In Risky Gospel (Thomas Nelson, 2013), Owen Strachan urges Christians to live a life of bold and joyful risk secure in the knowledge that no matter how tough things get or how much suffering there is, those who are in Christ are already “more than conquerors” and have gained everything one could ever need or want. In his chapter on building “risky vocation,” he discusses how we ought to approach our work and calls us to “work hard wherever you are.” I thought his words below were excellent advice, especially for younger people – whether Christian or not – trying to launch their careers in a culture that too often stresses finding fulfillment in “dream” jobs at the cost of the kind of commitment and stability that can really pay off.
“In different ways, we’ve been trained to think that our work isn’t important if it’s not the song of our hearts, the soundtrack to our souls. It’s great to connect your work to your passions…but let’s be honest: this is not always possible. Furthermore, it can be pretty tricky to pull this off while young. If you’re trying to get a career started, your best bet is to get started and work hard.
“It’s that simple.
“This may mean that you’re in a field you do not enjoy, frankly. But just working – especially a full-time salaried position if you can get it – will bring tremendous stability to your life. Find work where you can, and do it to the best of your ability. Don’t be like some today who set themselves up for disappointment by not really seeking anything definite, or by only lunging at their dream job” (127-128).
Companies that restrict or limit employees’ ability to use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter during work hours are understandably trying to reduce distraction that results in waste and inefficiency. As studies have shown, however, such policies turn out to be counterproductive, because workers who surf the Internet or use social media for reasonable amounts of time while at work are generally more productive and effective.
Now let me be honest: This is a finding which I’ve enthusiastically pounced on as a way of justifying my social media habits while at work. The fact is that there are still many days when I would be more productive if I spent less time on these sites and more time in focused, extended stretches of work. But this is something I’m conscious of and getting better at, so with that admission aside, I’d like to share below how Matt Perman puts this in his excellent and wonderfully practical What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014). I especially like what he says about how having and using online networks can help workers in today’s “knowledge economy.”
“For self-motivated people, time spent on Facebook is actually productive. It is productive for building networks and spreading truth. Both of these build people up, and thus increase productive capacity.
“Research bears this out by showing that employees with extensive online networks (such as through Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth) are actually more productive than those without them.
“Facebook and other online networks and interaction help us refine, spread, and gain ideas. These are three core competencies in the era of knowledge work” (249-250).
When’s the last time you went out of your way at work to help someone?
When someone at work asks you for a significant favor, do you first think about how doing this favor will help you advance your own interests?
Are you frustrated because your boss or co-workers don’t give you the recognition you think you deserve?
In the theologically-grounded and practical book The Gospel at Work (Zondervan, 2013), Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert show why being accepted by Christ means we really are free to serve and do good to others at work without expecting recognition or personal gain. They write:
“It’s incredibly difficult to find someone who simply wants to do good to others. As somebody who is working in order to love God and love others, you can be that person. You should be that person! Why? Because all that you really need is already secured for you by Jesus. It’s nice to be appreciate by your boss and respected by your peers. But everything you think you need that appreciation and respect for – affirmation, love, acceptance, a sense of well-being, future reward – is already yours in Jesus. You are freed from having your identity tied to what people think about you. You are free to serve them without an agenda” (53).
A wise friend recently gave me a book titled Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Dutton, 2012) by Timothy Keller (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and author of the excellent and highly acclaimed The Reason for God). I haven’t read many books on integrating faith and work, but Keller’s may be the most complete book on the subject. Keller not only expertly brings Scripture to bear on our experience with and approach to work, but as can be expected from him, he also draws on insights from literature, philosophy, current events, and popular culture in ways that resonate with his readers. Below is an insight that struck me, particularly as I am at the critical point in life where I am about to launch my career, having recently graduated from college. _______________________________________________________________
“[Competency at work] is a form of love…if you have to choose between work that benefits more people and work that pays you more, you should seriously consider the job that pays less and helps more – particularly if you can be great at it. It means that all jobs – not merely so-called helping professions – are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs” (79).