Category: Vocation

retired-workAs Christians in the modern economy, we face a constant temptation to limit our work and stewardship to the temporal and the material, focusing only on “putting in our 40,” working for the next paycheck, and tucking away enough cash for a cozy retirement.

Such priorities have led many to absorb the most consumeristic features of the so-called “American Dream,” approaching work only as a means for retirement, and retirement only as a “dead space” for recreation and leisure.

Yet as retiree Glynn Young reminds us, God never intended for our work and stewardship to end or sunset as we get older. Though our “day jobs” and economic activities may conclude, there is always plenty of work to be done:

As the time approached for me to seriously considering retiring, I discovered something: retirement is not a biblical concept.

Moses led the Israelites until he died and God buried him somewhere in Moab. David was king until he died. Paul and Peter continued their ministries until they were martyred. Even the Apostle John, exiled on Patmos, the only disciple who (it’s believed) died of old age, was still working, writing down the vision given him.

The Bible has no retirement road map. But it does have a concept that applies to retirement in the twenty-first century, and that concept is stewardship.

(more…)

image1We live, work, and consume within an increasingly grand, globalized economy. Yet standing amidst its many fruits and blessings, we move about our lives giving little thought to why we’re working, who we’re serving, and how exactly our needs are being met. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” feels more invisible than ever.

In response to our newfound economic order, big and blurry as it is, many have aimed to pave paths toward more “communitarian” ends, epitomized by recent waves of “localist consumerism,” “artisanal shops,” and “social entrepreneurship.” Such efforts can be tremendously fruitful, and insofar as they meet real human needs, we should heed their resistance to blind marches toward “progress.”

I only wish that such movements would appreciate the broader range of possible solutions. The slow and local is all well and good, but something as mundane and mainstream as a local McDonald’s can serve community needs just as well as the trendy mom-and-pops of the future. The big and global is not necessarily the enemy of the small and local.

As Chris Arnade demonstrates through a series of stories, for many low- and middle-income areas, “McDonald’s have become de-facto community centers and reflections of the surrounding neighborhood,” offering a hub for the very sort of social fabric-weaving that crunchy communitarians crave. (Note: I was an employee and then shift manager of a McDonald’s during my teenage years.)

One can be resistant to the nutritional risks of the food — just as I remain resistant to the budgetary risks of overpriced “artisanal donuts” — and still perceive the value that such enterprises bring to local communities everywhere: economic, social, and (dare I say) spiritual. (more…)

When it comes to basic definitions of work, I’ve found great comfort in Lester DeKoster’s prescient view of work as “service to others and thus to God” — otherwise construed as “creative service” in For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

Our primary focus should be service to our fellow man in obedience to God, whether we’re doing manual labor in the field or factory, designing new technology in an office or laboratory, or delivering a range of “intangible” services and solutions.

But alas, in an economy as gigantic, complex, and information-driven as ours, it can be all too easy to feel like robotic worker bees or petty consumer fleas, isolated and atomized as we toil and consume in a big, blurry economic order. The layers of the modern economy tend to conceal this basic orientation, and thus, many of us could use some reminders.

In his latest profile for Christianity Today, Chris Horst highlights an area where work’s universal ethos of service is abundantly evident: the hospitality industry. (more…)

daniellionsdenRuberns (1)We have routinely pointed to Jeremiah 29 as an introductory primer for life in exile, prodding us toward faithful cultural witness and away from the typical temptations of fortification, domination, and accommodation.

As Christians continue to struggle with what it means to be in but not of the world, Jeremiah reminds us to “seek the welfare of the city,” bearing distinct witness even as we serve our captors. We are to “pray to the Lord for it,” Jeremiah writes, “because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The Biblical examples of how this actually looks are numerous, and in a new post at The Washington Institute, Thomas Kent draws our attention to one of the most prominent:

The story of Daniel teaches us that it is possible to live a faithful life even during exile in a pagan land and amidst a culture antithetical to God’s law. As if spurred on by Jeremiah 29, with competence and character, Daniel contributes with “an excellent spirit” to the prospering of Babylon. Other high officials, jealous of Daniel, “sought to find a ground of complaint against Daniel with regard to the Kingdom”, but they could not because Daniel was faithful. When thrown into the lion’s den, God delivered Daniel and protected him because he trusted in God. As Christians in the marketplace, we must approach our work in the same fashion: we must strive to be faithful and we must trust God.

(more…)

missions-globeChristians have routinely accepted a range of false dichotomies when it comes to so-called “full-time ministry,” confining such work to the vocation of pastor or evangelist or missionary.

The implications are clear: Those who enter or leave such vocations are thought to be “entering the work world” or “leaving the ministry,” whether it be for business or education or government. To the contrary, God has called all of us to minister to the lost across all vocations, and to do so “full-time.”

With the rise of the faith-work movement, the problems with this type of vocabulary have been helpfully exposed, and the underlying attitudes and imaginations are beginning to shift. What’s less discussed is how such a view can trickle into the world Christian missions and global aid.

This is most evident in the realm of “short-term missions,” which have become a core focus of ministry for many churches and school. I recently highlighted some helpful tips on avoiding a “messiah complex” in such scenarios, a temptation that the broader culture continues to peddle and promote at every turn. As we enter and experience new cultures and socio-economic realities, particularly in short-term and limited timeframes, we should remember to be learners and disciples, even as we preach and bear witness to the Gospel. (more…)

Kuyper-Ons-Program-freedom-conscience1As persecution intensifies around the world, and as the incremental fight for religious liberty only begins here in America, Christians have an obligation to better understand the role of religious liberty and how it intersects with God’s design for political institutions.

Unfortunately, as a recent video from John MacArthur demonstrates, the confusion is more widespread than I’d like to believe.

“We can’t expect religious liberty to exist as some kind of divine right, as some gift from God,” he says. “…We were never promised religious liberty. We were only promised persecution.”

MacArthur goes on to paint a confusing and convoluted picture of the Christian’s role in government, arguing that, when it comes to the erosion of religious liberty here in America, it simply “doesn’t matter” because “our political conditions have nothing to do with the advancement of the kingdom of God.” “We don’t fight for quote-unquote ‘religious liberty,’” he says. “We might talk about it. We might vote to make it happen. We don’t fight for that.” (more…)

digging“Martin Luther probably did more than any Protestant to establish the theology of work many Christians embrace today,” says Dan Doriani. “Like no theologian before him, he insisted on the dignity and value of all labor.”

Doriani highlights many of Luther’s positive contributions to the theology of work, but warns that it can lead to confusing “work” and “vocation”:
(more…)