By: Jason K. Allen– During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, along with other Reformers, reasserted the biblical concept of vocation and argued that God extends two calls on a person’s life. One, a general call to follow Christ; another, a call to a specific vocation, or work. We know our vocational call by gifting, ability, and opportunity, and we both honor God and serve man as we fulfill it.
Thus, our vocational lives are a key component of our Christian identity and Christian witness. And in order to glorify God through your work and in retirement, your steady productivity is imperative.
The point is not that it is dishonorable to retire. The point is that even in our retirement we are to live in a way that is productive, Christ-honoring, and given to our families and our churches. In other words, regardless of our life-stage, we are called to honor Christ through what we do and how we do it.
God has indeed made us, by gifting and by calling, for certain tasks. As we fulfill those tasks, we flourish, our families are strengthened, others are well served, and Christ is honored. We need, then, to discover and pursue our vocation.
As Keith Welton encourages us, “Our hands are the instruments of our heart. They express outwardly what we believe inwardly. Our work ought to show we have a higher calling. It ought to say that something greater than earthly reward motivates it. The quality of our work should glorify God.”1
How, then, should we view our work? How does the gospel impact our work? Let’s take a look at five keys to focus upon as we go about our work life:
1) Work as Unto the Lord
For God to be honored in our work, we have to work unto the Lord. We are to view him as our ultimate source of accountability. We, in a sense, are his employees—we serve unto him.
We glorify the Lord through our work by living out the Christian life, and its expected virtues, in the arena of our occupation. A Christian who is honest and diligent, who avoids gossip and greed in the workplace provides a sharp contrast with our dog-eat-dog world. As Marshall Segal noted, “Where you work is not nearly as important as why you work.”2
2) Cultivate Productivity
God made us as cyclical creatures, rhythmically designed for work, recreation, and rest. This pattern reminds us that we serve an infinite God, but we are finite creatures. Our daily dependence on sleep and our ongoing need for rest and recreation teach us of our dependence on the Lord and, metaphorically, of the spiritual rest we find in Christ.
Yet, we must be careful that our rest does not morph into slothfulness; that our recreation does not become a preoccupation with leisure. God designed us to be productive creatures, intentionally fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to us. That is why, oddly, productivity is a form of rest. We can identify with John Piper, who famously reflected, “Productivity is restful to my soul.”
3) Work for Pay
The Bible emphasizes the importance of working as a means to provide for ourselves and our family. We honor the Scriptures and reflect God’s glory when we fulfill this simple expectation—we earn our pay.
Why does the Bible so emphasize the importance of work and of earning one’s sustenance? Because it is good for all parties. For the individual, it enables them to fulfill God’s creative order, which gives the individual a sense of purpose, productivity, and fulfillment. It is also good for others, including church and society. If you subsidize people who simply choose not to work, you dilute the available resources for those who are truly in need: the sick, aged, and indigent.
4) Pay for Work
Not only are we to work for our pay, but for those on the other side of the equation, we are to pay for work rendered for us. Again, we are called in Scripture to demonstrate wise stewardship but also just compensation and even Christian generosity.
Our handling of money indicates much about the authenticity of our Christian witness. If we delay payment, shortchange, or finagle people over money, it undermines our testimony. Whether tipping a restaurant server or paying your own employees, let’s do so unto the Lord.
5) See Your Job as a Gospel Platform
Finally, understand that, as an adult, your job is where you spend the bulk of your daylight hours. Do not fall into the mind-set that your Monday-through Saturday life is secular, divorced from your Sunday life. Understand your work life, when lived with a redemptive purpose, is an awesome platform for the gospel of Christ.
Popular Christian author Tim Keller made this very case in his book Every Good Endeavor. In it, he rightly observed, “Christians who grasp a biblical theology of work learn not only to value and participate in the work of all people but to also see ways to work distinctively as Christians.”4
Let’s make sure we cultivate this mindset in our lives and in our work in order to bring glory to God.
Dr. Jason K. Allen serves as the fifth president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, Mo., and is one of the youngest presidents in all of American higher education. Since coming to Midwestern Seminary, he has led the institution to become one of the largest and fastest growing seminaries in North America. In addition to his role as President, Dr. Allen serves the institution in the classroom, as an associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry. More broadly, he serves the church through his preaching and writing ministries as well. He is the author of two recently-released books, The SBC & the 21st Century (B&H Publishing) and Discerning Your Call to Ministry (Moody Publishing). Dr. Allen regularly posts essays on his website, jasonkallen.com, and hosts a weekly podcast, “Preaching & Preachers,” which can also be found at jasonkallen.com. Before coming to Midwestern Seminary, Dr. Allen served as a pastor, and as a senior administrator at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He and his wife, Karen, are both from Mobile, Ala., and have five children: Anne-Marie, Caroline, William, Alden, and Elizabeth.
- Keith Welton, in his article, “Six Ways God’s at Work in You—at Work,” as found at http://www.desiringgod.org /articles/six-ways-god-s-at-work-in-you-at-work.
- Marshall Segal, in his article, “100,000 Hours: Eight Aims for Your Career,” as found at http://www.desiringgod .org/articles/100-000-hours-eight-aims-for-your-career.
- John Piper quoted in Hamilton Jr., Work and Our Labor in the Lord, 23.
- Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2012), 149.