who would call themselves “Christian” who do not know Jesus personally and someone needs to share the gospel to them too.

I believe we each, as believers in Christ, have a unique ministry of our own. God calls and uses each of us individually and uniquely. Not only does He call us to preach the gospel, but He uses that to work IN us as well. I like to say that ‘this life is not the promise, it’s preparation for the promise’. God is continually working in me too as I serve Him. His concern is wider than just the unreached. And again, there are many ‘unreached’ individuals everywhere.

Every believer needs to develop his/her relationship with God and receive from Him personally what and where they are called to go. And then, do that as if you are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) – because you are.

(Joshua Spare) #3

Thanks so much for your reply, @Jean! And your work in the HIV/AIDS testing industry certainly is a testimony in and of itself! If I may attempt to summarize your response, you would say that our careers provide great opportunities for evangelism, and provide opportunities that may be missed were one in “professional ministry” (if I may use that term).

I definitely love your heart for spreading the good news of our Savior through your work, and I think it is an invaluable perspective!

I’m curious on the second part of your response, and I’m not sure if I fully understand. When you say:

Not only does He call us to preach the gospel, but He uses that work IN us as well.

If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that our jobs/professions/careers can play an important role in the process of our sanctification - is that a correct understanding?

And second, I would like to pick up on your statement:

His concern is wider than just the unreached.

Would you be able to elaborate on this a bit more? If I understand what you said, I think you are saying there are two primary components to our jobs - evangelism and sanctification, and the “wider than just the unreached” is referencing the sanctification aspect. Is that a fair understanding?

If so, I want to push that a bit further - can we extrapolate or expand that even further? Are there ways that we can conceive of the work that we are doing as being intrinsically God-glorifying apart from the evangelistic opportunities that we may encounter or the sanctification that we may receive through the difficult circumstances? I am thinking here of as mundane of jobs as possible because I think it is easy to see how jobs/careers/professions such as healing patients as a physician or working with an organization to help people out of homelessness, how these are obviously glorifying to God. But does sitting in a cubicle all day, crunching numbers, and not engaging with anybody apart from going to water cooler, does a job such as this bring glory to God?

(Jean Daniel Slabbert) #4

Hi Joshua @jspare,

I couldn’t have summarized what I meant better. I am constantly amazed at the sanctification “work” that God does in me all the time. It’s only when I look back and reflect at where I was, that I see His work in my life. We as humans see some people’s callings as more important or impressive than others, but I believe that as long as you are doing what God called you to do - wherever that may be - you are fulfilling a very important part of His plan.

In summary, as much as there is a VERY important calling to many to go to remote areas to preach to gospel (and please don’t for one second think that I am undermining that calling), He calls many to preach the gospel where they are. To, for argument’s sake, start a prayer group at work with all the people who sit in cubicles all day. We all have friends and colleagues who do not know Christ personally, have different worldviews (even though they have heard of the gospel) and who are going through desperate times in their lives. We need to be God’s hands and feet to them, to be light and salt for those who are lost. If that’s what God called you to do, then we should do that to our best capability and glorify Him through what and HOW we do what we do.

I was at a ‘Mighty Men Conference’ in 2010 where we were 300 000+ men praising God for a whole weekend on a farm in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. It was incredible and more than 100 000 men dedicated their lives to Christ for the first time that weekend. The evangelist who arranges these Might Men Conferences is a man called Angus Buchan (try to get hold of his film or book called ‘Faith Like Potatoes’). He is also arranging “It’s Time” conferences now where more than a million South Africans come together to pray for the country and worship the Lord together. I remember saying to one of the older gentlemen in the camp, “Angus is such an amazing evangelist. So many millions have given their lives to the Lord through him”. The old man responded, “Yes, but do you know who has brought more people to Christ than uncle Angus?” I said “No”. To which he responded, “The old unknown pastor in the small church in Greytown where Angus first gave his heart to the Lord. His work helped get all the people who were saved through the teaching of Angus to the Lord plus Angus”…

You see, God paints on a canvas bigger and wider than we can ever see or imagine. He is the author of life and the greatest artist ever. Each stroke of His brush is purposeful and critically important in His artwork. We need to be faithful with the task He’s given us to do and trust Him while serving Him wholeheartedly. He is doing a good work in us, and He will see it through to completion. What’s important for us, is to listen to His voice, be faithful in response to His instruction and do everything - even the seemingly mundane - as if we’re doing it for His name’s sake; because we are…

(Rob Lundberg) #5

Having gone to a college with the mindset that one is called to full time Christian service and being now in the job world, I wrestled early with that mindset. Interestingly enough, I came out of “full time Christian service” so called and entered the secular city. But like @Jean I agree.

As Christians, whether we are in church ministry or out in the workforce culture, we are in full time Christian service. I think the advantage that those who do not work within the four walls of a local church have is that we see what the culture is like. I think there is a great advantage for those of us who are actively living out our faith, being “the fifth gospel” and seeking to make disciples of those around us. Let me clarify “fifth gospel.”

Working in the auto industry going from non commission to commission and then back to non commission sales, if you and I are living out the life we say we believe, people are going to read you (the fifth gospel). These people may not read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But if they know you are a Christian, they will be reading you and I.

That is why I think it is important to live out our faith, and our convictions with “gentleness and respect” treating those we serve and serve alongside with as persons of value to God. We don’t have to quote chapter and verse, but we need to be ready when they ask us why we are a Christian, why we don’t participate in various kinds of conversation or jokes et al. Pray for us here, since the job I have has a blessing to it, where my boss is a nominal believer and gives me the freedom to be who I am and share as opportunity allows. A lot of times it is encouraging a believing customer and other times it is engaging a co worker who “pops off” about religion. Like I said, this is a unique environment, in the auto sales industry everybody is a philosopher, and everybody has their views of on politics and religion. They just don’t come out with it in regular conversation, but when they do, it is an opportunity to engage by asking them questions as to how they came to their conclusions.

(Warner Joseph Miller) #6

Great topic! The responses have been excellent and I both agree and empathize with them. Your questions here, though, gave me pause and provoked further thought:

“Are there ways that we can conceive of the work that we are doing as being intrinsically God-glorifying apart from the evangelistic opportunities that we may encounter or the sanctification that we may receive through the difficult circumstances? I am thinking here of as mundane of jobs as possible because I think it is easy to see how jobs/careers/professions such as healing patients as a physician or working with an organization to help people out of homelessness, how these are obviously glorifying to God. But does sitting in a cubicle all day, crunching numbers, and not engaging with anybody apart from going to water cooler, does a job such as this bring glory to God?”

This reminded me of the Olympic runner Eric Liddell of whom the movie “Chariots of Fire” is based. Liddell, who also was a Christian missionary, said this words regarding his career as an Olympic, world class runner:

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

When the purpose of a thing is rightly and fully realized, it brings pleasure to its creator. What is true of inanimate objects to their creators is also true of you and I and our Creator.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

Although the context of this verse refers to eating certain meats and Christian liberties, I understand the “or whatever you do” to be inclusive of, well…WHATEVER YOU DO. We are to do all things (obviously, not inclusive of acts that are blatantly contrary to God’s law) for God’s glory – for His honor and magnification. This is particularly true with regard to what God has called and purposed each one of us to do. If God has “called” or purposed you to bus tables or sweep floors or pick up garbage, would you be acting in disobedience if you instead tried to pastor a church? The point I hope I’m making is that fulfilling God’s purpose for your life – whatever that may be in a particular season – is how we glorify God. As A.W. Tozer astutely put it:

“Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.”

from The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@jspare, thanks for posting this great question and I agree with the thoughtful answers provided. I just wanted to add a few more thoughts on “the intrinsic value” of work. I too used to wonder about the value of secular work because ultimately both us and the creation are passing away. But my view changed as I learnt about God’s value of work in creation.

God valued work before the Fall

When we read Genesis 2, we see that work existed prior to the Fall. This is material work while living in relationship with God. There was no need for evangelistic efforts at that time. God made man in His image to be productive with material things too!

Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it

God redeems work in new heaven and new earth

Isaiah 65:22No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.

As an example of intrinsic value of work we see God empowering creative skills by His Spirit in the OT.
Exodus 31:1-11 - The Lord said to Moses, “I have chosen Bezalel,…and I have filled him with my power. I have given him understanding, skill, and ability for every kind of artistic work - for planning skillful designs and working them in gold, silver, and bronze; for cutting jewels to be set; for carving wood; and for every other kind of artistic work…

We also see Jesus worked as a carpenter and how He goes to prepare room for us in heaven. He and the Father are always at work in heaven. God didnt stop working after creation.

So I think we would be glorifying God even by just focusing on the material aspect of “work” whatever and however great or small it may be. If we don’t value material work, there is the danger of becoming conceited even about ministry! With the Fall, our work focus is often on our self with thoughts such as- how can we climb up the ladder, how is the work benefiting me, feeling envy of another’s success, counting success in numbers etc. But as Christians if we remember that ‘our work is not about us but about God’ then we will certainly glorify God. We will be that " living letter" for Christ!

I came across a wonderful resource recently called Theology of work which covers such issues in great depth.

(Jennifer Judson) #8

If everyone worked for the church we would all starve. If everyone works for God we will all be fed…to the full.

Our economy is complex. Without millions in the secular world of government, commerce, education, medicine, etc. where would we all be? I think the purpose of the “economy” is more than making the money that can support the local church and ministries–though that is critical. It’s what helps to make a functioning society, from the basics of food to the aesthetics of art. All of these things can (and should) be done to the glory of God.

1 Peter 4: 10-11
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

I do not see my role as an evangelist at work. I VERY MUCH see my role as a servant. How I serve my company, my clients, my boss, my co-workers is a testament to God’s light in me.

In 1989, I was looking at the prospect of moving to a new city and taking a different job. At a social function, sitting in a hot tub with friends, God clearly spoke to me that I was to stay in my current job. At that moment I was not praying and certainly not expecting a word from God. Nearly 30 years later I’m still at the same company. Over those 30 years it’s been evident that my growth as a Christian was (and is) linked to my growth as a servant. To respectfully serve those above me to the absolute best of my abilities, to give my best to my clients, to love and encourage co-workers because I am instructed to do so in God’s word and called by Him to do so. Less of me, more of Christ.

How many opportunities do we have in our work lives to be God’s grace in a world that’s often hard and competitive? What about opportunities to be the ethical voice in a dilemma on how to proceed in a situation? Not to mention the times I’ve not been the best Christian and ultimately went to the person I had offended and confessed my shame and sought forgiveness. And what a blessing when others come to me, asking me to pray for their concerns because they know that I will.

The story of Joseph has always spoken to me. First, Joseph led a God-honoring life. Second, with that perspective Joseph served whomever he came to be under to the best of his abilities with all the God-given gifts he add. That simple perspective took him to great heights.

A little background on me. I’m a graphic designer working for a small marketing/communications company. Our clients are mainly business-to-business (not consumer or retail). I’m so blessed that God has shared his creative nature with me and I can use my gifts to help these businesses succeed. Helping manufacturing companies succeed puts more revenue into the economy and creates jobs. Good jobs mean families being fed and thriving. I see such goodness in all that I do in my job. I am truly blessed to love what I do and those I do it with and for. I have no doubt that my career glorifies God. And I know it all began by understanding the value of being a servant.

(Joshua Spare) #9

Wow! Thanks so much for these responses, all! It is really exciting and enjoyable to try to consider the lens of our work though the lens of how God might view it. I really value your helpful thoughts and insights. I really love that quote from Eric Liddell - it is a quote that encapsulates such a beautiful picture of our activity here on earth being actively engaged with our wonderful Creator in such an glorifying experience.

I think it is really fascinating to consider the points that @Jean and @roblundberg made about how our work can be an excellent opportunity for evangelism and sanctification alongside the points that @WarnerMiller, @Lakshmismehta, and @Jennifer_Judson made about how we see the work itself that we do as bringing glory to God. It seems a very wholesome picture of our labor to hold all of these points in mind, especially when it seems so fruitless or difficult.

The way I see it is that we are in danger of embracing one or the other perspectives and ending up with a improper view of our work. On the one hand, I think we can try to make our work too much about the evangelism and sanctification, and in doing so either become a poor worker or employee or realize that working in the “secular” world is far less fruitful than doing so-called full-time ministry. On the other hand, we can very easily spend far too much time and effort attempting to show how our work is good and worthy, and in doing so, miss opportunities for preaching the gospel with our mouths or worse, allow our work to become an idol through which we glorify ourselves and our accomplishments rather than bringing glory to God.

What are your thoughts? Is that a fair synthesis of your ideas? If so, how do you see these views playing out in you work? Do you find yourself on one or the other ends of the “spectrum” in this capacity?

Thanks again for your thoughts, all! It has already been really quite fantastic to think through all of your inputs!

(Jennifer Judson) #10

Discernment, discretion, and wisdom are vital for the Christian in the secular workplace. Some workplaces have an openness that might encourage the Christian to express themselves freely. Other workplaces may have rigid rules about what can and cannot be discussed while at work or on the premises. First, we must remember why we are there and be a good servant by fulfilling all that the job we are being paid for requires…and then some. God is glorified in that service. Second, we must remember that when it is known that we are a Christian, our conduct is being observed and often judged. Do we live out what we believe? Are we a hypocrite? Are we fair? Do we encourage others to be their best? Do we maintain a peace in the midst of chaos or do we loose our cool? Are our decisions consistent with Christian ethics? How do we behave when there are ethical dilemmas on behalf of the business?

One key is to be respectful of everyone, which in turn can open others to respecting the believer. I’ve found that people assume Christians judge them, even though we are commanded to “judge not, lest we be judged.” Respect over time can open relationships where heart to heart discussions can take place. When that relationship builds to a place where they will share anything with you, then you are in a much better place to share anything…even the Gospel…with them.

It would be harder to be in an environment that is hostile to Christians (praise God I am not), but that probably makes it of greater value to be a light in the wilderness. I do not think we can assume that all believers have the opportunity to evangelize in the context of their workplace. Honoring company policies can be vital to one’s position in the company, and discussions of faith may be strictly forbidden. But we can still be a light and pray fervently for co-workers and the prosperity of the company.