Katy Vanderkwaak is an IRD intern and Capital Fellow at McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia.
The Lord reminds us throughout Scripture that work is important. We are called to do all of our work for the glory of the Lord. But living solely for the Lord and continually striving for excellence in our jobs can be really hard sometimes.
Colossians 3:23-24 instructs, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
It can be so easy to feel discouraged or uninspired by the repetition of the day-to-day going to work, coming home, and getting up the next day to go to work again. Thankfully, the Lord’s purposes for our work are much greater than our own. From the beginning of time, God calls mankind to engage in the world He has made. The cultural mandate is God’s command to Adam (and therefore, to all of us) in Genesis 1 to have dominion over the earth. We are to cultivate the earth and fill the earth with God’s glory. It was God’s design for us to be a part of the world and help it flourish. We were made to work, grow, create, and enjoy the world that the Lord has given us.
While Christians may know this command from God, there can still be such a difference in attitude from Sunday to Monday. It is easy to forget that God is just as much a part of our work and present in the workplace as he is at church. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes, “Work of all kinds, whether with the hands or the mind, is evidence of our dignity as human beings –because it reflects the image of God, the creator in us.”
Recently, Barna Group, a Christian research organization based in California, did a comprehensive and intriguing study of many Christians’ attitudes at work. They looked at the meaning of “calling” and identified what people really think about their calling versus their actual job. According to this study, around 61 percent of Christians feel as if they have God-given skills and talents that they can use to glorify God and serve others. This is encouraging news! As Christians, we must have a sense of purpose in our work and that can only be done if we know who is calling us for a greater purpose. Another positive finding was that 67 percent of Christian Millenials truly have a desire to use their gifts and talents for the good of others. God is working through the culture and through people to change the way we look at our calling to serve the Lord!
Barna also defines an important group of people -the “integrators” of faith and work. These are the people who believe strongly that their work serves the Lord, they look to make a difference in the world, and they want to help shape the culture of their workplace. Barna reveals how important it is for Christians to be integrators of faith and work. According to their statistics, integrating faith into the workplace allows Christians to have a greater perception of calling, greater stewardship of their skills, better relationships, and more confidence in their future. These “Integrators” know that Christ is not on the outside of the workplace looking in. He is present and active at all times. This study shows that “integrators” thrive because they know that their fulfillment is in more than their work –fulfillment and joy comes from Christ. He loves to see us working with integrity, joy, and determination. The hope Christ offers allows us to rest in His sovereignty, knowing that each day, whether we are at work or not, His mercies are made new. Can we, as followers of Christ, remember to bring His love and mercy to work each day?
In the workplace, there can be pressure to conform and leave religion at the door. But it is important to remember that all over the workplace Christians are facing serious threats from their own governments for even mentioning Jesus Christ. And there are people all over the world who are fighting to incorporate their faith into the work that they do because they are passionate about the message of the Gospel. It can be discouraging when you feel alone in the fight to better your work environment, but God promises that each of our jobs and callings are a part of a larger narrative that He is weaving for our good and for His glory. Setting your heart on Christ will impact your work and others’. Christ is worth this endeavor.
A good soundtrack to Christian living is that others “shall know we are Christians by our love,” as the old hymn goes. This is based on John 13:35, in which Jesus says, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Whether you work in a secular environment or a religious one, continue to pray for your colleagues and show kindness, knowing that Christ calls us to love. The Gospel Coalition outlines ways that Christians can stand out at work: Christians should be generous, committed to serving others, calm in the face of failure, and compassionate. Christians can reflect Jesus in the way they carry themselves in and outside of work. In circumstances where actions must speak louder than words, pray for the strength to live and love like Christ and respond to adversity with grace and truth.
I pray that more and more people see the value and purpose in their work and know that their identity comes not from the work that they do, but from Christ. He loves us so much that he gives us jobs to do so that we can cultivate the earth and bring about the flourishing He desires. The world needs Christians who show the love of Christ daily and who truly believe that His love will change lives.