After you graduate from college, you will spend more time at work then (probably) anywhere else. Your studies at college, the work you put into your classes, are preparing you for your career.
What does your faith that you express at church on Sunday have to do with your work throughout the rest of the week?
Sometimes Christians talk as if God cares about a few specific jobs, even calls people into those jobs. These jobs are usually ministry, such as pastors and missionaries. Or maybe other jobs that clearly help people, like doctors and teachers. Does God care about or call people into other careers?
I think God does. God is calling all people into a place of work. College is not just preparing you for a job that has nothing to do with your faith, instead your classes are preparing you for the place where you will serve God through your work. God calls pastors and missionaries and doctors and teachers in the same way that God calls engineers, business leaders, writers and scientists. As Cornelius Plantinga says,
Your college education is meant to prepare you for prime citizenship in the kingdom of God…Your calling is to prepare for further calling, and to do so in a Christian community that cares as much about the kind of person you are becoming as what kind of job you will eventually get, and as much about how you will do your job as about which job you do” – Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning and Living
Because Christians believe all people are created in God’s image and God included work among the original purpose given to humans, we believe all work can have dignity and be honorable. Many other ancient cultures believed only the king or other powerful people were created in God’s image. Such people would do “honorable” work which did not include physical labor like farming or really anything that broke a sweat and got your hands dirty. One of the radical teachings of Genesis was that all people, from kings to peasants, rich to poor, were in God’s image. And one consequence of this is that being a garbage collector or janitor is just as honorable and filled with dignity as being a college professor or pastor.
So what does it mean to apply your faith to your work? Is it limited to living out a Christian ethic, like being honest? Yes, but it is more than that. It is also more than evangelizing your colleagues, trying to get them to become followers of Jesus. Though being a good Christian witness in such a way that your colleagues may be more interested in becoming disciples of Jesus is also a good thing.
I have read a lot of books lately on this subject, and probably the best thing you could do would be to pick up such books. Or peruse some of the websites. I include a list at the bottom of this post. For the teaching at CSF last night, I relied most heavily on a recent book by Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor.
One thing Keller pointed out is that God’s spirit both cares for the land (Psalm 65:9-10; 104:30) and convicts people of sin (John 16:8-11). In other words, God is both a gardener and a preacher. If we limit spiritual work to only one sort of work, we miss part of the story.
When we talk about work and career we should also talk about money. The American dream is still alive and I am sure the hope for many of you is when you graduate from Penn State you will begin to make money. Money is not bad, money is necessary in our world. If everybody chose a life of poverty to become a foreign missionary, who would fund such things? The problem with money comes in when it becomes our highest desire. As John Knapp says, “If Scripture bears a consistent message about wealth, it is that the desire for it is never sanctioned. God permits some individuals to gain wealth, but the Old Testament is replete with warnings against desiring money or property for oneself.” – John C. Knapp. How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It) (Kindle Locations 511-512). Kindle Edition.
Our attitude toward money ought to be that of Proverbs 30:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Finally, when it comes to work the most vital thing is that we find our identity in Jesus Christ. The beauty of the Christian good news is that in Jesus Christ you are loved by God just the way you are. All of your mess – your sins, shortcomings, brokenness, addictions – are not roadblocks to God’s love. You are healed, forgiven, made new in Jesus. In a world where we often strive to find our identity through status – through our job or how much is in our bank account – the Christian gospel frees us. With confidence of who you are in Jesus Christ, you can work hard and do your best as service to him, knowing that your successes will not make you more loved and your failures will not make you less loved.
You are free.
*Creation Regained by Al Wolters
*Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller
*How the Church Fails Businesspeople by John Knapp
*Work Matters by Tom Nelson
*What is Vocation by Stephen Nichols
*Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman
Work on Purpose – http://www.echoinggreen.org/work-on-purpose
Christian Business Men’s Connection – http://cbmc.com/
Christian Business Women’s Fellowship – http://cbwf.org
International Coalition of Workplace Ministries – http://www.marketplaceleaders.org/icwm/
The High Calling – http://www.thehighcalling.org/
Center for Faith and Work – http://www.faithandwork.org/