7 Ways to Connect Faith and Workby Al Erisman | February 1, 2020
Here are 7 ways to connect faith and work. None of them are meant to be pitted one against another, or to prioritize one as more or less important.
As this applies to technology, we might also think about the different ways we interact with technology:
- As a creator
- As a personal user
- As an organizational user
- As a leader of an organization
- As a member of society at large as we see the global impacts
How do we as members of one or more of these segments, interact with people from another segment?
How does a creator think about the impact on individuals, or society? How does an organizational leader think about the creators, the impact on persons, and on society, etc. etc.?
Even though these lists may be incomplete, I think it is helpful to have some kind of framework when considering how people of faith connect with technology.
7 Ways to Connect Faith and Work
Many of those with whom we work will never go to church. But our being the presence of Christ in our world includes sharing faith with those who need to know Christ. How we do this requires care, because we are being paid by our employer to work, not to preach. But there are wonderful ways to do this even in the most hostile environments.
This deals with how we live our lives at work before God and before others. Far too often, our actions drown out our words unless the two are consistent.
What does it look like to live out the life of Christ before others?
Ethics is an important part of this category at personal, organizational, professional, and societal levels. This is not just the ethics of compliance, or the ethics of avoiding bad behavior; this is the ethics of doing good, which we call the ethics of mission control.
Beyond ethics, this category also includes treating others in the workplace with dignity and respect—whether colleagues, customers, bosses, or others. In addition, Christians have the opportunity to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit and the values of Jesus, bringing joy and hope in challenging situations. And, of course, it includes faithfully doing high-quality work.
We work in service to others. Jesus calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Paul writes to the Philippians, “in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
Every aspect of our work, from internal and external relationships to the effect of our products and services on others, deals with treating others as image-bearers of God, with dignity and respect.
This category deals with bringing meaning and purpose to the work itself.
Is the work we do of intrinsic value to the Kingdom of God, or is it only a means to some other end?
The first two chapters of Genesis form the basic foundation for our work in the world, and make it clear that God has invited us into his work of developing and shaping his world. Bringing meaning into our work and understanding the importance of the work itself is a vital part of connecting work and faith.
We work as stewards— caretakers and developers—of a creation that belongs to God.
God has designed and gifted people differently in order to play a variety of roles doing his work, as illustrated by the body of Christ. These different gifts can be used by God in diverse areas of work.
Finally, if God has called us to do this work, then there is eternal value to the work of our hands, and we can expect to find continuing work in eternity.
What are the economics that come from our work—for ourselves and others? The Bible has a great deal to say about our economic mandate to create goods and services.
First, we work to provide for ourselves and our households. Second, we work to generate a surplus that can be shared with others, especially those in need. Generosity should characterize the Christian at work. Third, we may have the opportunity to develop businesses that create employment for those in need of work, and in this way respond to God’s call to care for the poor.
Of course, there is work we do that is not paid, and so in this one area it may not apply to all work. We should also recognize the problem of focusing solely on the economic return from our work (that is, working only for money), as this focus impacts us and those around us.
6. Character development
This category recognizes that through our work, we are shaped by God and grow spiritually.
Sometimes our work is just hard. Difficult work environments, tasks, and relationships, and unfair evaluations can make work painful. And sometimes success at work can create pride equally devastating to our character. Through these times God’s grace can be demonstrated to others through our actions.
Many people in the world have little choice about the work they do—and often have difficulty finding work. This, too, shapes us spiritually.
This deals with work as a part of a whole life, not as the only thing we do. As Christians, we see the importance of our work, but there remains a danger of focusing on our work and missing out on other aspects of life, including our families, leisure, health, corporate worship experiences, and time alone. Work and Sabbath are intimately connected in the fourth commandment.
Some talk of work/life balance, but this is wrong on two counts: Work is a part of life, not a separate category, and balance will not be achieved in a fallen world. But whole-life integration can call to attention the need to make choices between needed work, rest, time with family, and so many other things. We depend on God for these choices as well as carrying out the work we do in other categories.
While these seven categories represent different aspects of connecting faith and work, they work together. We need them all. For example, an unethical person at work (2) who is not generous (5), cares little about others (3), and who works all the time and does not care about his family (7) would not be the best person to share his faith (1). Similarly, it is hard to bring hope in challenging situations to others (2) if you do not believe the work that you do is meaningful (4). Growing through the challenges (6) is also visible to others (3) and is supportive of evangelism (1).
One other danger: we might be tempted to prioritize these categories, making one more important than another. This is a trap. God has called us in all of these areas.
Check out the Theology of Work project for more on connecting faith and work.