Work Matters

WorkMatters The city I live in is obsessed with work. In DC, employment equals identity. When you meet someone, the first question they ask is, "What do you do?" This pervasive obsession turns people into contacts, gatherings into networking events, and happy hour into a career advancement opportunity. When work becomes such an identity marker, it creates an immediate tension for Christians who find their ultimate identity in Jesus. At Redemption Hill Church I preached an entire series on work to try to help our people wrestle with these important issues and tensions.

Does living a life on Jesus’ mission mean that all other employment is unimportant or inconsequential? Does the challenge from the pulpit to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ somehow undercut the importance of your work?

The answer to both questions is a resounding “NO!”

“On the contrary, we know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labor of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every man applies diligently to his own calling, and endeavors to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage.”[1]

The importance of work is tied directly to creation. God created man to work; to care for the Garden (Gen. 2:15). The value of work is both upheld and assumed throughout Scripture, even commanded by Paul (1 Thess. 4:112 Thess. 3:11-12). It’s also important to provide for our families, because to not do so makes someone worse than an unbeliever (1Tim. 5:8). Work is good. To work hard and excel to the glory of God is good. How, then, does this fit with the Great Commission? To be missional is to enter into Jesus’ mission, and he said,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Mt. 28:19-20

This is an example in which the Greek text can actually help us understand a passage. The only command (imperative verb) is “make disciples.” Everything else modifies this command (go, baptizing, teaching). So, it may be better translated “As you are going, make disciples…” This isn’t just nerdery speaking, it’s an important distinction.

We make a big deal out of living missionally, and that Jesus has called all of His people to be missionaries into this world. We need to be careful to also say that Jesus hasn’t called every one of us to full-time, career ministry. Quite to the contrary, the Holy Spirit gifts each of us differently even though we make up one body in Christ (1Cor. 12). Pastors and teachers exist to equip everyone else in the body to carry out the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). The key is that you don’t have to leave your life, vocation, or family to do so. Instead, “As you’re going, make disciples.” As Calvin said,

“Each individual has his own kind of living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about through life.”[2]

So, work hard. Engage in your work as a true vocation: a calling from God, to the glory of God and the joy of all people. Contribute to the common good as an act of grace from God our Father in all that you do. As you go, always keep the good news of Jesus at the forefront of your life and actions so that others will see how your life glorifies God and turn to glorify Him with you (1Pet. 2:9-12). That is missional living.

Your work matters.

[1] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the EvangelistsVolume 2, trans. By Rev. William Pringle, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2005), 143.

[2] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T. McNeill, trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 3:10:724.