So what difference should the Gospel make at work? Or to put it another way: What difference does it make in your workplace that you’re a Christian?
Is it simply about not using your company card for personal expenses, not getting drunk at company parties, and not sleeping with your co-worker? Does being a Christian at work mean that you’re a cheerful and generous person, having a smile on your face all the time, and being willing to stay late to help a co-worker? Or does being a Christian at work mean that you’re always trying to share your faith with your co-workers or that you hold a weekly Bible study in the office?
A Christian in the workplace is not less than those things, but it is certainly more than those things. The Gospel doesn’t just give you the power to be a “good person” at work. It also gives you the power to do your work in a new kind of way. In other words, the Gospel doesn’t just impact how you behave as a person at work — it also impacts how you actually do the work itself.
For us who believe the Gospel and are being renewed by it, the Gospel gives us freedom when it comes to our work, and it does so in 3 ways.
1. The Gospel gives us freedom from our work
As Christians, we don’t need our work to be the source of our identity and self-worth anymore. The Gospel gives us our true identity that is separate from our work.
One of our temptations as sinners is to make an idol out of work, which means that we tend to look to our work to tell us that we’re significant, that we’re special, and that we matter.
In Every Good Endeavor, Pastor Tim Keller shares a quote from a young doctor who said, “For many of us, being productive and doing becomes . . . an attempt at redemption. That is, through our work, we try to build our worth, security, and meaning.”
But if you work for your identity and self-worth, then your work will be enslaving and exhausting, and it will burn you out. It will never end because you will never be able to “work enough” to know that “you truly matter.”
But the Gospel frees us from that lie that our work gives us worth. We know that we matter because we matter to Jesus. When we see Jesus loving us, when we see Jesus going to the cross and laying down His life for us, and when we see Jesus losing everything so that He can gain us, we know that we matter to Jesus. It is not our work that secures our worth. It is Jesus’ work for us that secures our worth.
2. The Gospel gives us freedom in our work
Another temptation we have concerning our jobs is to be idle in our work. We are tempted to believe that our work isn’t important or that it doesn’t matter, and so we don’t care about our work or how we do our work. Our jobs can feel like a chore we don’t want to do.
But the Gospel gives us freedom in our work — to do our work with joy and with our whole heart. It does this by giving us a new Lord for our work.
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance of your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
This means that even if we do not love our work, we can do it with all our hearts because we are doing it because we love the One for whom we work.
For example, growing up I never did the dishes. I didn’t have to do it as a chore and I hated having to do it as an adult. But when I got married, I started doing washing the plates and chopsticks. It wasn’t because I suddenly loved washing bowls and spoons. But I did it because I loved (and still love!) my wife, and I knew it made her happy and feel loved.
I still don’t enjoy doing the dishes, but I do love the person that I do it for. Because I know it brings joy to my wife, it enables me to clean pots and pans with joy. In the same way, when we remember we are doing our work for Jesus, the One whom we love, then we can do our work with all our hearts, even if we don’t particularly like the work itself.
3. The Gospel gives us freedom for work
Our culture gives us false or incomplete stories for our work. One story is that we work so that we can make a name for ourselves and become important people who matter. Another story is that we work so that we can earn a living and pay the bills, and perhaps working so that we can spend our money on the things that we really want.
But the Gospel gives a better and nobler story. It says that our work now is the primary way that we get to obey the Great Commandment, which is to love God and to love our neighbors. By doing the work that God has given us to do, we are loving God as we obey and serve Him. In addition, we are loving our neighbors because our work is the primary way that we are a blessing to others.
When we do our work to the best of our ability, we are serving, blessing, and benefiting others — directly or indirectly. So the Gospel frees us to what we were created to do, which is to love God and our neighbors, and we get to do that through working our jobs!
When you do your work with all your heart, and when you do your work with excellence, you are loving and serving your neighbor well, and you are contributing to the common good, and you help human flourishing.
Think about this: If everyone did their jobs with all their hearts and with excellence, with great joy and pride, do you realize how much more human thriving and human flourishing there would be?
Christian, may I ask? How does your work help others? How does it bless and benefit others? How does it contribute to the common good?
Think about your answer. And don’t stop thinking until you come to a clear answer in your head! You have to be able to make that connection in your mind between your work and how it serves others. Because it is only when you see how your work helps and blesses others that will you be able to see that your work is your primary ministry — as the main way for you to love your neighbor and to promote the common good. Let the truth and power of the Gospel into your work life, and let it change you and how you do your work. It will free you and restore your joy!
Owen Lee serves as the Senior Pastor of Christ Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville, VA. He received his BA in Rhetoric at U.C. Berkeley and his M.Div at Westminster Seminary, CA. Before his call to serve as the Senior Pastor of Christ Central in 2012, he served as the English Ministry Pastor of New Life Mission Church in Fullerton, CA from 2000 to 2002, and then as the church-planting pastor of New Life Mission Church in Burbank, CA from 2002 to 2011. He is married to Margaret, and they have 3 children together- Abby, Caleb, and Lizzy.