Thursday, March 29, 2007

Does Your Work Matter to God?

My friend Phil was recently in a conversation with other guys his age (25-30), on the topic of how to glorify God in the workplace. It was a wonderfully honest discussion. Some men readily admitted that they viewed their jobs as mundane and didn't quite see the connection to any greater good in the kingdom of God.

I suspect that their responses aren't unique to them. In her book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey notes the sacred/secular divide and its impact to Christians.

...modern society is characterized by a sharp split between the sacred and secular spheres - with work and business defined as strictly secular. As a consequence, Christians often live in two separate worlds, commuting between the private world of family and church (where we can express our faith freely) and the public world (where religious expression is firmly suppressed). Many of us don't even know what it means to have a Christian perspective on our work. Oh, we know that being a Christian means being ethical on the job..."no lying or cheating" But the work itself is defined in secular terms as bringing home a paycheck, climbing a career ladder, building a professional reputation. (Total Truth, p.65)

I know that there are always aspects of work that can seem monotonous and mundane. However, I don't think that it should be the normative mindset for Christians and I've blogged about how to view it redemptively. God has something better for us. Yet, I understand the struggle expressed by Phil and his friends - we've all been there and we revisit from time to time.

Does your work matter to God? How would you encourage Phil and his friends to view their jobs with more meaning, either from your own experience or more importantly, from the Bible? What advice would you offer them?

No trick questions here and these aren't rhetorical - we all really want to know.


Craver Vii said...

God works. That alone is enough to give intrinsic value to work.

Adam worked before AND after the fall. Admittedly, the fall had an adverse effect on work, but it had an adverse effect on childbearing as well, but people are still multiplying!

I'm not a fan of the whole positive thinking thing, but there is definitely something to the idea of speaking blessing and cursing. Call it a self-fulfilled prophecy if you want, but you stand a better chance of being blessed, as well as being a blessing if you say kind things, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Try it as a test, and be genuine. You will be pleased with the results.

If you think you're already positive, see if there is anywhere that you can still kick it up a notch. That's what I did, and I got amazing feedback from my coworkers.

andre said...


Thanks very much for your thoughts here. Let me understand your thinking here.

God works and that means work has intrinsic value.

Excellent. I'm wondering, is there something concrete that helps you actualize that specifically for you on a daily basis or is that principle the basis of meaning in your work? When you're doing something you perceive as mundane or trivial or monotonous, do you simply stand on that principle?

Perhaps that was your point in the "positive thinking" suggestion? God works, work has intrinsic value and taking a positive outlook on your work will help you see God's purpose in your work more concretely?

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Craver Vii said...

It takes more faith to acknowledge the intrinsic value of your work if you’re in a factory making bolts versus something like medical missionary, or seminary professor. But once in a while, I like to burrow deep in prayer, just to see how far it goes. One book I read had the author saying grace at the table, and thanking God for the cereal on the breakfast table, and the farmer with milking cows in such and such a state, and the grains, and cereal company from somewhere else, and the truck drivers who delivered them, and the folks who made pallets to load the product, and the people who built the roads, etc. He took the time to burrow deep and acknowledge God’s workmanship through different people along the way. Just because I cannot see immediate spiritual results in a task that seems mundane, does not mean that we should dismiss it as worthless, or even less important than another one.

There is so much of Christian living that involves working now for a result that we cannot see, ultimately because we trust God for what He will accomplish.

L.L. Barkat said...

Craver, I like that prayer exercise... going back and back to the source of the blessing (others working, God granting that work).

One of the best books I read on this subject was Loving Monday. I thought it was very interesting how he discussed that our view of work is "Greek"... with work being in the lower realms of a hierarchical existence (I believe he looks at Plato in this regard). In any case, this view is not part of our Hebrew Christian heritage.

andre said...


Your followup comment has so much goodness in it. Finding purpose in our work sometimes takes hard spiritual work - thinking, "burrowing in prayer" (love that phrase), giving thanks.

Here's an interesting dynamic at play - the more we thank God for the common grace provided to us, the more we're aware of God using us as channels of his common grace?

andre said...


Yes, I've heard of the book Loving Beckett, right? (I may even have it on my shelf...perhaps I should read it!)

Let me understand - are you saying that the Judeo-Christian heritage has a "high view" of work relative to the Greek philosophical approach? How would you characterize the Judeo-Christian view of work contrasted with the Greek view. (I guess I could just read Beckett's book but asking you seems more fun.)

The Gyrovague said...

The book that I recommended on an earlier post by Peter Wagner will give more on the Hebrew vs Greek view of is rather fascinating.

It is hard to connect working in a cubicle all day, in artificial lights, managing technology all day to see the value in the work. Output is more quantifiable in terms of cost and money saved.

I remind myself the value of work by doing something that keeps me close to the earth, gardening, carpentry (not that I am any good at either) things that keep me working close to the earth and that I can see a measurable output...even if it is over ripe undersized tomatoes.

Ted Gossard said...

Good conversation here, Andre and a good post.

We need to work on a Biblical view of work to really understand that work is close to the heart of who we are and what we're to be about. With this view everything we do is to be important as an expression of who we are. Humans and stewards under God and in God's world.

And of course all things being redeemed, this includes work. But this will take some considerable effort in some places, while other trades aren't redemptive of course. But I think we can work in alot of places like in a meat factory where we may see the product as not being necessarily that good. But we glorify God in what we do and how we do it before him and the world. Doing the most menial tasks as committed as doing the work of discipling or something like that.

And trying to bring input into the improvement of a product for consumption, etc. In other words trying creatively and reflectively to glorify God in our works and tasks. Being the best whatever it is we do- for God- that we can be.

Thanks for jogging us this direction. Good thoughts.

phil said...

Andre - Thanks for opening this up. It's helpful to hear the varying perspectives. The thing that I wonder about more than "Does my work matter to God?" is how can I grow in having a robust theology and worldview when it comes to work? I know that 1 Cor. 10:31 clearly illustrates that no matter what I do it matters to God that I do it for his glory. But it's the stuff that, when you drill down into specifics, I think there is need for clarification/greater biblical understanding.

Here's an example that I'll throw out there and I hope more will follow:
As Christian men we are encouraged to pursue opportunities to "lead" in the church. This can be anything from leading small/cell/care/home groups to leading in children's ministry etc. But, when it comes to the workplace there doesn't seem to be the same emphasis for guys to step up and lead. In the business world success and respect is doled out to the fellas who get it done and often time "getting it done" requires lengthy hours on the job and a commitment to one's work. How does a guy balance this? Am I truly showing God's work in my life by being a "clock puncher"? Someone who rushes out every afternoon at 5 so I can get to a church meeting? What's the biblical framework to work out of? What's the grid that I use to think of this?

andre said...


Thanks for your honest thoughts. I think as craver mentioned, it's easier in some jobs to make the connections to purposeful, redemptive work.

You've made an interesting point - work that is redemptive isn't only what we do "at the job". It's also work we do at home, even in the tomato garden. And, don't worry about the overripe, undersized tomatoes - you can blame it on the fact that we live in a fallen world!

andre said...


You've said a boatload of good stuff here. If I can tease a couple of points out -

You said "we need to work on a biblical view of work to understand work is close to the heart of who we are..." Could you expand on this thought - what is the biblical view of work? Is it what craver mentioned about God as worker giving intrinsic value to work or something else you had in mind, perhaps?

I like what you said about still being able to glorify God in uninspiring jobs by the way we do the work and by the motivation to do it for God.

Of course, you also correctly mentioned that some jobs simply aren't redemptive.

andre said...


Thanks for commenting...hope you didn't mind me bringing one of the questions you had to a broader audience. Everyone, this is Phil!

I think I understand your dilemma - you know you're suppose to glorify God but you're having trouble figuring out what it looks like in the nuts and bolts of daily working. Great question - hope someone in this thread of conversation will offer some sound biblical advice.

To some extent, some of your questions around managing priorities and time cannot come from "cookie cutter" answers. For my part, I'd like to focus on one small aspect of what you said -

"when it comes to the workplace there doesn't seem to be the same emphasis for guys to step up and lead. In the business world success and respect is doled out to the fellas who get it done and often time "getting it done" requires lengthy hours on the job and a commitment to one's work."

If I may suggest - could you be possibly seeking the wrong reward? I don't want to pick on a small phrase exclusively but I do think that to some extent, our motivation to excel cannot be primarily driven by a desire for success and respect (esp. if we narrowly define success in the way the world does.) I think when we're watching the clock, we may be watching the wrong thing. Perhaps we should watch our hearts.

andre said...


I hope that didn't come across the wrong way so let me follow up with some clarity. All of us, and I speak first hand, will often look at externals like "how many hours should I be working", "what do my co-workers think?", "what does my pastor think?"

When I said, we should watch our hearts, I meant that our starting point should be honestly looking at what really captivates our hearts. Working for the glory of God isn't just a Christian "mantra" that legitimizes everything we do, it's really a command to keep our hearts from idolatry and to work for our King.

I hope that helps. Would anyone else be willing to jump in and extend the discussion with Phil?

The Armchair Theologian said...

This is nice and all and I hate to be a sourpuss, but I think before we need a biblical view of work we need to develop a biblical view of "how to develop a biblical view" (of anything).

How can we have a "biblical" view on anything without starting from, and building upon, specific texts of scripture?

Since when do we develop "theology about theology" and call it "biblical"? And what are we teaching our kids about the importance, or even relevance, of the Bible in “real life”?

Brothers, I'd suggest that the first place in developing a biblical view of work is to study the Bible and find what it says regarding work.

I'd argue that John 5:2-3 and John 14:21, 23-24 and 2 John 1:6 suggest that the way we show our love for God (at work or in anything else) is by being obedient to the scriptures (at work or anywhere else), standing firm on specific scriptural commands and pulling out a little James 1:22-25 (reading the Bible and doing what it says).

I don't mean to step on toes brothers, but when I'm at a job and people ask me "Hey Butthead! Why are you working like that? You're getting paid by the HOUR you know!", I don't respond with esoteric comments about the intrinsic value of work or how I hold to a Semitic view of labor as opposed to a Hellenistic view.

I say things like "Well, because I'm dumb and want to make God happy! You see, King Solomon was a WHOLE lot smarter than me and in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 he said that that God likes it when I enjoy my work, for that's the reason he gave it to me. God didn't give work to me for work to be a pain in the butt! Not only that, but Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tell me that God gives me my job AND the ability to even work in the first place, and in Colossians 3:22-24 the apostle Paul reminds me when I work, I'm REALLY working for God. The boss here hired me and signs my paychecks, but God gave the boss HIS job and made caused him to hire me in the first place. Even more bud, 1 John 5:2-3 says that if I love God and I want to show it, I can show it by doing what God asks me to do and obeying those other verses I just mentioned. So I work hard because God's a LOT smarter than me and I trust him when he tells me to do things because I know he loves me, and also it makes me happy to make God happy by honoring him in given 'er and working hard! Hmmm...come to think of it, now that I've said all that I think I've figured out why you hate your job! Maybe some time we can talk about that and help you learn to enjoy your work too?" (That’s the MUCH shortened version of my “Why I enjoy my job” talk. Sorry if that was rambling on and on…)

Let's be biblical when we're being "biblical"...

Just some thoughts from your friendly, neighborhood, Armchair Theologian!

phil said...

Helpful thoughts Andre. The legalist inside me certainly wants to have the rules and externals in order to measure myself by. I need to be using the measure of Christ and his word. I also appreciate Lyndon bringing scripture into the conversation (although I hope he didn't misunderstand me that I hate my job.)

I suppose I'd still like to hear some thoughts that you guys might have on this area of life. Maybe you can offer advice to a young guy who has 2 young kids and has a desire to advance in his career for the glory of God and the good of his family. In an area where many people are putting in 60+ hours a week how does a Christian balance that with being involved in the life of his family and the life of his church?

Obviously many of you don't have the benefit of knowing me personally, but what are some scriptures and thoughts that come to mind? Thanks.

andre said...

Armchair Theologian,

Thanks for reminding us to root everything we do in scripture. No arguments from me, nor I think any of the other commenters. In fact, I think that many comments like the one from Craver about God working and bringing intrinsic value to work is thoroughly biblical.

I love to hear all comments that contribute to the discussion, even if they aren't always quoting chapter and verse. Sometimes we get to understand how the struggle a little better, how someone else thinks about a situation or how to apply a biblical truth.

Having said that, you're right - when offering advice to Phil on watching the heart instead of simply the clock, it would have been more effective to tie it to scripture. So here's one that is useful to me

"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life."

Prov 4:23

Grace to you.

andre said...


Thanks for your humble response. I know that you do not hate your job - you're trying to figure out how to think biblically about balancing work/family/church responsibilities and also to labor daily with purpose.

Let me think about scriptures that you will find helpful. In the meantime, I'm sure someone will jump in as well.

Grace to you

The Armchair Theologian said...

Oh, don't get me wrong. I don't think brother Craver's comments are not useful or encouraging. I also don't want to discourage any comments.

But I did want to question us on our redefinitoin of the term "biblical", often used as a qualifier for our unsubstantiated opinions based on theological constructs and having less to do with a "built off the bible" position.

andre said...

Armchair theologian,

Thanks for your clarification and comments...and also for your encouragement to look the bible for help.

Meng said...

Hi; lots of good dialogue here. I resonate with Phil's thoughts on work and church and I think its because we've compartmentalised our lifes and "farmed out" various parts of our lifes; that make it hard to see "oneness in work and God".
Yesterday I continued the dialogue with Agora on Total Truth and someone had suggested that we continue to promote this "dualistic" mindset to our children when we farm out various parts of our lifes ie. school, sunday school but don't have any other spiritual input at home from Monday to Saturday.

If we see ourselves as spiritual beings first redeemed and filled with his spirit; whereever we are and whatever we do becomes spiritual. Each of us respond in various ways to problems at work but in the end the Spirit works in our lifes to do what is right and pleasing to God.

Does my Work matter to God?
No, I don't see how marketing the exotic solid wood flooring from China is going to make an impact in the Kingdom. (Incidentally if anyone has a big building project and needs wood flooring; let me know :>) However, i do see the opportunity in influencing my employees, my suppliers and customers for Christ as I live my life in Him.

andre said...


I don't have any need for exotic wood florring but I thank you for your insightful comment anyway. ;-)

I think dividing our lives down a sacred/secular line is a problem we all face... I've never thought about how we inadvertently train our children to do the same. But if our children interpret spirituality to be a Sunday thing and the "real life" to be what we do the rest of the week, we're "pharisees" and potentially raising pharisees as well.

If we think about our work right, we should do everything for the glory of God after 1 Cor 10:31. I think doing work "for the glory of God" is one of those phrases, so often used that it may have potentially lost its meaning with us. If we approach glorifying God with the view of doing something great for God, I think it's a wrong, possibly idolatrous view. Instead, we should seek to glorify God with this in view - to highlight the excellencies of a great God by the manner and motive of how we engage our work.

What do you think?

Jennifer said...

Greetings! I hope it's not too late to jump in here...I was sent over by Craver.

May I add my two cents worth of Piper-esque tainted thoughts? :)

I always think about "drinking orange juice to the glory of God" - talk about nuts and bolts, nitty-gritty way of thinking about "...whatever you do..."

And I could try to expound, but Pastor John did so well already. This article is one I come back to quite often when thinking about working to the glory of God:

(Pardon the long address; I don't know how to put links in the comment section.)

That's all I got~

andre said...


Thanks for visiting and I hope you come back soon. I must thank Craver for sending you this way...he must have realized that we needed help! Did he say that? Well, it's true...we do.

Piper-esque tainted thoughts are always welcome here. I'll look up the article you suggested. How did you apply the article to your particular situation? Please do tell and feel free to stop by with more helpful thoughts.

Craver Vii said...

Pshyeah! (If anybody needs help, it’s Craver; I’m so buried with work right now!)

No, Jen was just posting about the same basic topic, so I suggested she take a peek over here. Those guys are so much fun.

I wish I could take the time to read this more slowly and give a thoughtful answer, but Meng, you really don’t think your work matters to God? Is it because you’re in a non-religious work environment?

Meng said...

I see God bless my work and the company and i am sure it matters to Him. However, if you ask if I see how my products and what I do as a business daily make a difference in the kingdom; its hard...yes its probably because I am not doing religous work. However, I think as I go about the day, I am very aware of the people around me (staff, suppliers and customers). I try to be aware of their needs and their personal well being. I try to reflect the glory of Christ in the things I do or say.
Perhaps, my work is more a means of meeting and influencing people.

I hear of individuals trying to find the purpose in their work (which sounds more like they are trying to justify their work). An engineer for example, last week told me that he worked with a company processing industrial affluents. He could not see how it had any significance. A friend told him later that he was helping save the environment and that mattered to God. He felt better as he could now see that his work mattered to God. What if he worked in a brewery?

I know in Total Truth, Pearcey talks about the Cultural mandate as an opportunity for Christians to affect and change our society/culture when we seize to live this dualistic (secular/work) worldview. Perhaps I have not reach that level yet. I think there is a missionary mandate and a cultural mandate. Both are as crucial.

andre said...


I'm sure Craver will respond to your answer but I do think in some jobs it is difficult to see the connection to God's purposes. You implied something interesting when you described your friend's dilemma about his job. I think you were implying that while it's good to see the connection to the kingdom of God, it may be more a psychological device so that "we feel better about our jobs".

So are you saying that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to figure out the job/kingdom connection and instead focus on being "doing the work as to the Lord" as well as being "light and salt" to those around us. I'm not sure that it's exactly what you're suggesting but it's a provocative thought.

Craver Vii said...

Thanks, Andre for hosting, and Meng for entertaining dialog on this issue.

I guess I see the act of work itself, (striving together with coworkers toward a common goal, earning the food that we put on our table, exercising the skills that God has "wired" us for...) as a thing that pleases God, and a thing that matters to Him.

As to your question about whether your friend worked in a brewery, can he get me a discount? (just kidding)


bruce said...


Going back to your question of how does a guy with "a desire to advance in his career for the glory of God and the good of his does a Christian balance that with being involved in the life of his family and the life of his church?

And considering Andre's thoughts on 1 Cor 10:31 to "seek to glorify God with this in view - to highlight the excellencies of a great God by the manner and motive of how we engage our work" (thanks Andre that really helps me in application of the verse).

Now my question would be - is advancing in career maybe a matter of belief vs. unbelief? Meaning, if we live out 1 Cor 10:31 and any other scripture that provides us with a biblical view of our work / career, do we simply need to just trust that God will honor us, and advancement will come by His hand in His timing? So whatever balance a Christian prayerfully considers and implements with motive to desire God and priority given to advance His purposes, need only to trust in God (Ps 52:7; Ps 86:2) for His goodness and kindness regarding our careers (Romans 8:28)?

Just throwing the thought out there...

meng said...

Yes Andre, that was what I was trying to get at. Having said that, I am in the process of figuring this out and am being challenged by Pearcey's idea of a cultural mandate.

Craver, yes, I too have that definition of work....its labor! and in that case it does matter to God.

I do think sometimes we get too concern about making our work "spiritual" to the point of grasping at straws. Whatever we're doing, its ok because in the end we are in constant contact with the world, debating and dialoguing just as Jesus did when He walked the streets.

Here's a thought; 1 cor 7:20-24 Paul encourages the slave to remain in the position (job)at the time of his calling or conversion. My thought is, the vocation is not the issue, and he could be doing anything (legal of course); its the person doing the job. In fact Paul says "Don't let it trouble you, but if you can gain your freedom; do so."
The job now takes on a spiritual realm and brings meaning for the slave and those around him.

andre said...


Regarding 1 cor 7:20-24, here's how I understand the "encouragement" to the slave to remain in his position -

I think Paul's primary message to him was one of contentment and finding joy in God. I don't think that's a prohibition to seek advancement or meaningful work (in fact, Paul says to him, if you can gain your freedom, do so). However, if you cannot better your position, you need to still realize God is greater than your circumstance and that we can find joy in our work by realizing that we work ultimately for him and for his pleasure.

How that plays into your questions about the cultural mandate, I'm not quite sure.

Meng said...

What I was trying to say was that we don't have to feel bad about the job itself or if we are somehow unable to tie it to Kingdom work. Paul was driving at (as you said) contentment and joy at work and thats the key. Its the redeemed person that has changed not the job itself. So don't fret if you don't think it has a direct impact on the kingdom. That was what I was trying to say.....:>

My reference to Cultural mandate is a challenge to what I think currently as it says that while we are here, we ought to make this a better place. Our vocation and work as a Christian scientist, businessman, accontant, engineer, factory manager at a brewery is to seek to make this place better.

I may have tied myself up in knots trying to say whats in my head...:> Hope it makes some sense....

mark said...

Andre & Phil: I have not had a chance to read all the comments yet, but what stood out to me is the question of how to lead at work as we are encouraged to lead in the church. I think the underlying question Phil asks may arise because many churches do not have the importance of work on their radar the way they have other clearer issues of theology and practice. This gap needs to be filled, and I think it is largely going to be leaders already in the workplace who will do this. Eph. 4 makes clear the church should equip the saints for the work of ministry, but the disconnect is often that our "work" is not seen as part of this "work of ministry." I agree with Phil, his is a major theological question as much as a practical one. I need to run, but I have done some study in this area recently and wrote a lengthy paper on this. It is not fine tuned, but my ongoing thoughts can be found at In summary, my belief is that God's will is for everyone called to the marketplace should cultivate a Biblical vision and conviction of God’s will for their vocational calling. He wants us to experience the deep harmony that comes when all our callings under God are working together. Sin and the curse have opposed this, but Christ's Redemption will have the last word. It is easy to over-value or under-value our work, but having a Total Truth perspective (as Pearcey's book uniquely helps us do) that sees all of life under God’s sovereignty allows us to move forward in our work to engage our culture, solve real problems, become more refined as Christ-like leaders, and demonstrate the transforming power of the gospel.

andre said...


Thanks for your insightful comment. I think your point can be very helpful to someone in Phil's position. If we're earnestly seeking to do our work for the glory of God, there is a trust we must invest in God with regard to our ambitions or desires. As you correctly stated, our failure to rest may an issue of unbelief.

andre said...


thanks for your comment. I love Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth book and agree that there is much we can mine from it.

Your perspective on Eph 4 as equipping the saints for the marketplace is interesting. What would you say to someone who might argue that marketplace equipping was not what Paul had in mind when he penned Eph 4? What are your thoughts on this?

phil said...

Bruce - Definitely helpful thoughts. I think that Mark helped to define more clearly what I was trying to get at.

Meng - It's helpful for me to think about God's instruction to man in the garden as seen in Genesis 1:28 - God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." God is a worker and he has called us to mirror his character in this regard. I think that all work (that is leagal/honorable) gives us an opportunity to reflect God's character and to obey him by subduing the earth.

mark said...

Andre: Great question. I have wrestled at length about the relevance of our work to Eph 4 equipping. I think the fact that our vocational callings are often not included when we talk about "works of ministry" is a symptomatic of how much the secular/sacred divide has taken hold in the church.

Eph 4:13 makes clear the end goal of this equipping: "until we all mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." When we start there, we can easily conclude that our work is a clear and inescapable calling of God that ties into our family and church callings. When we lack a spiritual training in that area, it is hard to imagine reaching mature manhood.

Matthew Henry commented on this verse as follows: "There is a fulness in Christ...and a measure of that stature, [that] are assigned in the counsel of God to every believer, and we never come to that measure till we come to heaven." In my view, the "Divine Assignment" of God's call on our lives does not submit to secular/sacred distinctions, for God wants glory in all of life, and He uses all of life--including our work--to shape us for eternity. The church is called to facilitate that shaping with spiritual training.

I readily admit there are countless landmines for a church getting involved in the issues that its members face in the workplace. The church must always be about the gospels advance. I believe this can occur in and through the members of the church, without the church itself getting sidetracked by taking positions on the workplace issues its members face. This is why training members to have a "Total Truth" perspective about work is so important--it protects us from the secular/sacred split that ultimately says the gospel has little or no place in our work. In reality, its transforming power has major implications for every field. We Christians need to become adept enough at bringing it forward in faithful, humble submission to our corporate mandates.

I believe this is part of the "mature manhood" to which all are called in Christ.