At Work & Theology 101

Building Businesses that Glorify God and Create Flourishing

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Almost all of us can remember a time in our lives when God, through his Holy Spirit used something, a comment from someone, a scene in a movie, or a couple of lines from something we are reading to radically impact our lives. One of these seminal events happened to me over 25 years ago, and it has shaped much of what I have done since.

The arena in Orlando, Florida, was packed with over 5,000 businesspeople attending a one-day motivational conference. I was there with a number of my salespeople from work to listen to some of the day’s most excellent, inspirational speakers, including General Colin Powell, Dick Vitale, and Tony Robbins.

One of the speakers asked, “If you went home tonight and found that a long-lost relative had died and left you ten million dollars, would you be at work tomorrow?”

A resounding “NO!” came from all around the arena.

Thinking back, I really don’t remember who made the statement or anything else they said.  What I do remember is thinking this would be a chance to do something significant with my life, something important to God. Maybe go to seminary and become a pastor, maybe go out on the mission field. You see, at that time in my life, I saw no connection with what I was doing with my work in business and what God was doing in the world.

If you had asked me, “what are you doing that is important God,” I would have answered, “I am an elder at my church, teach adult Sunday school and work with several non-profit organizations.” The idea that my vocational work mattered to God never crossed my mind. I believed that as a Christian, I should work ethically and take every opportunity to share my faith. Beyond that, I saw no connection between my faith and my work.

Like many Christians, my work was only seen as a means to an end. This unbiblical narrative was compounded by what is now referred to as the sacred/secular divide, which teaches that working in the church is the only “real” full-time Christian service. Even at that moment, I knew something was wrong with this picture.

Doing Good through Work and Wealth-Creation

This artificial division between sacred and secular has not always prevailed. The Reformers taught that all labor is noble if it is accepted as a calling and performed “as unto the Lord.” This truth has been dramatically lost in both today’s church and contemporary culture. In his book The Callings: The Gospel in the World, Paul Helm says:

Work is part of a Christian’s calling…. This Biblical idea has had a profound influence in Europe and North America since the Reformation but has largely been forgotten, due to the eclipse of the influence of the Christian gospel from national life.

My problem was that I mistakenly saw the church’s function as a benefactor to the broader community only by bringing the message of salvation. The early church saw themselves with a more significant role, as a community of people called to serve and better their community. This had ramifications well beyond just sharing the gospel.

At the beginning of the third chapter of Titus, the Apostle Paul reminds us to “be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1). He then goes on to reaffirm Gods saving grace toward us “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” He also writes of how, because of Christ’s sacrificial love for us, “we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Paul ends this section with the following astonishing statement:

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:8)

While doing good certainly means “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), it also means more. This passage demonstrates that the early church saw themselves as a community of people called to serve and better their community. This speaks to what I did not understand 25 years ago; even the workplace and the purpose of wealth creation is important to God if it is used to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom. As every believer uses their time, treasure, and talents to serve their city and extend the reign of Christ through a practical demonstration of his love in all the work we do, we find true purpose and significance.

The Avodah Forum

Christians who run businesses today have the opportunity to build companies that bring flourishing to the communities they are called to serve. They have the ability to create financial, social, and spiritual capital and then reinvest it back into the communities they serve. For the businessperson, this is what “doing good” looks like, and it is “excellent and profitable for everyone.”

We want to introduce you to a new product offered by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics called The Avodah Forum. It is designed to help Christian business owners to ensure that their organizations are “excellent and profitable for everyone.” We invite you to learn more and consider applying here. Don’t wait as space is limited and our fall group will begin in September.

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