In the past year I’ve been reading a lot of books on a Christian view of work. I think helping people see that God has called them into their field of work is vitally important for both campus ministers, working with people while pursuing their education and preparing for work, and for church ministers who work with people living through their careers.
Is work just something we do to pass the time before we get to heaven?
Does applying our faith to our work just mean being honest and occasionally evangelizing (and subsequently, probably being guilty for not evangelizing enough)?
Is the work of most Christians less holy or important when compared to the work of pastors and missionaries?
Is the one week someone spends on a mission trip more “Christian” then the other 51 weeks a year at their job?
(I think the answer to all those is no.)
If I could recommend only one book to people to read on this subject, it would probably be Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor. Keller covers a lot of ground, placing work within a Christian worldview. He talks about how humans were given work immediately upon their creation, thus work is not a result of sin. All people, created in God’s image, work. This universality of God’s image explains why any and all people can do great work. On the other hand, the universality of sin comes out in the fact that we often find work frustrating. It also is seen when we realize that Christians are not automatically better works. Sin means Christians do worse than we might hope, common grace (creation in God’s image) means everyone else does better then we might expect.
From this Keller goes on to say a lot more. He connects it to the gospel. While people may use work to pursue various idols from a large bank account to validation as successful, Keller shows how finding our identity in Christ frees us from such pursuits. We are able to work, confident in who we are, and in realization all we have is a gift. Overall this is a fantastic book. I recommend pastors use it in a small-group setting, or even for help with a sermon series.
Another book I read recently is John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople. This book is more focused on the business world, compared to Keller’s broader work on work in general. I would say this is a must-read for pastors. Knapp’s book is filled with study results that show most church members do not come to pastors for advice with work because they feel pastors don’t get their work. It is a quality entry and ought to be read by any who seek to integrate their faith with their work, or those of us who work in ministries where we can help others do so.