Work for the Good of the Cities
Last night, I looked up the dictionary definition for “work.” This is what Merriam-Webster came back with… “a job or activity that you do regularly in order to earn money.” The given synonyms are labor, toil, grind, and my personal favorite… drudgery. Wow. Sounds like Merriam is throwing some shade at work, right? Unfortunately, this is really how most of us feel… in a recent study (from Deloitte consulting), over 88% of American workers are not fully engaged in their field. In that report, Deloitte defines the most engaged workers as “passionate explorers,” noting three primary attributes: long-term commitment to the mission, seeking out new challenges, and connecting (or looking for others to collaborate on solutions).
Throughout this series on Genesis, we’ve been pointing to the fact that God’s way is different than our default. As Joe pointed out in his sermon on Genesis 2, humans are designed reflect and represent God in the world... and our God is a working God. “God made the world not as a warrior digs a trench but as an artist makes a masterpiece” (Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor). And yet, we know our world is broken, and it often feels like we are destined to scrape out a sorry existence in boring jobs that don’t employ our passions or fulfill our dreams. Is that really all there is?
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul emphasizes that each Christian should lead the life that our Heavenly CEO has “assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Think about this - whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a student, a salesperson or an engineer, God has called you, placed you, in your current vocation (at least for now). How would that idea change our approach to the drudgery? What if we came to think of our jobs not merely as a way of earning money or completing a needed task, but as a calling (!), a transcendent purpose from the Creator of the Cosmos?
Martin Luther was one of the first to catch on to this doctrine of vocation during the Reformation. In Luther’s estimation, each Christian has multiple callings, or what we might think of as “personal assignments” given to us by God. We have callings in our jobs, in our families, in our cities, and in our churches. We all play fundamental roles in the story as employees, managers, mothers, husbands, daughters, cousins, citizens, and members. Luther placed the emphasis in this doctrine not primarily on what we do, but on what God does in and through our vocations. It's not our works that save us, but God, through the Gospel, and because we are saved by grace we are free to do the best work. Tim Keller says it this way, “Since we already have in Christ the things other people work for - salvation, self-worth, a good conscience, and peace - now we may work simply to love God and our neighbors. It is a sacrifice of joy” (Every Good Endeavor).
So your work is incredibly important to us here at Cities. It’s important because God has called you to it. It’s important because society, or we might say “your neighbor,” needs your work. Let’s love our neighbors well by being good at our jobs! Let’s be humble, selfless, honest, brave, persistent, and thankful. Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world, and slide into the view of work as only "toil and drudgery." Grasp the view of work that God intends for you and seek the purpose He desires you to have. So let’s seek the good of these Cities together by employing the unique skills God has given us in service of the people around us. This reminds us of our need to confess our sins…