Author: Tim Keller
In this book, Tim Keller takes us on a fascinating journey to reorient our thinking about the nature of the work that we do and its value to God. He provides an excellent analysis of the importance of work and how work is viewed from a biblical standpoint.
He invites us into a deeper discussion of our work as a calling, noting that it is through our work that God achieves his business of sustaining the world. Of interest is his analysis of the move of the world to a place of viewing career as for a man’s individual fulfillment instead of a community benefit.
One of the ideas he looks at is the fall of man and the impact it has had on the nature of our work. He explores the idea that it is because of this fall why there is so much dissatisfaction with work. He proposes that amid all of this, work is inherently good as indicated by God when he finished his work and called it good. We all need to work and there is a sense of something missing when we are not engaged this way.
He talks about what he sees as a desire among Christians today to integrate their faith with their jobs and acknowledges that there should be a combination of the two and not a separation. He goes further and identifies various way Christians currently seek to live out their faith at work.
One area of interest that he expounded on is the Reformers/Calvinist idea that all work can be seen as calling from God because it is through our work that God sustains the world. This is an interesting idea because there are many persons who allude to calling as only for the clergy.
He notes that there are various schools of thought on the topic of doing work for God, depending on one’s theological perspective, vocation, background, among other factors. He advocates that all these avenues are ways of understanding the concept of working for God and all of them should be explored.
He examines the idea that there should be freedom in our work because we are essentially living as we are meant to live by God. It is important to find a balance between work and rest and not idolize our work or hate work so much that we aim to shorten our work time by working hard to end our working lives early. We were created for work but it must be carried out with a balance of rest.
He discusses the idea that we should go about our work with dignity regardless of what it is, following the example set by God in the varying jobs roles he took on in the bible. This is in contrast to the Greek philosophy which has trickled down into our current thoughts patterns which is, some work is better than others, especially those that require more thinking than serving.
The work we do should be viewed as a continuation of the creation process. God gave us the example in how he created everything and gives us the opportunity to follow suit. There is more fulfillment in work when it is not done with the motives of only making money. When we place our focus on the purpose of our work being to glorify God we find more comfort and fulfillment in doing it.
For the Christian, self fulfillment should not be sought through work because we already have this fulfillment in our relationship with Christ. Instead we should view our jobs as a means of continuing God’s work of caring for the human race.
As Christians we are expected to do our work to the best of our ability and at the highest level because this pleases God. There will always be conflict within us regarding the nature of the work that we do. This conflict extends itself in work being enjoyable at times and then at other times fraught with struggles. He adds that until the earth is restored, this dichotomy will always exist.
He further looks at the reasons people choose careers today versus in the past. People chose mainly based on the image they would like to portray versus what actually works best for them. What works best for them might not suit the image they think they need to portray but they will often go with what fits the desired image and live with frustrations.
The Christian worldview allows us to carry out our work in a different way and more effectively. It helps us to understand a different way of dealing with the problems we face at work. It provides a way to explain the problems with work without blaming anything in creation for it.
It instead causes us to understand that it is because of the fall of man why there are so many problem with work and it is only when we partner with Jesus through reconciliation that we will be able to have meaning in our work because then we are not doing it for ourselves but for him. This will prevent us from using work as an idol because our value is in Jesus Christ not in what we do.
All work of humans is how God sustains the world, not just the work of Christians because it is God that gives all human their talents through ‘common grace’. That is why it is okay to appreciate all excellent work, even though the secular person does it with different motives. The idea of common grace allows us to appreciate the work of non- Christians because their talents were given by God and often times in what they do we can find the nature of Christ even if they themselves do not recognize it.
Given all this, he added that Christians should operate differently in the workplace. He identified characteristics such as “generosity, calmness, not ruthless” as some they should possess. They should instead set standards that are high for others to follow.
Who should read this book? I would recommend this book to anyone struggling to make a connection between the work that they are doing and God’s purpose for their lives. It will give you a new perspective on the importance of your work in the eyes of God and how valuable what you do is to him.