What We Want to Hear from Our Preacher about Work

Kara Martin photo cropped

Reprinted from Workship. Photo by Kara Martin.

A couple of weeks ago on Facebook, Nathan Campbell from Living Church in Brisbane explained that he was going to be preaching on the topic of work the coming Sunday.

He posed the following question:

“This week I’m preaching on work, like the stuff we do to bring order and beauty to the world, sometimes for money. What’s one thing you, as a worker, wish a preacher might one day say about work?”

The responses were wonderful, and show us some of the deep frustrations, misconceptions and profound hopes workplace Christians have in seeking a biblical view of work.

Here are some of the frustrations that Christians have about work:

  • “Your work might not feel satisfying or fulfilling. It might be mundane and boring.”

  • “That work is not our identity but also tie in the idea that only privileged educated people can choose their workplaces.”

  • “That bosses should not exploit their workers or abuse their skills, time, and pay them a fair wage for a fair day’s work.”

Here are some of the misconceptions that Christians want busted:

  • “Sometimes your calling (what you are made to do as God’s representative in the world and part of Jesus’ body) might be a thing you get paid to do, sometimes it won’t, but our work isn’t exhausted by our job. Work might include gardening.”

  • “On this theme I’d like to hear that I’ll have projects in eternity, and to what extent the work I do in this creation will matter/last in eternity. (If you think it will at all) For people built like me, a forever without work does not sound appealing, but heaven often comes off sounding like a sort of workless, formless day spa. Will eternal rest include making stuff, thinking about stuff and enjoying challenges?”

  • “Heard a lot while at undergrad uni of all places: that our ‘secular’ work wasn’t gospel work and was inferior to it. At best, we could provide the cash but anyone doing ‘gospel work’ was doing God’s best for us.”

  • “If your manager is a bully you are not obliged to put up with it. A part of being a Christian is speaking truth to power and this may mean telling someone a few things. Not in a mean and humiliating way, obviously. But some people I know have lost jobs doing it.”

  • “What if I work in medicine versus working in a supermarket does that change how I am viewed when I am asked to work Sundays to serve people?”

  • “Work for the Lord rather than work for retirement, that is, ‘me, me, me’ culture of indulgence at end of work life.”

  • “When your idea of your own worth is bound up with your paid work, that’s a problem – our worth ought to be seen in God’s creation of and redemption and sanctification of us.”

  • “Work and ministry aren’t so separate. Working as a lawyer for justice, as a parent to raise children, as a tradesperson to repair or create are as much a vocation as church ministries. Likewise, feeding the poor, visiting the sick, curating worship, administering the sacraments and teaching the gospel is real work, not just a hobby we support with money made from work. Churches seem to either assign spiritual value to secular work or assign training, funds, staff and resources to ministry, but not both. We need both.”

  • “I’m convinced Jesus subverted the whole ‘work six days then rest’ thing. I believe that self-care was a priority for him, making sure he was as rested as possible before engaging in his ‘work’.”

  • “The focus of work is often on paid work, and so the interpretation of scripture on work can tend to reward only paid work. But there is a lot of important work we do which is not paid. Like raising kids, doing chores, volunteering, etc.”

Here is what workplace Christians hope for from work:

  • “A follower of a Jesus, going about their day job, has the chance of meaningful connection with those outside the faith that most pastors would die for. Don’t let those chances to build relationships and welcome people into your Jesus-shaped life go by!”

  • “That work is good for us, idleness is not.”

  • “Choosing a workplace that aligns with personal values and blesses people is good for the soul.”

  • “I’d love to hear a preacher encourage us to use our work to dance or play beautifully before our Father in heaven by being creative, inspiring etc, and producing amazing results for our employers, clients, customers etc.”

  • “The question with our approach to work should be ‘are we worshiping God in this work’ – the two masters thing is about God v Money – which is ultimate in your heart. You could put career, or motherhood, in that slot and worship either instead of God, you could worship your ability to juggle both successfully, or you could bring wisdom to the decision-making process and make the decision as a family (or network of people who might be part of a village/community).”

  • “Some of the best advice I ever received was to carefully think about the differences between your job (what brings in the $) your career (what gives you personal satisfaction, challenge, progression) and your calling (what God wants your priority to be, what focuses on others, what advances his kingdom). These can be separate, or combined in any way but it helps steer between the perils of denigrating one’s daily toil and making it an idol. It helps when work is difficult too.”

Using social media was a great technique for a preacher to understand the concerns of a congregation (and a wider audience), before he applied biblical wisdom; and the comments were a great insight into the unresolved questions workplace Christians have about how work relates to their faith.

Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.

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