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Part 16 in a series on The Work of Our Hands

This week we’re concluding our series on “The Work of Our Hands.” Yesterday we explored the extremes people take in their view or work: either as an idol or merely a chance for a paycheck.

Today we’re discussing why it’s so important to find purpose for our work.

Richard Leider and David Shapiro, in their book Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life, found that most people’s number-one fear is living a meaningless life. According to a recent Harris Poll, a monumental 97% of Generation Y (twenty-somethings) are looking for work which allows them to have an impact on the world.

However, it is difficult to find meaning in our postmodern culture. Douglas Groothuis, in his book Truth Decay, writes about the contemporary mood:

 The self becomes saturated, sated with possibilities, options, and preferences—yet without an inner gyroscope for direction, correction, and inspiration. When all values are constructed, no objective values are possible, no guiding ideal is available, and no taboos intrude; there are only experiments, amusements, and diversions. The postmodern self is dynamic, but also fragmented and ultimately empty of objective meaning. The self was made for better things.

In such a toxic cultural environment, Christians are also at risk for being adrift. We need to know who we are and whom we serve.

We should be crystal clear not only in our theology of salvation, but in our theology of work in the Kingdom. We need to find our identities firmly in the transcendent reality of the triune God. John Frame writes,

The Gospel, you see, is not only a message for individuals, telling them how to avoid God’s wrath. It is also a message about a Kingdom, a society, a new community, a new covenant, a new family, a new nation, a new way of life, and, therefore, a new culture. God calls us to build a city of God, a New Jerusalem.

Again Groothuis observes:

While postmodernists madly ‘reinvent’ themselves (to no ultimate end) ever more rapidly, radically, and frantically, the Christian can rest in his or her identity in Jesus Christ, his Kingdom, and his calling. As we “seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness” (Mt 6:33), our lives are brought into greater harmony with God’s truth and, therefore, into greater disharmony with all untruth, postmodernist or otherwise. In so doing, we serve as signs, clues, and rumors of God’s objective reality in a world moving toward depravity in nearly every direction.

So what does it look like to “seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness” at work?

One of the outcomes of seeking the Kingdom at work is serving the common good.  This is perhaps the most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity.

The book How the Irish Saved Civilization tell the story of how Irish monks in the Middle Ages moved out through pagan Europe, inventing and establishing academies, universities, and hospitals. They radically transformed local economies and cared for the weak through these new institutions. As Tim Keller suggests,

They didn’t set out to ‘get control’ of a pagan culture. They let the gospel change how they did their work and what that meant as they worked for others instead of themselves. Christians today should be aiming for the same thing.

Another example can be seen in the life of the 17th century Christian inventor and businessman Cyrus McCormick.  He was the inventor of the reaper, and also instituted many new principles of business which reflected his Biblical view of life.

McCormick advanced civilization and destroyed famine by fulfilling his vocational calling in business. His invention of the reaper, and the ensuing business of making and selling reapers, lay the foundation for the advancement and prosperity of America. It enabled one man to do the work of many, increasing his productivity. It also provided for masses of people to be fed.

By cultivating the talents and skills God has given us to fulfill his vocational call on our lives, we serve the common good and take part in discipling the nations. Through our work, we see His kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

How do you seek the Kingdom of God through  your work? Leave your comments here.

 

 

 

Hugh Whelchel

About Hugh Whelchel

Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of "How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work." Hugh has a Master of Arts in Religion and brings over 30 years of diverse business experience to his leadership at IFWE. Read More...

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