Category Archives: work

The Year 2020: Transformative Resolutions

Every year, millions resolve to begin a new year with commitments to personal improvement, from diet and exercise to intellectual and spiritual pursuits. These are worthy and should be pursued with hopeful realism.

In this essay, I want to suggest four resolutions that are doable, apply to all dimensions of life, and will help us empower others toward a flourishing life and community. These resolutions come in two couplets. The first concerns our inner motivations and speech and the second our personal integrity and competencies in daily work. I write these as a Christian, with a deep love for the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures that comprise the Holy Bible. These principles are applicable, however, to people of all faiths or none.

The first pair are found in Psalm 19:14 where the author desires that his words and inner meditations would be acceptable before God. Practically, this is a call for continual self-examination of our motives and speech. Do we desire to honor God and bring good to our world, or is life all about our advantage, position, or power? When we must confront issues, are we doing so with a view to peacemaking or winning for its own sake? And, in our speech, are we capitulating to reactions and vulgarity or pausing long enough to respond with kindness and wisdom?

The second duo is found in Psalm 78:72, where the writer commends King David’s leadership, noting that he shepherded God’s people with “integrity of heart and skillful hands.” As we look to a new year, this pair of attributes is a great resolution for our daily work. We are all stewards of the opportunities, relationships, resources, and tasks each day brings. Will we continually examine our motives and see how things fit together? And will we grow in our capacities and competencies and increase the skillfulness of our work? Apathy is waiting at the door to paralyze our preferred future. Active learning will help us and all around us thrive.

Soren Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish thinker, wrote a book entitled, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.” The title is the message and it sums up these four resolutions well. When our hearts and hands, intents and actions, motives and words align, we are at peace and the world is a better place.

Advent and Work: Insights from the Nativity for Pastors

Jews and Christians celebrate the good works of the Creator, from the macro- and microcosmos to the intricacies of the human person being shaped in their mother’s womb (Psalms 19 and139). Ancient Israel was encouraged to remember the works of the Lord (Isaiah 40-43) and Christians are focused the central work of Jesus: his death on the Cross and victorious resurrection (I Corinthians 15). 

The Advent story reveals three further attributes of God’s work that can help us in ours. The first is God’s motivation for the Incarnation: love. This agape disposition of desiring the highest good for others and sacrificially laboring for their welfare is the foundation for all of God’s works (John 3:16). As we go to work, do we love our colleagues and customers, even the nasty ones? God does. Do we offer our labor as worship, or merely getting by until the weekend (Colossians 3:17-24)?

The second attribute is humility. As Pastor Justin Buzzard has said in a recent article at Made to Flourish (www.madetoflourish.org/resources), humility is the one thing God honors. In contrast, pride brings divine resistance! As we go about our work, are we celebrating others, helping advance the mission apart from our position, and seeking god’s glory and the good of others? Humility is not self-hatred; it is sober reflection on ourselves and warm affection for others (Romans 12:3-8).

God’s Advent work teaches us another lesson for our daily duties: The Lord loves using all kinds of beautiful and broken people to accomplish his work in the world. Matthew and Luke’s Nativity narratives display humble women, poor shepherds, aged prayer warriors, and an overwhelmed couple willing to accept the Lord’s word in the midst of familial and social misunderstanding (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Can we see past status and learn from anyone, even helping others realize their potential at our expense?

Love, humility, and a willingness to learn from anyone will help our daily work be infused with adventure and meaning, even as we wrestle with boredom, repletion, imperfect systems, and selfish people. God is the First Worker (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 33) and he models actions and attitudes worthy of our aspirations. Practically, we can live these principles as we pray for others, model good teamwork, and encourage all around us. 

Navigating Unfairness in Life and Work

A sense of justice is hard-wired into the human psyche. Without training, a three-year-old will say, “Unfair!” We are rightly outraged at abuse, prejudice, and violence. But what about the more daily, subtle ways unfairness comes into our lives?

A colleague and I sat down with a leader and shared some of our creative thinking for a new product. We were met with condescension and kindness and the meeting ended well. A year later, we discovered that our ideas had been rebranded, and met with public favor!

Our first responses were incredulity, anger, and resignation. It was maddening to see another get credit and our efforts be ignored. We both thought, “Self-denial is hard when he advances, and we are ignored.”

It is frustrating when others are celebrated, and we feel unheard and unseen. Our first reactions are not yet sins. The next moments determine whether we wallow in self-pity or cultivate godly character. When unfairness happens, our hidden religiosity comes to the surface.

Three insights help us endure these moments. First, remembering God’s mercy in our lives helps us extend grace when life is unfair (Rom. 12:9-21). Second, we ultimately work for One Master, who will reward more lavishly that human leaders (Col. 3:17-25). Finally, God uses these moments for our transformation (Rom. 8:28-39).

Life will be unfair. But we can turn our circumstances into character development and wisdom. We do not celebrate victimhood; however, we can refuse to wallow in commiseration and chose the high road of forgiveness.