What is the point of work? Can we really glorify God not just with your work, but in our work?
Every day we’re tempted to embrace a dualistic worldview, one that neatly divides some of our experiences into what we call “sacred” or “spiritual,” and the rest into what we call “secular.”
Of course, there’s been a lot of growth in our Christian understanding of work over the last several decades, but often it doesn’t quite go far enough. Many of us grasp that the workplace is not just where we earn money but also a place of ministry. And it’s also very important to know why. We get that we need to be ethical on the job, that we need to reach out evangelistically to our friends and colleagues, and that we’re to glorify God by pursuing vocational excellence. That’s all good—very good—but there’s even more good news about our vocations.
Amy Sherman, author of the book “Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good,” reminds us that work is also about the renewal and restoration of creation. As Amy told me recently,” our whole lives—even our nine-to-five lives—have real significance before God.
Amy told me that this dualistic worldview sneaks into our thinking all the time. What’s a sign? Well, if you hear someone say that he or she is leaving a job to go into “full-time Christian ministry,” it’s a good bet this dualism is at work. As Amy told me, this kind of comment illustrates “an unfortunate tendency to say that ‘religious activities’ are more important than what we do every day.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Work in and for the church is right and good—teaching Sunday school, doing evangelism, and even, you know, Christian radio! Amy is not trying to denigrate these ministries; she’s raising our awareness of what ministry really is. It’s not confined to 52 Sundays a year or to certain people with clerical collars. It’s 24/7/365. Work done right by anyone, actually helps to create culture, and not just for today. Somehow, Amy says, all the culture-making we do is going to endure for eternity. More on that in a minute.
So how did we go off track into a worldview of dualism, of thinking that work isn’t really spiritual? Amy told me at root it’s a theological problem that occurs in three dimensions. First, we don’t take the doctrine of creation seriously enough. The Bible teaches us, from Genesis to Revelation, that people are made for embodied life in culture. Not for nothing does the New Testament say that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Second, we’ve failed to think through the scope of Christ’s redemption. He didn’t just die to give us a “personal relationship” with Himself—though, gloriously, we who trust in Him have one. He also, though, wants to restore our relationships with ourselves, and with others, and with the creation itself. We shouldn’t reject this world for all of its flaws; we should participate in its restoration.
Third, we don’t think enough about eschatology—or last things. The Nicene Creed says that we’re to “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Amy points out that this world isn’t just going to burn up. The New Jerusalem, a beautiful city, is going to come down from Heaven in a recreated Paradise. Amy says, “Without this proper understanding of creation, redemption, and eschatology, we leave ourselves bereft of the theological resources for understanding that all we do in this world really does matter.”
Throughout my interview with Amy Sherman is even more about how to see your work as a living expression of Christ’s coming kingdom. You’ll find it so encouraging, wherever you live out your vocation. And come to our website today, and we’ll tell you how to get a copy of Amy’s book, Kingdom Calling, as well as some other resources on how to transform our workaday lives.
— by John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint, a radio commentary that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.