At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Your Work and the Call to Community

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In a recent Relevant article, Curt Devine sums up a dilemma that many Christians – especially young professionals – face:

We often sacrifice depth in friendships, closeness to family members and commitments to local organizations and churches for the sake of adding lines to our resumes. Sometimes this takes the form of moving to new cities to start new jobs, but other times we simply overwork ourselves at the expense of the most important relationships in our lives. Sure, we have ambitions…but at what cost?

You’ve all seen the stereotype: the successful businessperson who wakes up and realizes that he or she has no real relationships with family members or friends.

It’s a situation that none of us wants for ourselves.

But at the same time, God calls us to glorify him through our work, and sometimes, pursuing excellence in this area means that we have to invest less time in the people around us – or even leave our communities in order to follow the opportunities.

So as Christians, how do we best serve God? Do we choose the professional excellence or the meaningful relationships? Is one more important than the other?

God Calls Us to Pursue Both

Too often, we emphasize the tension between investing in the workplace and investing in community. Sure, that dilemma is real and legitimate. But God calls us to both, meaning that we should seek some sort of balance.

Devine says,

None of us should trade friends and family for jobs, but in an age of global opportunities, we should feel the freedom to chase our dreams, so long as we do not isolate ourselves in the process. As a poet once said, “No man is an island.” Wherever we go and whatever we do, we should seek community and willingly make sacrifices to foster depth in our relationships.

The tension between work and relationships becomes insurmountable when we forget that both are just aspects of the Christian life. God calls us to follow him first and foremost, and we seek meaningful relationships and professional excellence because of that calling. In his book, How Then Should We Work? Hugh Whelchel states,

Our obedience to our primary calling to Christ can be seen working itself out in these four secondary callings, which are the call to the human family, the call to church, the call to community, and the call to vocation.

For instance, professional success tends to be my priority because I know that God can really use me through the work that I do. The problem arises when the work becomes an idol – when I let my secondary vocation (my work) take priority over my primary calling as a Christian.

For example, when I was still in college, I realized that my job search was replacing my prayer and devotional time. Moreover, I was taking my stress over my career path out on my family and friends. My aspirations had turned to idolatry, and it was time for my priorities to shift.

Likewise, the call to cultivate great relationships in my family, church, and larger community is no excuse to become lazy or complacent in whatever work God has called me to do.

Seasons in Life

The author of Ecclesiastes was right: there is a time and a season for everything. If you feel like you are focusing a lot on one aspect of your calling as a Christian, know that this balance will shift depending on what stage of life you are in or where God is calling you to be in that particular time and place.

Since we live in a fallen world, we will often have to make hard choices and tradeoffs between work and community. If you are having a hard time deciding how to balance your life, it may be helpful to consider where your heart is, whether you are seeking guidance from God and other people, and how your decision will bring glory to God.

Early in your career, you might sacrifice a stable, long-term community for the flexibility to move around and get different experiences. Or you might find yourself working extremely long hours with little time to develop relationships outside of your work. There’s nothing wrong with that.

As Matt Perman notes in his new book, What’s Best Next,

The fact that someone is working a lot does not make that person a workaholic. Some people really enjoy their work and want to work a lot. This is not in itself workaholism. Sometimes it is the path God has placed before us.

But there’s also nothing wrong with passing up a professional opportunity that might tear you away from your church, family, or community.

In the end, God created us as unique individuals in his image. As such, we each have unique contributions to make to the world. As long as we are seeking to do everything to the glory of God, the way we balance work with church, family, and community is going to look different for every single person and situation.

How do you balance work and relationships? Leave your comments here.

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