At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

The Call to Do Good and the Call to Work: Are They at Odds?

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Editor’s note: today we introduce Matt Perman, the newest guest contributor to the IFWE blog. He is the author of the book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. He will post periodically about the connections between theology and work and economics, and how the biblical doctrine of work can be lived out in practical ways. 

We are called to do good as Christians—in fact, the Bible makes it clear that we are called to do all the good we can.

  • Paul tells us that as we have opportunity we should “do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10).
  • Isaiah tells us to “learn to do good” (Isaiah 1:17).
  • David tells us to “turn away from evil and do good” (Psalm 34:14).

But where do we do this good?

Often, we think the biblical authors are only thinking of things like giving money, going to church, praying, attending Bible studies, and other things like these—things that we might classify as seemingly “spiritual” activities. And certainly those things are included.

But there is one area of our lives that God intends to be a very substantial arena in which we do good for others, but which we often overlook. And that area is our jobs.

We see this, for example, right in the apostle Paul’s main teaching on work in Ephesians 6:5-9. Notice that in verses 7-8 he says that in our jobs we are to render service “with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

This is interesting, because in Ephesians 2:10, Paul has just told us that the aim of the Christian life is to do good for others:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

Now, here in chapter six in his teaching on work, Paul refers to the things we do in our jobs as “good things.”

In other words, when Paul said that we were created in Christ to do good works, one of the things he had in mind was what we would be doing in our jobs! The activities of our work lives are not something separate from the good works that God has called us to. Rather, they are themselves part of the good works that God created us for in Christ.

Hence, when we are going to meetings, checking email, making presentations, writing computer code, writing blog posts, making widgets, and doing all of the manifold other things we do in our jobs every day, we aren’t just marking time. We are doing good works. These very things are among the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.

This gives new significance to our work and the things that we do every day, because it means that our work is an opportunity to serve.

We don’t have to view “doing good” simply as a separate compartment of life that we can only get to after we’re done with our work for the day. Rather, the biblical teaching on our work is that our jobs themselves are one of the chief arenas in which we are able to do good for others, serve them, meet their needs, and build them up. For Christians, there is no tension between the call to do good and the call to have a job and work.

The key to unlocking the massive purpose and significance this brings to your job is to make serving others your explicit intention in all of the things you do at work. The Scriptures say that all that we do–not just some of what we do–is to be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). This includes our work! By going about the things you do at work every day with the intention of serving others and doing them good, you begin to unlock the incredible purpose and significance that God has stored up for you right in your workplace.

How can you do good and serve others though your work? Leave your comments here.

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  • Anonymous

    First, ask if your line of work is compatible with doing good. If not, find a new career, even if it means forsaking years of training and spent money.

  • Colorado Russ

    Whatever it is, our honest employment will glorify God, if we work with an eye to His glory. Great examples are Joseph (sold into slavery, yet was a faithful and true), Daniel (captive in Babylon, yet still served God faithfully), Ammon (humbled himself before his enemies, and brought them salvation — see Alma 17:19-19:36 at http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/17.19?lang=eng#18)

    Jesus said:
    “Let your light so shine before men, that they
    may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (New Testament | Matthew 5:16)
    Solomon Said:
    “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
    (Old Testament | Proverbs 16:3)
    Paul said:
    “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it
    shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
    (New Testament | 1 Corinthians 3:13)

    Alma said:
    “Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth
    give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors” (Book of Mormon | Alma 36:25)

  • Matt Perman

    Russ,

    Thanks for your comment. Joseph and Daniel are great examples. Honest
    employment does indeed glorify God when we do it to his glory. Alma is not
    considered canonical by orthodox Christianity, so I can’t speak to that passage,
    but I would definitely want to underscore that it is exclusively the Old and New
    Testaments that are the authoritative Word of God.

    Matt

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