Tag Archives: work

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.

Loving our Daily Work

Most people spend most of their waking hours working. Is it possible to enjoy waking up each morning? We need a vision of work that is more than a means to an end.

Work is all meaningful and moral activity apart from leisure and rest. Paid and unpaid, labor and leadership, factory and field, home and office – it all matters to God and our world. Parenting is work! God ordained work BEFORE we fell into sin, commissioning our stewardship of the world and cultivation of creation (Genesis 1-2). Sin has corrupted our work, introducing greed and oppression, sweat and toil (Genesis 3; Ecclesiastes 4; Amos 2, 5 and James 5). 

Throughout the Scriptures, creative, diligent, and ethical work is praised. But by the third century of church history, the sacred-secular dichotomy (SSD) was introduced and “spiritual” callings and labors were deemed more sacred that “lay” or “secular” labors. Praise God for dedicated women and men called to lead the Body of Christ and initiate evangelistic and missionary efforts across the street and around the world. They are worthy of honor and financial support (Galatians 6; Philippians 1). But no member of the Body of Christ is unimportant or inferior and no good work is “secular” anymore! Romans 12:1-2 and Colossians 3: 17-24 make it clear that our whole life is worship…and since we spend most of our waking hours working, this must be an offering to God.

Friends, thank you for all your good work, seen and unseen. The Holy Spirit is preparing an awakening unlike anything we have seen for at least 200 years. And one of the keys (along with prayer, repentance, love, and unity) is recognizing that God’s mission takes place through the entire Body of Christ – most of whom work all day/week. We must close the gap between Sunday’s ecstasies and Monday’s ethics, and offer all our daily activities as worship. The same gifts of the Spirit in operation as we gather in churches and homes are available as we go out in mission…at work! In fact, we should expect more supernatural signs as we are outside of religious gatherings, for God wants all to come to faith and Jesus did not perform for religious consumers (see Mark 6 and Luke 7).

We have been involved with a variety of faith and work movements since the early 1990s and we are encouraged by the kingdom progress as ALL classes and cultures, traditions and vocations are now being honored and empowered. Charlie works for Made to Flourish (www.madetoflourish.org), where the focus is empowering pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom for the flourishing of their communities. Charlie’s work with AGTS includes leading several initiatives that integrate faith, work and economic wisdom into the curriculum and community of the seminary. AGTS will be hosting its first Faith, Work and Economics Summit on October 15 (www.agts.edu). Charlie is on the steering team for the Oikonomia Network (www.oikonomianetwork.org), a group of colleges, seminaries, and universities equipping present and future ministers with this same integration. We are honored being Board members for Vine Associates, one facet of an amazing mission lead by Brett and Lyn Johnson. They are being used by God to reimagine and refocus mission to include transforming all facets of society (see the sites: www.repurposing.biz and www.inst.net). Charlie is a Board member of Missio Alliance, another network of networks dedicated to reimagining Gospel-centered mission for the 21st century (www.missioalliance.org).  We are also participants and presenters in events sponsored by the Acton institute, dedicated to a free and virtuous society, integrating good intentions and sound economics and uniting women and men of a variety of traditions (www.acton.org)

Let’s offer our day as an act of worship, knowing that today/s discipline is tomorrow’s destiny.