In today’s increasingly competitive and insecure economic environment, we often question the reason for work: why am I doing this? Why is it so hard? And what can I do about it? Work may seem just a means to an end: we do it to earn the money to enjoy life outside the workplace. Here, Timothy Keller argues that God’s plan is radically more ambitious: he actually created us to work. We are to work together to make the world a better place, to help each other, and so to find purpose for our lives. Our faith should enhance our work, and our work should develop our faith.
Abraham Kuyper said: “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry ‘Mine!”. If we spend 60 hours a week travelling to and being at work then we are spending about 36% of our week at work – roughly half of the time we are awake. If that is true then as Christians we will want to be really well thought out on what the bible has to say about work and be able to answer such questions as “How does it fit into God’s plan?”, “ What is the purpose of it?”, “ Why can it be so frustrating and yet at times so satisfying?” and “Of what relevance to our work is the gospel?” These are some of the questions which Tim Keller raises in his recently released book Every Good Endeavour. Keller starts with creation – in contrast to Greek and Babylonian deities who wouldn’t sully themselves with work our God gets down to it in the first verse of the bible! God’s work is good and is part of his design. Keller shows how our work is closely linked to our being created in God’s image which gives us dignity. He goes on to look at the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28 which is about creating a flourishing society rather than just filling the earth. Keller discusses how God’s work continues by His common grace, as he sustains creation by, for example, giving us the food we need and (drawing extensively on Luther) he shows how God works through us in doing this. It is not difficult to see the application of this to lawyers. In His common grace God restrains the effects of the fall through law and governing authorities. Have you thought that you are doing God’s work as a lawyer whatever part of the law you are in? Your work has real purpose and brings glory to God when you do it well. The problem of course is that work is not now as it was first created to be. The effect of the fall on man and consequently work is that it can often be fruitless and pointless. Human selfishness can have devastating effects and the purpose of our work becomes idolatrous as we seek to serve our pride or greed rather than God, or we seek to create our identity through our work rather than in Christ. Thankfully that is not the end of the story. The gospel provides the answers to the problems of work. It gives the big picture for our lives when we are in danger of getting lost in our work. We know where we have come from, where we are going and that Jesus has been given authority over all things and will come again. No longer should we serve idols through our work because we have all we could possibly need in Jesus. We are freed to serve God by doing His work. The gospel equips us to deal with the effects of sin as we know that we, our colleagues, our clients and the world are fallen but those in Christ are sinners saved by grace; this help us cope with faith, love and hope in difficult times. The gospel also gives us a moral compass and ethics (service, sacrifice, love, grace, mercy, truth etc) by which we should live. Our motives are transformed and, to quote Keller, we are filled ‘with a new and durable inner power that will be with us through thick and thin’. This book is a ‘must’ – containing big and exciting ideas about something which occupies a large chunk of our lives but put a readable format by Tim Keller. Enjoy!
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