*This current series of posts seeks to answer the question, “What should gospel transformation actually look like in our fallen culture?”
Because of the internal transformation of the Spirit that takes place in the life of the believer, Christians should be the very best workers any company in the world could possibly have. Further, Christians should be the most sought after bosses for which to work. Sin has caused us to have a distorted view of work. Work is not a curse; sin is. In Genesis 3:17-18, God pronounces his curse to Adam as a result of his sin. He indicates that his work will be difficult. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” God says; but, this does not mean that work, itself, is a product of the curse. It simply means that because man’s relationship with the creation has been broken due to the entrance of sin and its consequences, work will be difficult and laborious. If you remember, God’s mandate for man to work comes before the Fall, in Genesis 2:15, where it says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Many often focus only on the ‘observe the Sabbath day’ part of the fourth commandment; but, the commandment also includes a decree to work! “Six days you shall labor,” it says, “and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 5:12-13). Really, the commandment stands as a reminder that our work is not for our glory, and is ultimately related to the God who works, in whose image we have been created.
But because of sin’s implications, we will constantly experience frustration and difficulty in our work. Because sin has broken man’s relationship to himself, we will experience great amounts of stress, anxiety, depression and strife in our work. Because sin has broken man’s relationship with others, our work will cause us to focus on competition and rivalry, often viewing others as either useful or obstacles to our lofty goals of success. We view our superiors as oppressive and less intelligent than we who think we could run things much more efficiently. We view those who work under us as inferior and threats to our own power. Because sin has broken our relationship with God, we view our work as the greatest potential for our own glory, instead of an outlet for using our creativity to proclaim the glory of God.
Because of the Spirit’s work to change our hearts and our worldview, however, that view should be redeemed, allowing believers to view work as God originally intended it to be. So, what does that look like and why should believers be the very best employees and employers within the job market of our day?
1. Because I understand that I have been created in the image of God, I am free to be creative as He is creative. Work is not a ‘secular’ realm. One of the greatest ways that we can image God is through working. We have been redeemed to be worshipers in all areas of our lives. So, when we are working, our work becomes our worship. Working allows us the opportunity to put the creativity of God on display! God has gifted each person with a specific set of skills and talents, calling us to put those to use in worshiping him and bringing him glory. Only the believer fully understands this purpose for creativity; therefore, work exists as one of the greatest opportunities we have in declaring the glory of God to the surrounding world. We delight in working because of the high calling we understand it to have.
2. Because we have come to understand ourselves as primarily worshipers of God, we are free to pursue work with a proper perspective. My workplace does not exist as a means to my own end. The workplace actually should be viewed as the primary and greatest mission field for the believer. Most of a person’s time will be spent in that atmosphere, and most of his talents and gifts will be put on display there perhaps more than any other place. The workplace, most of the time, offers the greatest opportunity for most of us to grow in authentic relationships with non-believers, leading then to intentionally proclaiming the excellence of God through speech and deeds. Because of the frustration of the curse of sin within the realm of work, the workplace offers us an abundance of opportunities to bear the fruit of the spirit, allowing the reality of the gospel to shine to others who deal with the same situations and circumstances. Believers understand that work is one of the greatest ways God has given to worship him and bring him glory through the cultivation of his creation.
3. Because we have experienced the gracious love of God, we are free to show our love for others through our work. Work exists as a direct outlet for us to pursue not only what Jesus called the greatest commandment (loving The Lord with all of our heart, mind and soul), but also the second greatest commandment (loving others as ourselves). Whether we work as lawyers, doctors, store clerks, managers, teachers, or mail carriers, all jobs serve to display love for others by the believer. We understand that through working hard, we are providing a valuable service to our fellow humans. We do not, therefore, view others as simply consumers, seeking to manipulate them into making us richer and more successful. Rather, we view them as those we serve through the calling God has given us. Just like in redeemed friendships, our relationships with those we serve through our work should be genuine, displaying the love and grace of God. We are people of our word because we are controlled by the Word. We are fair, trustworthy, and do our work with integrity and great care for others because that is the character of the God who is conforming us to his image through the power of his gospel.
4. Because we understand our God as the sovereign King of all, we are free to not allow our work to control our thoughts and emotions. Simply put, our hope no longer resides in direct correlation to our work. We are no longer consumed by our level of success or our performance, and we no longer allow the situations we face there invade all of the other areas of our lives. Our hope is bound up in the Kingdom, of which the author of Hebrews writes, is “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (12:28). My work no longer owns my emotions. My work no longer controls my ambition. Those things have come under submission to my Lord and Master, Jesus, who is the only one to whom we will give an account. Therefore, we are empowered to view our work as just another opportunity to “offer God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,” always remembering that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). The more closely I walk with him, the more that fire will consume all of the sinful thoughts, acts, and emotions that threaten to reduce my work to a means to build my own little kingdom.
5. Because we find our sufficiency and identity in Christ alone, we are free to humbly and graciously go about our work without the oppression of status and covetousness. I am no longer defined by my work. This means that although I may be in a work situation that may seem “beneath” me and my skill set, I understand that God never wastes an assignment. His purposes and plan is greater than my own. Because of the pattern set by Jesus as he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8), I can pursue that same mind through the empowerment of the Spirit. I no longer count equality with the status that I used to covet a thing to be grasped. I am free to empty myself out and become a servant of all, no matter their feelings toward me or their own status. No matter what is delegated to me by my superiors, I am free to be obedient to that task, not viewing the quality of that task as something that defines my ability or quality. I am even willing to volunteer for some undesirable tasks in order to serve those with whom I work in an effort to display the gospel message that I so desperately desire to communicate with my lips. If God blesses me with a position of authority and great stature, I will not make the mistake of thinking that I have somehow earned such a status independent of Him and His plan. I will not become blinded by such advancement because ultimately it is God who has provided and continues to strengthen me for the task.
This does NOT mean that I cease to work hard and pursue advancement in my work and career. I work hard because I truly understand what it means to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and I simply trust God in his providence, that He will continue to sovereignly place me according to his great redemptive plan. I can therefore continue to serve in any and all positions with great humility and grace. No one should work harder than a Christian, because a Christian ultimately strives to glorify God in his work. There exists no higher calling or ambition.
Who wouldn’t want to work with someone like that!? The inward transformation of the Spirit that takes place within the believer as a result of redemption should be so evident that every company should be tripping over themselves to hire Christians to fill available positions. This is the true transforming power of the gospel within a redeemed life on display among a watching fallen culture! How has the transformation of gospel enabled you to view/participate in your work in a radically different way?