At Work

Three Books to Guide Your Spiritual Formation on Faith & Work

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This week marks the completion of my first month at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. I have seen that the energy and passion of my colleagues to promote flourishing through work runs deep.

Not only do I have the pleasure of being IFWE’s communications fellow, but I also have the joy of working here within the larger scope of the Capital Fellows Program. This nine-month program for recently graduated college seniors explores the integration of faith and life through weekly seminary classes, roundtable discussions, internships, mentoring, community-building, and service. The goal of the program, to quote our professor Dr. Steve Garber, is to learn what it means to live a “coherent life.”

While a myriad of words could describe these two fellowships, the foremost adjective for the Fellows year is “formative.” My heart and mind are being fundamentally transformed.

In particular, my internship at IFWE and my Capital Fellows experience provide complementary insights into the Christian view of work and life. Threads of vocational theology are especially evident in the Capital Fellows reading assignments. From murder mysteries to systematic theologies, concepts of faith and work abound in the Fellows treasury.

Take a look at what theology of work reading is on the Fellows bookshelf!

Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame

While a book on systematic theology may not immediately pique your interest, what Frame describes in his book is anything but dry.

Salvation Belongs to the Lord centers on the supremacy of God’s lordship. Frame highlights three overarching aspects of God’s nature: control, authority, and covenant presence. This stunning reminder of God’s complete omniscience and omnipresence brings meaning to everything, even the email inbox. Whether or not the specifics are easily articulated, every aspect of work matters to God. He is already there.

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

This mystery novel was assigned for our Reading the World and the Word class taught by Dr. Steve Garber. What could a murder mystery possibly have to do with faith and work? A lot, actually.

Dr. Garber challenged our class that having knowledge inherently implies a responsibility to act on that knowledge. Just like Lord Peter Wimsey in Sayer’s novel is obligated to act on his knowledge of “who done it,” Christians cannot ignore their understanding of the broken world.

We may prefer to turn our heads, but we have responsibility to bring about restoration. In his grace, God allows vocation to function as a vehicle for accomplishing this renewal. What a gift God gives in allowing us to work alongside him to accomplish his perfect purposes!

Learning in Wartime by C.S. Lewis

Lewis originally delivered this article in the form of a sermon to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. In it he addresses the disquieting question, “How can [one] be so frivolous and selfish as to think about anything but the salvation of human souls?”

Perhaps this thought has occurred to you as well. Certainly, I have pondered this question. Lewis goes on to answer,

There is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities.

This is the message of Scripture that IFWE maintains. All work matters to God. There is no divide of the sacred and the secular.

While acknowledging all work can be equally glorifying to God, Lewis asserts that each person is designed for specific callings. He writes,

A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow. We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation.

It should come as no surprise that Lewis’s argument supports IFWE’s teaching. This is because truths of vocation and stewardship are not just pet ideas of think tanks and scholars. They are biblical wisdom for real life.

There is no coincidence in the threads of vocational theology being woven into so many distinct genres of writing. God made man in his image. As he created us, so we also imitate him in creating through work. Dorothy Sayers says it well in her essay Why Work? :

I asked that [work] should be looked upon – not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.

In the spirit of Sayers, may you work today doing well those things that are well worth doing.

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  • Char B

    “Learning in war time,” one of my favorite Lewis essays. The Dorothy Sayers quote is new to me, and so good: yes, man should make things as God makes them, for the sake of doing well what is well worth doing.

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