By / Jun 21

The word calling in contemporary evangelical culture often implies something “spiritual.” The Lord calls some to ministry in the church. But we must not let the fact that God calls some to serve the church as their full-time job eclipse the vocational calling the majority of church members receive. God calls Christians to other work, too. Evangelical culture often  underemphasizes the importance of our work outside the church, leading Christians to undervalue their own contributions to the kingdom through their vocation. 

But God does not see work this way. Though providing for ourselves and our families is important, work is not merely a means to a payday. Beyond provision, we extol the work of pastors and missionaries for the kingdom. Likewise, we should not assume the work of teachers, fast food employees, lawyers, janitors, and entrepreneurs is any less important and essential to the kingdom. God calls every Christian in their totality of being. He is Lord over all, including our thoughts, worship, and work. God cares about his people’s work and how that work will further his kingdom.

Considering Christ’s authority over our work, we must dissolve the paradigm that Christians can participate in genuinely secular work. If a Christian can describe his work as secular, not religious in any specific sense, he has a wrong understanding of God’s intention for our work. God commands us to serve him with all of our heart, soul, and might (Deut 6:5). This comprehensive devotion to the Lord must include working with the zeal we have for serving him. 

Faithful Christian labor advances God’s kingdom

Our temptation may be to think the kingdom utility of vocation is restricted to evangelism. What this sentiment has in fervor, it lacks in understanding. Evangelism is a crucial responsibility of every Christian. But Christ uses more than our witness in the workplace—he also uses the work itself. Think of the work of the men who rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls after Cyrus released them from captivity. Nehemiah recorded, in detail, the men of Israel repairing the gate’s bolts and bars and repairing portions of the wall that were in ruins. While this work may seem mundane or even secular to our modern ears, rebuilding the city wall was a holy task (Neh 3). These builders were gifted with skill and were the means God used to renew what already belonged to him. 

God’s plan for Israel’s revival after her captivity in Babylon was to ordain the preaching of the Word and the labors of the men who rebuilt the wall. In our secularizing culture, it is easy to minimize the impact of our work and forget that it is ordained by God. In a fallen world, work can be tedious, corrupt, or unfulfilling, but when we, as Christians, work under the lordship of Christ, he uses our work as a means to bless the nations. 

Faithful Christian labor glorifies God

When we discuss Christian service, it typically relates to the ministry of the church, but God tells all of us to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). The work God bestowed upon Adam was to cultivate and protect the Garden. Would many in the church today recognize a gardener or a security guard as one with a holy calling who glorified God? Remember also the Roman centurion who petitioned Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus never called this soldier to leave his post and take up the specific ministry of the Word. 

The young teenager in his first job as a lifeguard at the local swimming pool may think he is simply trading time for money, but this perspective is impoverished. The transformed Christian should work differently than the non-believer. His job is to glorify God in whatever he does. Genuine Christians should recognize the kingdom impact of their vocation and reject the error that work is only temporal. We must work in the light of eternity. Busing tables at a restaurant may not appear particularly religious, but God cares how the Christian employee does his job. Bus tables to the glory of God.

The challenge and responsibility each of us must reckon with is trusting that God will use the results of our labor to advance his will. For example, who may God be redeeming by preserving life through the careful work of a bus driver or the food produced by a farmer? My particular vocation does not appear outwardly religious, but God calls me to serve in my job as if I were serving Christ. As a leader, I know my actions affect the men I serve. I still wonder how God will use my efforts for his kingdom. But this I know, he cares how I conduct myself, and success is more than a paycheck that provides money for my family and church. Though I do not know to what extent God will use my efforts, God-honoring results are my objective.

Although your job may appear secular, a Christian’s efforts are never merely temporal. Christ has dominion over your whole life—including your vocation. Even if it is difficult to see, Christ uses your work as an instrument to advance his kingdom by making him known and preparing the world, one step at a time, for the day when all things will be made new. Let us labor with anticipation and in faith that the Christ-empowered work of our hands is reaping eternal benefits.

By / Sep 6

Genesis 1 shows us that God created the world by working. After creating the world, God gave Adam and Eve the “Creation Mandate,” instructing Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and take dominion over it (Gen. 1:28). In this verse, God instituted work as a way for humans to care for creation and steward his gifts. 

Unfortunately, ever since the Fall, the relationship between people and work has been cursed and broken. One of the ways this is evident is in our view of work. Sin has led many of us to see work only as a means of self-fulfillment and individualism instead of a way to serve others. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller claims that this view of work “crushes people . . . and undermines society itself.” 

As Keller points out, we must look to the Bible to reacquire a biblical view of work. Since Scripture discusses work often, I will focus on three of the major things the Bible says about work.

The Bible says work is part of God’s design for his creation

One common perspective today is that work is a necessary evil. Many people work simply to pay bills while waiting for the weekend, and they despise their jobs. There has been a big push to make life as easy as possible and avoid work. And though much of work is hard, cursed by humanity’s sin (Gen. 3), Keller argues that an avoidance view of work is self-destructive and harmful to society. To move away from an individualistic view of work, we must see how God’s Word demonstrates his good plan for work. 

God’s extensive use of work throughout Genesis shows us that it is part of God’s design for creation. Throughout Genesis 1, God works to craft the universe and declares it “good,” indicating that it’s exactly as he desires. Since all of creation is a direct result of God’s work, we know work is an integral part of creation. Additionally, the Creation Mandate occurs before the Fall. Thus, the introduction of sin did not introduce work; instead, it has affected work with difficulty and fruitless labor. The mandate from God also shows that we are not created merely for leisure and time spent in idleness. Rather, humanity was made to work, cultivate, and create. 

Remembering that work was given to us by God so that we could enrich his creation and reflect his nature is a critical part of renewing our minds and recovering a biblical view of work.

A pattern of work and rest is essential for our well-being

While God created us to work and take care of creation, he also showed that rest is necessary for us to flourish as humans. After working to create the world over six days, God rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3). Genesis 2:3 says, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in Creation.” God sets the example by taking a rest day after creation, though, unlike us, he does not grow tired and weary (Is. 40:28). And in Exodus 20, he the Israelites to take a day of rest. In verses 8-11, God draws from his examples in creation and establishes the Sabbath as a day of total rest, dedicated to him. 

While we were created to work, we still need time to rest, worship God, and trust in his provision. Resting can counter the tendency many of us have to tie our identities to our work. In a culture such as ours where productivity and busyness are often our ways of defining success, the scriptures continually remind us that we are finite and must rest. Even Christ in his earthly body slept (Mark 4:38). The rhythm of rest and work structures our life and keeps us between the extremes of laziness or idleness on the one hand and frenetic activity on the other. Most importantly, a set pattern of work and rest in our lives teaches us to rest in our God and his work on our behalf. 

Work is a way to serve your community and spread the gospel

The Bible also commands us to use our work to serve others (Matt. 23:11). And Christians have been commanded to share the gospel and make disciples throughout the world (Matt. 28:19-20). God has called each of us into specific careers and paths, and our jobs are where we spend most of our time interacting with our community. This means, as Andy Mills has argued, that if we have a biblical view of work, we should be doing our work to the best of our ability so that what we produce can serve others and represent Christ well (Col. 3:23). Focusing on serving others with our work, advancing the kingdom, and glorifying God (1 Cor. 10:31) can break us out of the self-serving mindset that sees work just as a means of self-fulfillment and enrichment.

The Bible is clear that work is a good part of God’s plan for creation. Through our work, we steward God’s creation and serve our neighbors. At the same time, we weren’t created to work nonstop. God has established a rhythm of work and rest that we might know he is the source of our provision and strength. We can fight the sinful tendencies to despise our work and to use it as a means of individualistic self-enrichment by embracing it as a gift from God. May he strengthen us to work hard for his kingdom and to rest in his care.

By / Aug 25

Scripture calls Christians to glorify God in all elements of life (1 Cor. 10:31). However, connecting our faith to our vocation can often be a challenge. Furthermore, some Christians work in a nonvocational ministry setting while sensing a call to full-time ministry. What does it look like to glorify God in our workplace? And how can it prepare those going into vocational ministry?

I interviewed Param Yonzon, a seminary student and pastoral intern who works full-time for a corporate insurance firm. Yonzon shared how he lives his faith out in his workplace and why he believes his role at his firm has made him a better minister of the gospel. The lessons he shares are important and applicable whether you plan to enter full-time ministry or not. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your vocation.

I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am 24 years old, and I’ve been living in New York for seven years now. I originally came to New York in 2014 for my undergraduate degree at St. John’s University. I studied risk management and insurance, and I ended up getting a job at Marsh McLennan, a global insurance brokerage firm. 

I came to faith when I was 20 years old, in my sophomore year in college. I was raised in a Buddhist household, so I was not raised with a Christian worldview. God got a hold of me through a local church near my college. I sat under Bible/gospel preaching for two years and was discipled by the church’s associate pastor. I eventually came to faith after my father was diagnosed with cancer. 

Ever since coming to faith, I’ve had a heart for evangelism and missions. So I decided to pursue a theological education after getting my undergraduate degree. 

I am currently in seminary and working toward getting my MABS. I’ve been attending Reformed theological seminary in New York City, where I’ve been trained by teachers like Dr. Timothy Keller and Ligon Duncan. 

My aspiration is to eventually become a church planter in the city. 

What are some particular challenges of being a Christian in your area of work?

The biggest challenge I face in my area of work is the idolatry of money. In finance/insurance, there is a culture of an ever-unsatisfying pursuit of wealth. 

Colleagues will move from job to job, team to team, company to company, and city to city to fulfill their desire to make a better paycheck. Most of my subordinates at work always have a lingering feeling that the grass is greener on the other side — that is, there is a better opportunity elsewhere for work. 

Part of the challenge of working in this type of culture is that it is alluring and easy to fall into. I can easily come to a place where I look at my co-workers not as image-bearers, but projects and steps that can help me advance in my career and paycheck. 

How does being a Christian bring purpose and direction to your vocation?

Being a Christian in my workplace has radically changed how I view every person I work with. 

The doctrine of the image of God has helped me process why I should treat every employee, no matter their job, as a person who has infinite value because they are made in the image of God. 

Being a Christian in my workplace has also changed how I view my talents, skillset, and knowledge. God has gifted everyone of us with certain abilities, and it is our duty to cultivate and sculpt those skills for his glory. 

Lastly, being a Christian in my workplace has changed how I view my work in light of God‘s redemptive plan for the world. I know that everything that I do at work plays a part in the long redemptive-historical narrative of Christ, and therefore, everything I do at work matters. 

What advice would you give to a believer who aims to go into your line of work?

The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone aiming to go into my line of work is to learn to cultivate the desire to do the work you are called to do at the present time. 

Most of my anxiety at work occurs when I’m trying to be at two places at once. But, when I make an effort to be present with the work that is before me, I typically end up doing an amazing job. Christ honors even the smallest of attempts to glorify him, especially when we anchor our hope and aim to do every task to the glory of God. 

You mentioned that you are currently a seminary student and aspire to church plant. How do you integrate your call to ministry with working in a full-time, non-ministry position?

Many times in my ministry with youth students, I encounter the same heart problems that young professionals in the workplace have. Often, the heart problems deal with anxiety for the future, relationships not working out, and a works-righteousness mentality (best career, resume, titles, etc.). 

I also know that the Lord has given me a set of spiritual gifts. Things such as preaching, teaching, and hospitality. All of these skills are transferable and applicable to my non-ministry position. Perhaps I’m not preaching, but I can teach certain things I’ve learned to the rest of my co-workers.

One of the things I am more conscious about, as a client advisor, is people do not receive information just by telling them facts. People need illustrations, analogies, and sensory details to understand the full picture of the facts you are presenting to them. I don’t ever want to use my preaching skills in order to advance my career success, but it has led me to become a better persuader and storyteller. 

Working a non-ministry job has also allowed me to learn about the depths of common grace that God has toward all mankind. I have met many talented, smart, and wise people at my work. And most of them are non-Christians. My job has allowed me to see that God loves to glorify himself through their tasks, jobs, and skills because they were created in his image.

How has the gospel shaped the way you view your workplace?

The biggest way the gospel has shaped my view of the workplace is by helping me understand that work is a good thing. Work was created before the fall in Genesis 3. And therefore, work can bring a sort of satisfaction that all mankind can find. However, the gospel has also taught me why work can be hard, daunting, and hurtful because of the Fall. Work can be brutal when left in a toxic environment. A Christian worldview, a gospel-saturated worldview, will leave a person with a sense of the goodness of work in the midst of its brokenness. 

However, ultimately, one day work will be made new. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, all those who repent and trust in him will eventually find a place where there is an infinite amount of ways we can glorify God, in an infinite amount of time, with an infinite amount of grace, and with no sin at all. 

I am looking forward to the day that Jesus redeems the workplace. 

This is the first article in a new series on Vocation. This and future pieces can be found here.

By / Nov 24

COVID-19 has changed life and family dynamics in ways some people never expected. Recent Pew Research reveals that young adults are now living with their parents in the greatest numbers we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Since February, more than 2.6 million people have moved back home due to job loss or college campus closure.

Given massive layoffs and business closures nationwide, younger adults at the bottom of the ladder and pay scale were often first to lose jobs when COVID shut down the nation in early March. The Department of Labor announced in October that 2.4 million people have now been out of work for over four months, and 5 million were on track for long-term joblessness, many of them young adults

Another survey found increasing rates of depression among the same group, those ages 18-24 reporting 10 times higher rates of thoughts of self-harm and 47% seeing symptoms of depression, a number that rises to 60% among those who have lost jobs or been evicted. It’s a blow to the ego and the Western myth of invincibility. 

A newfound reliance on family 

In the United States, where individuality and personal ambition are practically national virtues, reliance on family has often filtered to the bottom of the priority list. Unlike in other cultures, like in African countries where as many as 10 members of an extended family may live together for a lifetime, Americans have tended to go in the opposite direction. Indeed, white young adults in the U.S. were the least likely to live with parents before family prior to the pandemic, and that group has seen the highest rates of returning to parental housing, according to the research. 

COVID changed the game, forcing people into living situations they never intended to enter again, and reminding us of vulnerability to forces greater than personal prosperity. Thinking critically about the long-term results of this shift is helpful in making distinct decisions that will guide them moving forward. 

 A safety net of connectedness in one’s life is a healthy resource that has been undervalued and underutilized in recent years, as Americans have shifted toward more isolative tendencies.

Philosophically speaking, the forced change in living arrangements is a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining strong family ties. A safety net of connectedness in one’s life is a healthy resource that has been undervalued and underutilized in recent years, as Americans have shifted toward more isolative tendencies. For single young adults, family has too often become a weighted obligation, rather than an appreciated harbor of support. Recognizing the value in having reassuring options in times of need may bring a helpful change in perspective. 

As Christians so often like to say, we were not meant to walk through life alone. In 1 Timothy 5:8, God says “anyone who does not provide for their relatives . . . has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” so our directive for family members in need is pretty clear. The family unit and church community are divine details that God created from the beginning, fixtures to enhance our lives and draw us closer to him. In times of struggle, these are tools to carry us through and see his work displayed through others in our lives. One’s parents, in this case, are surely performing that duty as they open their homes to struggling adult children. Like God our Father, good parents are happy to help their children in times of genuine struggle and will always welcome them back. 

Fighting against idleness

It is good to relish the help available from family, as young adults seek a pathway back to employment, but also important to be alert to the pitfalls of long-term financial reliance. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7, Paul warns against idleness, so being cognizant of doing so when possible matters, even now. 

When the pandemic first hit, we heard hopeful things like “15 Days to Stop the Spread.” In March, things were assumed to dissipate by “July or August.” Looking back, that was a quaint assessment, as we currently endure the ninth month of COVID, with cases still on the rise nationwide. For much of 2020, it was acceptable to cast excuses toward daily disciplines. Exercise and nutrition were abandoned, alcohol sales increased, and some parents even gave up virtual schooling efforts. But such lethargy cannot continue. 

Long-term habit creation can have detrimental effects for a lifetime, and it’s important to recognize these downfalls before a darker path emerges. Taking action to combat the darkness of depression, anxiety, and despair is vital. Prayer, therapy, medication (if needed), intentional community, and continuing to look for job opportunities are actions steps toward thriving again. 

Gratitude for the families that welcome young adults home is necessary, as is appreciation for how the pandemic forced us to pause and reassess certain aspects of our lives. It’s been a tragic wake-up call for too many who have lost loved ones and been forced to risk their lives in dangerous conditions. But creating action plans for personal and professional independence in the future is vital to cultivating hope, and important for squashing negative extended effects of this crisis. It is also stewarding well the resources God has given us, in mind, body, and spirit. 

Regardless of job status or living environment, Christians always have a promise of sustenance over our lives in the reliable promises of our God. As Hebrews 10:23 reads: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” 

By / Oct 23

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the final presidential debate, record early voting counts, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, election interference, Pope Francis’s thoughts on marriage, new COVID-19 symptoms, NAMB’s Hispanic church planting emphasis, black holes, and the 2020 World Series. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Benjamin Quinn with “How does my faith in Jesus connect with my work life? Every kind of work is a sacred calling,” Isaac Whitney with “Why I am thankful for my pastor’s leadership during COVID-19,” and Daryl Crouch with “How do we live for the kingdom in the contentious moment?” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jennifer Marshall Patterson for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Jennifer

Jennifer Marshall Patterson, director of the Institute for Theology and Public Life at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and Senior Visiting Fellow with The Heritage Foundation. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Final Presidential Debate: What Time to Watch and Key Issues
  2. Early-voting numbers: U.S. on pace for record early turnout
  3. ACB confirmation baptist press article
  4. The FBI says Iran and Russia have taken ‘specific actions’ to influence US elections
  5. The Good and Bad News About Marriage in the Time of COVID
  6. Baptists respond to pope’s endorsement of same-sex civil unions
  7. Researchers looking into ‘Brain Fog’ being lingering symptom of COVID-19
  8. It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again
  9. New York reports most coronavirus cases since May
  10. NAMB to emphasize Hispanic church planting in 2021
  11. A Black Hole’s Lunch: Stellar Spaghetti
  12. The 2020 World Series

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By / Oct 19

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our primer series on Christians ethics where a respected leader and thinker recommends and gives a summary overview of a book that helps orient readers to a certain aspect of ethics and philosophy. This series is designed to equip the local church to engage foundational texts of Christian ethics. Find the entire series here

How does my faith in Jesus connect with my work life? How does Sunday relate to Monday?  What difference does the gospel make when I’m stocking shelves, turning wrenches, or answering phones?  

These are the types of questions that commonly haunt the everyday, ordinary Christian. For those who are serious and sincere in their faith, but who are not part of a pastoral staff or religious nonprofit, what role do they play in God’s kingdom on a day-to-day basis? Connecting the dots between the Christian faith and missionary work is easy. Connecting the dots for truck drivers and dental assistants is hard.  

In the past 20 years, evangelicals have enjoyed a surge of attention and resources dedicated to addressing this intersection of faith, work, and vocation. Christian foundations, think tanks, Christian centers, seminaries, and denominational networks have dedicated much money and attention toward the development of content (books, documentaries, study Bibles, etc.) to inform the Christian laity about the importance and necessity of their roles as “ministers of reconciliation” regardless of their job titles.  

While these efforts have proven positive for both pulpit and pew, much work remains for the masses. This must not be an occasional conversation in the church. It must be part of every church’s strategy to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).  

In his commentary on Ephesians, the late John Stott referred to Eph. 4:12 as an “every member ministry.” And, indeed it is.  The “work of the ministry” is not the proprietary business of pastors and missionaries. It is the calling of every Christian to connect Jesus to their work, modeling love for God and neighbor, being salt and light at every time and place, and last but not least, to conduct their work with a love and excellence that proclaims the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  

Every kind of work is a sacred calling 

Gene E. Veith’s book God at Work has quickly become a classic in the Faith and Work titles.  Written in 2002, Veith approaches the conversation employing the Lutheran framework for vocation that emerged amidst the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  

The Reformers, especially Luther, sought to reclaim the notion of calling (vocatio in Latin) for the Christian laity. Veith writes, “In scrutinizing the existing ecclesiastical system in light of the Gospel and the Scriptures, the Reformers insisted that priests and nuns and monastics did not have a special claim to God’s favor, but that laypeople too could live the Christian life to its fullest” (18). This dovetailed nicely with the well-known reformational emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, the doctrine that “all Christians enjoy the same access to Christ and are spiritually equal before Him” (19).  

The “priesthood of all believers,” Veith clarifies, did not turn all Christians into pastors. But it did turn “every kind of work into sacred calling.” Building upon this foundation, Luther and the Reformers recognized multiple callings for every Christian, including the calling to work, family, citizenship, and church.  

“The doctrine of vocation, though it has to do with human work, is essentially about God’s work and how God works in and through our lives.”

Each of these vocational categories receive a chapter in Veith’s book. But, before diving into these, he considers “How God Works through Human Beings,” wherein he employs the Lutheran Two-Kingdom’s model to explain how God works through means. Following Luther, Veith puts forward distinct spiritual and earthly kingdoms in which God uses the spiritual kingdom to restore sinners and to rule in their hearts, equipping them for everlasting life. This finds “tangible expression in the Church” and its activities (29).  

Just as God uses the means of the church to accomplish the purposes of his spiritual kingdom, he also works through means of the earthly kingdom, especially natural law, to accomplish his plans. As well, he works through even the so-called “secular” vocations of people in the earthly kingdom. “That is, He institutes families, work, and organized societies, giving human beings particular parts to play in His vast design” (30).  

In chapters three through five, Veith addresses “The Purpose of Vocation,” “Finding Your Vocations,” and “Your Calling as a Worker,” respectively. These are among the most helpful and insightful chapters as they crack open the reality of an “every-member-ministry” way of life for all Christians. Veith pulls the conversation off the stage of the extraordinary and into the realm of the everyday, ordinary Christ-follower.  He writes, 

“This means that vocation is played out not just in extraordinary acts—the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday—but in the realm of the ordinary.  Whatever we face in the often humdrum present—washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging out with friends—this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love.” (59) 

This emphasis on the “ordinary” is right and beautiful and has gained greater traction in recent years. An arguable extension of the “faith and work” movement has been the revival of interest in everyday liturgies that see all of life as sacred and holy, purposeful before God despite how extraordinary it may or may not be. Veith goes on to say, “The doctrine of vocation, though it has to do with human work, is essentially about God’s work and how God works in and through our lives” (59). If there were a one-sentence summary to the book, this would be it. He repeats this idea at the end of chapter five, reflecting on those who responded to the planes crashing into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Those responders insisted their bravery was simply, “doing their jobs.” Veith responds with, “That is the doctrine of vocation. Ordinary men and women expressing their love and service to their neighbor, ‘just doing our jobs’” (75).  

Following dedicated chapters on the callings to family, citizenship, and church, Veith offers three short but important chapters on the “Ethics of Vocation,” “Bearing the Cross in Vocation,” and the conclusion, “Resting in Vocation.”  In a particularly poignant section in the “Ethics of Vocation” chapter, Veith discusses “sinning against vocation.” Despite the deluge of resources on faith, work, and vocation in the past decade, the notion of “sinning against vocation” remains largely left out and underdeveloped. Veith suggests that one way to look at sin is as a “violation of one’s calling.” “Since the purpose of vocation . . . is to love and serve one’s neighbor, failure to do so is a sin against one’s vocation” (135).  

Reflections for today

I have three brief reflections on the book.  

First, while Veith is a top-shelf academic and intellect, perhaps the greatest feature of God at Work is its accessibility. In keeping with the Reformers’ intention of reclaiming Christian vocation/calling for the laity, Veith’s book is written and organized brilliantly for the thoughtful layperson, the trained pastor, or theologian—and everyone in between. 

Second, while I remain unconvinced of the two-kingdoms approach to God’s world, the four-fold approach to vocation (work, family, citizenship, and church) remains foundational for my own thinking, teaching, and preaching on calling. Veith’s explanations and insights on these areas of Christian calling remain among the best in the literature, informed by the primary and secondary sources but distilled for all audiences. 

Finally, while tempted to mention again the great emphasis on the “ordinary” noted above, I’ll refrain in favor of a deep appreciation for the final chapter on “Resting in Vocation.” By this, Veith means both contentment in one’s calling and the importance of Sabbath as part of our calling in Christ. As a friend once said to me, “Rest takes work.” Indeed, it does, and Veith does not neglect to remind us of this in the final pages of his book. Doubtless, anyone who reads God at Work would wish for more than eight pages dedicated to the importance of rest. Nonetheless, Veith leaves the reader with plenty to consider for all of life, working and resting.  

Veith’s God at Work made a deep impact upon its release in 2002 and continues to occupy an important place in the ongoing conversation on faith, work, and vocation. Veith’s book was one of the first I read on the topic as a college student transitioning to seminary. The writing was simple, but the ideas were new and profound for me at that time, and they remain organizing principles for how I understand and live into my own callings every day. May God at Work remain not only on the shelves of those teaching and preaching about Christian vocation; but may it find its way to the bedside table of all Christians that each may become a mature and ministering worker of God. 

By / Sep 7

For most of my career, I’ve gone to the office. There is something to the ritual of getting dressed up, leaving the house, and reporting to work. My father didn’t do white-collar work, so I never saw him grab a briefcase, but I did hear him stir in the early morning hours before hearing the garage open and his work van pull out of the driveway. I’m glad my kids were accustomed to seeing me leave to go and do what we are created to do: work, create, and innovate.

But this pandemic has forced us into new rhythms, hasn’t it? In the last few years I’ve spent more time working from home as my employers have given me that flexibility, but one day a week working at the kitchen table turned into five days a week in a newly-created office space as COVID-19 initiated a massive exodus from corporate spaces.

I’ve had mixed feelings about working from home all these months. On the one hand, I miss the camaraderie of an office, the casual drop-in conversations that often spark new ideas, and the seemingly idle banter that shapes the culture of an office environment and builds friendships. 

And yet, I’ve enjoyed working from home in many ways. Though I’m focused on my work, my wife and kids are always nearby. We’ve gotten closer as a family in these many months together, enjoying meals and walks and conversations, some intentional, some impromptu. I also don’t hate dressing less casual, with sweatpants as the new workwear.

Most of all, God has helped me see work in new ways. I’d like to share five of them here.

1. I’ve learned to be grateful for my work.

Working from home is an adjustment, but I’m reminded as I read the headlines and talk to friends and family that I’m working while many are not. I’m fortunate to have steady work that is in demand. So even on the most frustrating days, where the thorns and thistles of a fallen world choke out the joy of our labors, if we are working and that paycheck is dropping into the bank account, we should praise the Lord for his provision and pray for those who are jobless.

2. I’ve learned to be flexible in my work.

Flexibility isn’t a word you will find in the Bible, but it is definitely implied. 2020 has produced so much upheaval. Many of the regular rhythms we were used to—our commutes, lunches out with colleagues, travel—have been upended. Kids are at home when they should be at school. And for those marginalized by shutdowns and the virus, their entire economic situation has been turned upside down. Business owners have lost everything, workers are unable to find employment, and people are sick and dying from the coronavirus.

We are having to learn trust alongside gratitude. Flexibility means having an open-handedness and the willingness to regularly rely on God’s sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty.

3. I’ve learned to appreciate the value of the work itself.

There is something about being in the place where you live all the time that makes a job seem less like a job. And I often have to remind my children that I’m actually working and not just hanging out. Yet, ironically, the blurring of lines makes me better value the actual work for its worth.

Work is not an office or a construction site or a studio, though these are arenas for what we do with our hands and minds. Work is the labor we do, resulting in something meaningful. It glorifies God when we create and innovate and serve. We often see a job as a means to an end, when we need to recognize the work itself as a way we image our working God.

4. I’ve learned to create better margins.

One of the dangers of working from home is the creeping way that work becomes all-consuming. Even in normal times, it is hard to put the phone down or close the laptop, but when your desk is in the living room, it’s harder to tell yourself that it’s closing time. It’s easy to eat through lunch at your desk.

Early on in the pandemic, we made a decision to convert a part of our downstairs into an office instead of me taking over the dining room table. This has helped me create margin. My work is there in that spot, and when I leave it, I’m not at work (unless I’m pacing the neighborhood on a phone call or radio interview). I still struggle with unplugging and unwinding, but these months home have helped me create cleaner lines.

5. I’ve learned to appreciate the preciousness of embodied relationships.

Thankfully, we live in an era where technological innovations have allowed us to do meaningful work from home. Technology can be problematic in a fallen world and have perverse incentives, but innovation is actually fulfilling the Genesis mandate, fashioning advances from the raw materials of God’s good creation.

And yet, as wonderful as it is to be able to do video calls, to host conferences and gatherings virtually, and to be able to call and text and email, none of this can come close to replacing actual embodied human interaction. Screens only get us so far. We were made and fashioned by God for community and meaningful interaction. 

I suspect that while work from home will be a permanent option for a good number of organizations, this lesson might be the most profound for all of us. For many, there will be a growing desire to see and enjoy the people we work alongside and to form those bonds that can last a lifetime. And while COVID-19 has interrupted these things for a season, we can go about our work knowing that, whether at home or in a building, whatever God has given us to do is a gift. Our faithfulness in and out of season is what he requires and what brings him pleasure.

By / Mar 10

“I just really like my work, but I like being home more too,” my friend shared with me over coffee one evening. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be with her kids or that she didn’t have a love for her small business, she just didn’t know how to navigate both well. And she often found her questions unable to be answered by the Christians in her life. She wanted work flexibility, and she wanted to be invested in the lives of her kids—and she is not the only one.

A study by the Institute for Family Studies finds that given the choice, many women would work part-time. In fact, in countries with existing paid-family leave policies, that number rises even higher. This turns the common dichotomy between working moms and stay-at-home moms on its head by revealing that many moms are actually more alike than different. They value parenting, but they also value some form of a career as well. In fact, the study finds that men and women both would change how they worked if the option were there to prioritize family, while still maintaining a career.

There is a lot to dissect in the study. The amount of women who prefer work flexibility is higher than the amount of men who prefer it. This is not surprising given what we know about the biological differences between men and women, and also what we know about how cultural expectations of men and women have long-lasting effects. Women often prefer more flexibility in the early years of their children’s lives because they are the ones who give birth, feed, and physically care for the children. Not to mention the recovery time that comes with giving birth. 

Culturally, women still carry much of the parenting load in the home, which makes flexibility a more favorable option when the child rearing load is lopsided. But the study also highlights the fact that most families prefer a variety of options for dividing up childcare and household responsibilities, leading to the conclusion that what works for one family might not work for another family. 

As a Christian, there are overarching principles to takeaway that can help us in understanding our fellow brothers and sisters as they work and parent. These principles may also help us as we live in community with one another in our local churches, allowing for freedom and nuance regarding our work and family life balance.

Christians are not defined by any one part of their lives. 

The fact that most women have a desire to work outside the home to some degree shows that women (and men) are multi-faceted beings. Women can be mothers. They can be wives. They can be friends. They can be neighbors. They can be employees. Often, they fill these roles simultaneously. When we deny these roles, we impose parameters the Bible doesn’t put in place, and instead discourage women (and men) from flourishing.

Christians are created for work, and that work is done both inside and outside the home. 

The study found that men and women both prefer to have flexibility regarding their paid work and unpaid work (work outside the home and work inside the home). This is largely owing to the reality that all work is created by God, and when we engage in this work we are imaging the God who created us to work (Gen. 1:27-28, Col. 3:23). There should be no competition regarding our work. 

Work done in the home is part of what it means to image God. When you make lunches, do laundry, mow the grass, clean the toilets, attend class parties at school, or take care of a sick kid, you are imaging God. When you create spreadsheets, teach students, write articles, sell operating room equipment, or answer email, you are imaging God. The fact that our paid and unpaid work is so starkly divided in our society is not a commentary on who should be doing the work. Instead it is a revelation on what the Industrial Revolution did to our ideas of work when it took work out of the localized (homes and communities) and moved it into cities and factories.

What this study does is provide us with the freedom to divide care and work according to what works for our family, while also showing us that mothers and fathers care both about the home and the marketplace.

Work in the home and work in the marketplace isn’t necessarily gender-specific. 

The numbers of women who prefer part-time or flexible work is higher than the men. As I already said, that seems like a given since we know men and women are different. However, the number of men who prefer to be flexible or more involved at home is not zero. It’s significant. 

I used to feel guilty when my husband would clean the bathroom while I traveled for a speaking engagement. Or when he spent a Saturday with our kids so I could finish chapter edits for a book I was working on. But he has helpfully reminded me that he is a parent too. He is a member of this household too. We all have a part to play in helping each other flourish, both in our work in the home and outside of the home. So we should let the men help, and let the women work, knowing that each family’s dynamic looks different than someone else’s.

For the Christian, our policies should reflect our values. 

We value life. We value family. We value work, paid and unpaid. We value human flourishing. All of these things are helped by paid-family leave policies that enable families to work in creative ways that meet their needs, not necessarily the needs of the person next door to them. If we value life, then our policies should encompass all of life—from the womb to the tomb (and everywhere in between).

As much as we would like to find a verse in the Bible that speaks specifically to how we work inside and outside the home, it simply isn’t there. Instead, we find a lot of principles that speak to loving our neighbor, raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, working faithfully in whatever our hand finds us to do, and exercising dominion over the world God has made (Mark 12:30-31; Eph. 6:4; Eccl. 9:10). 

What this study does is provide us with the freedom to divide care and work according to what works for our family, while also showing us that mothers and fathers care both about the home and the marketplace. And we would do well to find a way to make those concerns become a reality for people in our communities. 

By / Sep 3

Daniel Patterson shares how Christians can avoid making productivity an idol.

By / Sep 2

“Pastor, my dream is to one day save enough money so I can quit my job and do real Kingdom work.”

This is a sentiment I’ve heard many times over the course of my ministry. One the one hand, it makes me rejoice to see followers of Jesus so committed to seeing the gospel spread around the world that they’d give up wealth and their career ambitions to make it happen. I love to see people say yes to God’s call. 

And at the same time, I cringe at the false dichotomy I hear it in statements like this. As if “real Kingdom work” only takes place when one is volunteering at church or getting a paycheck from a 501(c)3 organization. I think the reason many of our people think this way is because we pastors have taught them to think this way. 

I’ve mostly been employed by distinctly Christian organizations. So it hasn’t been too hard to find meaning in what I do. I can point to a mission statement on the wall or find joy in the stories of lives changed. But, sadly, for those who work for typical employers—this is most of the church—it is a struggle to see the connection between their worship on Sunday and their labors on Monday. 

Of course we know that work is important because it provides income to support our families, provides funds to help give toward Christian mission, and becomes a theater by which we can demonstrate and share the gospel. But could it be that what we spend the majority of our lives doing—in cubicles and cars, scaffolds and stations, airports and aisles—has important, eternal significance? 

I think it does. But more importantly, the Bible says our work matters to God. And I’d like to show you five reasons why: 

1. Work is an essential part of our humanity. 

Genesis 1 and 2 make the case that, unlike the rest of creation, humans were created in the image of God. This doesn’t just mean we are valuable and have inherent worth—it does—but it means that we were created to, in some ways, reflect our creator. One of the most important ways we do this is in the way that we work. 

God is a working, creating God (John 5:17). As his image-bearers, our mandate is to subdue the earth and fill it with his glory (Gen. 1:27). God has given us the raw materials in his creation, and it is our duty to use them to image him by creating things ourselves. When we create, we reflect the glory of the creator. 

Of course, in a fallen world, our work is more difficult. The ground that once freely yielded to the hoe and the plow, now fights back with weeds and thorns. But while the curse may make our work harder, more futile, and sometimes dispiriting, it doesn’t diminish the importance of the work itself. God cares about the work we do. 

2. Work is how we love our neighbors.

Beside glorifying God, our work also is a way we love our neighbors as ourselves. The products we make with our hands help people flourish. Consider the engineers who design our infrastructure, the designers who create new life-saving medical products, or the artists who beautify our public spaces. Or consider the plumbers, electricians, and other tradesman who make our systems work in both our homes and places of business or the sales people who introduce new products to new markets. From the most menial data entry to the most visible CEOs, work, when done with excellence and integrity, helps our communities flourish. 

Work can, we know, also do the opposite. Sometimes work, rather than help people flourish, exploits and assaults their dignity. Consider the way Pharaoh, greedy and bigoted, pressed the Hebrew people to produce. He ratcheted up their expected output and made their means of production more difficult. He didn’t see his employees as people, but as numbers on a balance sheet, cogs in a cruel wheel of greed. Sadly, too often our work is more like Egypt than Eden. 

Still, for those caught in a stifling 9-to-5 grind, we can find meaning in the seemingly meaningless by doing well whatever work we are given (Col. 3:23). We should do this, not to please an unappeasable boss, but to glorify God and help our neighbors. 

3. Work now is an internship for eternity. 

If work was given as a good gift by God to his image-bearers before the Fall, then it means we our work will not stop when we die, but will only be just beginning. The Kingdom of God has dawned in Christ and, when he returns, will be fully consummated. This means our giftings, our callings, our duties will carry on into the new Jerusalem, where we will rule and reign with him. 

Sadly we tend to think of heaven as only spiritual, as a kind of eternal soul sleep or a never-ending hymn sing in the clouds. But the future Kingdom of God will be even more real than this fallen world. And our lives now are only preparing us for what we will be doing in eternity. 

Russell Moore says it best: “Our jobs—whether preaching the gospel or loading docks or picking avocados or writing legislation or herding goats—aren’t accidental. Our lives now are shaping us and preparing us for a future rule, and that includes the honing of a conscience and a sense of wisdom and prudence and justice.”

This is good news. Imagine fulfilling our callings and exercising our giftedness without the weight of the Fall? Imagine our ability to create without frustration, fatigue, and false motives?  

4. Work is a visible sign of God’s renewing work in the world.

Our work not only prepares us for eternity, it shows the watching world a glimpse of eternity. If the Church is the outpost of the Kingdom of God, then the way we work, with excellence—renewing, restoring, building—shows the world what the future Kingdom will look like. Every broken bone set, every new and innovative piece of technology, every piece of art, in some way, points toward a better world to come. 

It’s true that, at the end age of the age, much of what we have built will be destroyed, though not in a fire of destruction, but in a fire of refinement. God will put everything created through a refining process, filtering out the works that are destructive, impure, and unfit for the New Jerusalem. What is excellent and beautiful will remain, polished and perfected for eternity. 

So as we work, we work not only for ourselves. We work for others. We, by our commitment to doing good, image the world to come and invite those far from God to ask questions, to inquire, and ultimately, to find rest in Jesus. 

5. Work is a part of discipleship. 

Lastly, our work is an essential part of our discipleship. When most of us think about discipleship, we think about the spiritual disciplines and evangelism. These are an essential part of growing in Christ, but given how intimately work is embedded in our identity as image-bearers, we should also think about our work as part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This is why Paul often talked to the churches about their work. Few, if any, of his original readers would be involved in “full-time Christian ministry.” Most would be making a living in some fashion. So he embedded in his letters application toward their daily vocations. 

The gospel changes the way we see our work. It adds a newfound significance. It elevates us from hum drum, cynical employees to servants of the King. Every day may not feel like heaven, but every day at the job matters in heaven. 

This is why it is important for pastors to constantly season their preaching and teaching with application toward the average working man. This is where pastors need to get out of their religious ivory tower and imagine life for the person who makes sales calls, bakes cookies, or works the night shift at the hospital. Too often we assume our people are as cloistered with books and Bibles as we are, and our sermons fail to connect with where the average person is. But if we are going to disciple well, we must disciple our people in the way that they do their jobs. 

This article originally appeared in Facts & Trends