This is the third blog in a thirteen part series based on “Every Good Endeavor” by Tim Keller.
I recently finished reading a book by Tim Keller called “Every Good Endeavor.” Tim Keller the lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He has a doctorate, he has successfully published many books, and was a professor. And through all of that, he has gained a whole heck of a lot of knowledge and wisdom in the area of work.
I am going to be blogging on each chapter’s main point, while inserting my own thoughts and practical applications along the way. I guarantee you will find benefit through this and if you aren’t 100% satisfied, I’ll give you your money back :)!
Chapter 2 – The Dignity of Work
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27
In ancient times many of the most well educated people believed work to be punishment, and a barrier to the highest kind of life. In mythological systems, work hindered ones ability to reach the ultimate realm and domain with the gods. If you did have to work, it was regarded much higher to work with your mind than with your hands. If you look back on ancient Greek culture, only intelligent minds were recognized. Aristotle actually said in Politics I.V.9 that “some people are born to be slaves.” He meant that some people are not as capable of higher rational thought and therefore should do the work that frees the more talented and brilliant to pursue a life of honor and culture (see EGE pg 46). While we no longer believe in slavery (well, most of us anyway)we do posses some of those very same attitudes and it is saddening.
Work is seen as a necessary evil, and the best work is work done with the least amount of effort for the most amount of money. We believe taking a job for less money and/or notoriety is below us. That really is what has pushed us into such a broken class system here in the United States.
Work as a Mark of Human Dignity
The Bible has something much different to say in this area. Work is not the result of sin or punishment but rather the product of a God glorifiying creation in which God himself worked long before the fall of man. Man also worked before the fall. God calls us to specific work based upon his will for our lives. A favorite quote of mine is from C.S. Lewis in which he says; “It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.” He hit that nail right on the head. It shouldn’t matter what we do as long as we put everything we have into it. God will ultimately produce the results.
Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives (see EGE pg 48). God worked hard with his hands, so should we. God worked hard with his mind, so should we. While many religions view God as some decorated king (which he is) or brilliant leader (which he is), he came to this earth as a carpenter to show us that the call to work is what matters and not the work itself.
What is scary in business today is that times have gotten “desperate” for many. There were owners literally willing to sell their souls to succeed. There were employees who stepped on teammates in order to get ahead. Instead of doing the best they could with what they had been given, and supporting others in any way they could, they have turned it into a survival of the fittest. Too many have gotten hurt and worse yet, few have made it out the other side. How do we resolve this issue in our work?
For starters, we must understand that creation is good because God created it, and work is dignified regardless of what work it is because God called us to it. We must realize that God created us to be very different in gender, race, and desire, but equal in value before the king.
“Food that nourishes, roofs that hold out rain, shade that protects from the heat of the sun…the satisfaction of the material needs and desires of men and women…when businesses produce material things that enhance welfare of the community, that are engaged in work that matters to God.” (see EGE pg 51)
We should desire to be amazing janitors and CEOs, to love the job as a drive-thru attendant at Starbucks just as much as the job as Starbuck’s CFO. We have the freedom to work a job that suits our gifts and passions. We can seek the job we love, regardless of the economy, because God will provide what we need. We do not have to feel less than another based upon our position.