What happens when you take the gospel out of the church into the world of work? Do we work to live, or live to work? Is there any ancient wisdom to be found in the Bible as to how to approach work in a modern world? In this podcast, Dr Tim Keller will explore how the Christian faith gives you a vision for your work, guardrails for your work and a power for your work.
A New Vision for Work
How do we approach the world of work as a Christian? Does the Bible have anything to say about work done in the world and not in a Christian ministry context? A good starting point to discovering a Christian worldview of work, suggests Dr Tim Keller is to go back to the Creation story in Genesis 1-3 where a blueprint for God’s heart for work is expressed.
Adam and Eve are placed in a garden of Eden by God to attend to it. Dr Keller notes that the essential traits found in gardening- rearranging and reordering raw materials from the earth for human flourishing can be identified in all vocations that work towards the common good.
“Gardening is the archetypal job. What is farming, construction, medicine, technology? It is taking material things and you are rearranging it to bring about community health.”
When we start from the place of recognising our work as an extension of God’s work in Creation, we find a new vision for work where we participate with God in His world. We should be inspired by God’s Spirit moving in the world as poetically depicted Psalm 104:30 (NLT):
“When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
The kind of civilisation that God wants us to build is to reflect His glory. In the Bible we see the difference between work which is done for our own glory, such as in the story of the Tower of Babel which caused division and work which is done to serve God and your neighbour. Dr Keller notes:
“There is a way of doing work which is to get a name for yourself. You are doing your work for your own glory. That work doesn’t serve people, it tends to distort and degrade.”
The litmus test for whether our work is for God’s glory is whether the fruit of our work helps the community and human welfare or whether it’s only serving a selfish end.
The Christian Faith Gives You Guardrails
How do we practice our Christian faith where everyone has their own ethical guidelines for what is right or wrong? The Bible provides Christians with two strong guardrails to measure their actions against: truth and love.
Dr Keller observes that across Western culture there is a diminished trust in institutions largely because of the ethical breakdown seen in the last few decades in Government, finance and the institutional church. Dishonesty and bribery which the Bible warns against, are often witnessed in the highest echelons of leadership. Amid this culture of distrust, Christians can shine brightly as they live out authentically their Christian faith.
We can go into the workplace with more compassion when we fully grasp the implications of the gospel for our lives. Dr Keller continues:
“A Christian goes out to work knowing that Jesus bore the blame for you. He actually gives you credit for what He did and He takes the blame for what you did and you cannot not be affected by that.”
Dr Keller recounts two non-believers who came to his church because of the countercultural actions of their Christian boss who sheltered them from the blame for something their employee did. Christian faith sends us out with guardrails for truth and love which is no small thing.
The power to do your work
Even though we live in a world requiring cultivation and care, work can be very frustrating where ‘‘toil, thorns and thistles” come up and we never get close to what we want to accomplish. This should not detract us from engaging in work as Dr Keller points out that:
“Work is the one thing that human beings can take in more than small doses without being harmed.”
In this lifetime we find ourselves stuck between a need to do work and the inability to do work very well. But the Bible provides a resource in Genesis 2:2 (ESV):
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work.”
By God taking a sabbath rest He demonstrated that work is not everything. Rest is not available to someone who finds their meaning and identity in their work warns Dr Keller:
“If you make your work your meaning, your very identity- you can’t rest. You cannot walk away from it. The worst thorn of all in your work is that you can’t rest.”
By trying to prove ourselves through our work, we become enslaved by it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate sabbath that helps us to handle no work or overwork. On the Cross, Jesus Christ said “It is finished.” The work for paying for sin, for fulfilling God’s law has been done and we can now rest in Jesus’ victory on Calvary, not what we achieve on this earth or what we fail to achieve.
To listen more to Tim Keller, download the sermon here
Add Your Heading Text Here
About Tim Keller
Tim Keller is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the Chairman and co-Founder of Redeemer City to City, which trains pastors for ministry in global cities. A New York Bestselling Author, Tim has authored several books including “Reason for God” and “Counterfeit Gods”