Monday, October 30, 2006

The High Calling of Our Daily Work

Last Thursday while at the 50th anniversary celebration for Christianity Today magazine, I had lunch with Howard Butt, one of the founding board members for CT. Howard is a longtime champion of marketplace ministry and Christians living out the priesthood of all believers in business, work and other settings. We connected because I've written a few articles for their website,, which provides resources for people wanting to live out their Christian calling in all spheres of daily work.

Having lunch with Howard reminded me that I'd not yet blogged about their site. So here are links to some of the articles I've written for them, on topics from perseverance to anger to hope in adversity. One article I was asked to write was on "Is All Work a High Calling?" Here's an excerpt:
Christians in the workplace often wonder if what they do has eternal value or significance. Is all work in answer to God’s call? What about when work seems nonproductive or meaningless?

Let’s put this in a Christian framework. God created work to be good. God works, and we are created in His image. When we work, we reflect His divine purpose and intent.

But we also live in a fallen world. So we can’t give a blanket statement that all work is good. Some work is clearly bad. Some people’s “work” is morally wrong or downright evil. Theft and embezzlement, abortion and murder, prostitution, and drug trafficking fall outside God’s moral intent and plan.

Christians take heart that in Christ all work is redeemed and transformed. Virtually every job or profession is indeed a good and noble calling from God—and can reflect a divine purpose or intent for the world. Healthcare professionals, for example, reflect God’s identity as healer and Great Physician. Lawyers stand for justice and defend the oppressed, and law enforcement officers reflect God’s identity as judge and defender, refuge and shield. Christian judges, policemen, soldiers, and others participate in God’s justice.

Extend this to nearly every profession. Teachers and educators convey God’s wisdom and learning. Farmers, grocery store clerks, restaurateurs, cooks, and waiters participate in God’s good work to feed the hungry. Architects, builders, contractors and real estate agents help people gain needed shelter. Consider your own job and line of work. How might it reflect some aspect of God’s good character?

Let me also highlight Christianity Today's own site that is produced in partnership with The High Calling (and also reprinted that same article). And here are some further thoughts on implications of the kingdom of God for business and work, in an article "A Company? No, More Like a Kingdom":

Some people have told me to think of Jesus as my supervisor and God as my company’s CEO—and do my work to please them. Nice ideas, but for whatever reason, not helpful. Though my supervisor and CEO are both Christians, I rarely think that working for them is like working for Jesus. In fact, I have a hard time imagining Jesus as a corporate executive.

On the other hand, I often think about what it means that Jesus is king. He declared that the Kingdom of God is at hand. As Christians, we are the King’s servants. And as in medieval days, every king needs kingdom workers. Some are knights who protect the subjects. Others are artisans, craftsmen, and merchants. Some till the land. Others heal the sick. Some educate and raise the young. Some herald the king’s news. Every role is significant if a kingdom is to function effectively and the king is to rule justly. No kingdom runs by itself.

So instead of thinking of Jesus as CEO of my modern-day company, it helps to imagine myself as a medieval serf at work in a particular corner of the king’s realm. I get a better sense of how my daily job might serve my king. I am entrusted with certain work and deployed as a kingdom servant. My labor helps my king bring peace and justice to the land.

So why bring this up in reference to suburban Christianity? Simply this - being a missional suburban Christian is not just for suburban pastors or church planters. It's for all of us who live and work in suburbia. More people work in suburbia than in center cities. Most new industry is developing in suburban and exurban areas, like these tech corridors found in edge cities distanced quite some way from traditional urban areas. So suburban Christianity is not just a matter of transformation of residential neighborhoods and subdivisions - it's also about transformation of suburban commerce, industry and business as well.


L.L. Barkat said...

A high calling indeed, especially since the suburbs have this rather "innocent" look about them, which is hard to penetrate with serious efforts for change.

Yet, there are issues to be tackled... industry and the environment for instance...

Tell me, are these issues you look at in your book? Very curious.

Al Hsu said...

The book addresses a number of key dynamics of suburban life, such as commuter culture and consumer culture, and it traces some of the history and sociology of suburban development in terms of industry and commerce. Some comments on environmental stewardship issues here and there. Alas, every book is necessarily selective and I couldn't cover everything that could have been covered, but I hope there's enough material to get readers thinking about a whole range of topics!

Mark Goodyear said...

Great post, Al, but I'm not biased or anything. : )

More than any of the writers on, you really hit it out of the ballpark every time.

And that's what being a missional Christian in our daily lives is all about. We should do everything with excellence--because we are seeking to honor our king with our work.

I guess that's why the CEO metaphor doesn't work too well for me. I mean, I could become a CEO (in theory). But I could never become a king.

In my work I don't aspire to be God--except in the sense that Christ's life of excellence and service is my model. Instead, I aspire to honor God and Jesus and the Spirit in all that I do.

(I apologize for the long comment. And I'm glad you liked the Wilhelm Scream.)