The Theology of Work

Chapel 04.10.2018- The Theology of Work


This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Before I get started, I wanted to say thank you to the many people who make Chapel work. And I’ll just mention a few but our worship teams, I’m blessed by them. I know you are, but can we just thank them for their, their practice, their time, the musicianship, and all that. The guys and gals who have set up the sounds, you don’t see them but if they weren’t doin’ this, nothing would happen, so kudos to you back there. The teams that pray for people, that pray for the chapel before chapel happens and during chapel, there are intercessors that cover this. You don’t know who they are, but they do pray. Can we just acknowledge them as well? So this is my last Chapel of the year, and I had to tell you it’s a privilege to be able to open God’s word or bring a guest and interview them, but as we move towards the end of the academic year, I wanted to talk to you this morning about work and particularly a theology of work. Most of us spend about a third of our lives nearly half of our waking hours working, and we don’t think very much about it in terms of Christian worldview and what does it mean to work Christianly. Not only that but a good number of you are getting ready to graduate, that’s the rumor. Okay. Just stand up if you’re thinking you’re gonna graduate. Come on, on your feet All right, yeah! So I know that you’re, either you have jobs lined up or you’re worried about jobs, and you’re workin’ doin’ interviews. Maybe even today you’ve got some interviews. And then the rest of us, most of us are gonna be apart from mission trips, we’re gonna be workin’ jobs this summer, so it’s a big deal. I was talkin’ to somebody in the balcony and they’re gonna be at Chick-fil-A this summer, and somebody else is gonna be workin’ at a camp, and somebody else is gonna be workin’ at a local business. So we’re all going to work in different capacity, so it’s important to think straight about our work. And I don’t wanna say some things to you this morning that maybe no one else will tell you. So I speak this morning from a couple of standpoints as a president who cares for his students, I speak as an employer who is hiring people all the time and interviewing people for jobs all the time. I speak as a pastor and a father who’s just seen a lot of life.

So I wanna begin with a compliment and then a concern, all right? The compliment is when I, with my year and a half here at CCU as I do my life, get haircuts and go to a store, or meet a business person, one of the best parts of that is I had been repeatedly told that you have great students. We love hiring your students. They’re great employees and we want more of them. And that makes me kind of proud like a father, really proud thinking, way to go, students. Thank you for taking that so seriously and for creating that aroma that’s out there. That is so very good, and I love to hear it. Keep it up, all right? But I wanna share also the concern. And the concern comes from talking to employers. Employers who are construction building companies, they build houses, employers who have businesses, some big, some small. And there’s a lot of concern about a declining work ethic in our country. And specific about changing attitudes towards work that work for a lot of people these days is something to be avoided. It’s a necessary evil. So we work for the paycheck, we work for the weekend, we don’t have a higher purpose. And they worry about a decline in the quality of work, just the reliability of workers doing a job right the first time and then when it’s not done you gotta call ’em back and the all the time and headaches that takes. And they worry about a declining ethics in the workplace. So for example, we had a major retail, national retail operation contact us not long ago. The head of security of this particular national retail chain just called CCU up at random, not a random, but I mean just called us up and they exchanged some pleasantries and then he got down to the point of his call, and he said he would like to hire every student possible from CCU because he couldn’t be more pleased with all the students that he’s hired. I said, well, you know, what’s the point of the call? He said, well, your students don’t steal. He explained that merchandise theft by employees is a large and growing problem, and that it would be virtually eliminated with the workforce of CCU students. Okay, so then, there again, I’m thinking our students are normal, don’t overestimate what they are, come on, ’cause we’re all in process, right? We all screw up and things like that. But by and large that’s a great thing to hear, but hear behind it the concern, the concern about the growing challenge in the workplace. And what we may not realize is the price we pay with the declining work ethic in our country. So stealing drives up prices that we end up paying. Recently I had a friend who went to a pharmacist and most of the time things are great, but this particular time the pharmacist didn’t do his work. He got his ratios wrong instead of being 1:100th, he did a 1 to 10th and gave a drug to a friend of mine who almost died of heart failure. Big mistake. The bridge collapsed in Miami. There were some big mistakes made by engineers that caused a lot of pain and death. A home seller who covers up flaws of the house that you’re gonna buy, and then you’ve gotta make up for it and to deal with it all. A lot of headache. A nutritionist, which we experience in our family who prescribed the wrong medicine at a hospital for my nephew this year, and we almost lost him. So let me ask you, how do you feel about an airplane mechanic who works on the plane you’re gonna travel home with but he’s cutting corners? Mmm, not too good. Or about a restaurant worker who ignores the standards of cleanliness and he’s preparing your meal? Doesn’t make me feel too good. Or the surgeon who adds a surgery that you really don’t need but he wants to make his budget? This stuff happens out there, and it’s terrible when it happens, and it’s terrible when it happens to you. So we have a major concern with what this does to people but I also have a concern just what this does to our society. America was long regarded differently by the rest of the world because of the way we worked. Our fore bearers had a preference for product and consumption. Hard work was considered one of the values that built our culture to be a strong culture. And sometimes it was described as the protestant work ethic.

So we’ve talked a lot about the 500th anniversary of the reformation this year but the reformation’s great doctrinal contributions, one was justification by grace alone through faith alone, and Christ alone. Another is the authority of Scripture, the supreme authority of Scripture, but a third reformation doctrine was the doctrine of vocation that everybody, not just clergy are called by God to do a good work. Martin Luther was called a great theologian of vocation. And the reformers like many others in the church have emphasized that Jesus saves us not by our works but by His work, but we’re saved for good works. And the reformers then talked about how we are to do good works, the priesthood of the believer they talked about and then they said, everyone, not just the clergy or those who have holy callings, everybody under Christ has a holy calling and we’re to do our work well. And so Martin Luther would say, everyone is called changing the diaper of a baby, he said, his holy work. The needle, the fimble, the scales of the desk, the kitchen, these are altars on which we serve God and serve our neighbor. And that thinking was picked up by the puritans in New England and they helped create a culture that emphasized worshiping God and working to the glory of God in whatever area that God happened to give to you. But over time that vision was secularized. It became something like Yankee ingenuity or rugged individualism. Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac kinda secularized it. You still have the value of working hard but the spiritual Christian background was stripped away. And then over time, it was further secularized into just a simple work ethic, not a calling, and then a job, and then a drudgery. And so you see, books on shelves today about the four-hour work week where work is kind of something we wanna basically avoid because it’s not that important, or we have this empty dream of a long retirement, then I can tell you from so many friends, that long retirement without meaningful work is pretty empty. And so we see that work has been downgraded as sometimes as a necessary evil. Sometimes it’s just a spice, and so I wanna give you briefly a biblical theology of work and then draw out some practical implications and guidelines for you as you think about entering the workforce. So first, a brief a biblical theology of work things that you shouldn’t forget but we often do. Number one, God is a worker. You go back to the very first chapter in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, five words into the Bible we find that God is a worker. God created the heavens and the earth. This is the first mention of work in the Bible. God dignifies work at creation. He creates, He says it’s good. At the end of the week, He says, what a great week. He loves His work. Creation is good. So we start with the fact that God is a worker. Second part of the Biblical theology of work is that human beings were created to be workers. So God ordained this. It’s part of His good design. So you are created in His image in part to be a worker. And so He gave this good job to us and said, basically, as the first Great Commission, and you find it in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 2:15 where God says, I want you to have dominion over all the earth or Genesis 2:15, the Lord took the man and put him in the garden to work it and to keep it. This is your job. He gave them a mandate. Sometimes this is called the Creation Mandate where God wanted you to rule over your part of the world for Him and under Him, and He said this is very good, cultivate it, make it great. So you’re created to be a worker. And by the way, what brings the most satisfaction to life is working in production, not necessarily consumption. We’ve kind of twisted it all around. And God gave the pattern that we should live by. He said, don’t work all the time. Six days do your work, the seventh day take a rest. Take a break or you’ll self-destruct. This is My good plan. And so then you see His plan unfold. And the reformers would sometimes talk about how God works through our work in hidden ways. So for example, we’re to pray daily for our bread. Jesus said that, right? Give us this day our daily bread. The reformer said, well, how do we get our daily bread? Well, it comes to us through professions, callings. There’s a farmer who sows it. There’s a marketplace person who sells it and it’s collected. And in our world there are truckers who ship it, and bankers who finance it, and investors who keep the whole thing going, and quality inspection workers. All to bring that bagel that you have to your table in the morning. So God, Luther said in particular, God works through hidden ways and uses vocations of other people in ways that are often invisible to us to bring us what we need, but each one of those people are called to be part of bringing us our daily bread, holy callings. Holy callings. But of course when you think about a Biblical theology work, we realize that the fall affected our work, so work is no longer as God originally intended it as we read in Genesis 3:17 and following. Sin corrupted everything. Everything. And work no longer brings the fulfillment that God intended. So sometimes work can be abused. It can be squandered. It can become a means of exploiting people or can lead to alienation. And work is under the curse as well. And you read about it in chapter 3, where the great callings of farming and procreation are now filled with painful toil. But interestingly, work is still an expression of the image of God. You go a little bit further into this Biblical theology work, what happens next? Well, you have creation, you have fall, and then comes the good news of redemption. There’s a redeemer named Jesus Christ who brings things back together that were broken, and one of the areas that He brings back together is this area of work. He brings new dignity to work. He restores all things including work. And so you have Him appear on this planet and grow up as the Son of the carpenter, and He becomes a carpenter. And He dignifies the carpenter’s shop. The incarnate God is a worker. Think about that. And then His greatest work is on the cross, which we’ve sung about this morning and we celebrated this past few weeks, where He dies on a cross. He does this substitutionary atonement. He dies for you and for me for our sins so that we can be forgiven, so that we can be reconciled with God and with one another and with our world. And His work on the cross is the greatest work ever. It’s celebrated in the Scripture. We highlight it. It’s part of His work of restoration. But that’s not where things stopped because He changes every sphere of life as it’s touched by His redeeming grace. And then He calls people who are redeemed to be people who do good works, or as Paul says were created in Christ Jesus for good works. And so then what are we to do? We’re to have this new outlook about work as redeemed people. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says, whatever you do, eating, drinking, whatever, do it for the glory of God. Colossians 3:23 and 24, you’re to work as if serving Christ. Whatever you do, work hardly as for the Lord and not for man. We’re to work serving other people and blessing them through the works of our ends. So you see in redemption, Jesus changes things. He’s starting to bring them back together, and it has a huge effect on our work life. So you have creation, fall, redemption, but then you think of the fourth part of the Biblical worldview consummation and when we look to the future, which includes a new heaven and a new earth, and you read the Book of Revelation, what are the saints gonna be doing? Well, they’re not gonna be sitting around playing harps on clouds. That’s a figment of somebody’s imagination. What they’re gonna be doing is they’re gonna be reining with Christ forever and ever, Revelations chapter 22. That involves work for the lamb, exploring. The new heaven is a new earth reigning over it with Christ. We can’t even imagine what that involves but at least it involves holy, wonderful, incredible, amazing work. So work is part of the prefall plan of God and it’s part of the new heaven and earth plan of God, and therefore when we hear these cynical attitudes in our culture saying work is a necessary evil, a Christian should at once just say wait just a second. Wait a second. That’s not so. It’s something that we need to embrace because it’s God’s gift to us for being fully human. So in light of these things, okay, so I wanted to just give you that theological frameworks. So as you approach your new job or your summer job, you’re not just thinking, ugh, thank God it’s Friday, but you’re approaching your work in a Christianly way with a Christian mind in a way that will truly glorify Christ. And you’re not compartmentalizing your work into a category which has nothing to do with your spiritual life, as sometimes we have done, but instead you’re saying, I need to work under God for the glory of God and the blessing of people.

All right, so now let me get really practical. So in light of this, how should you approach your work? Here, I wanna get, I’m not looking a text and verse, I wanna speak from my own experience as someone who hires people and is interviewing people all the time. So about eight steps to distinguish yourself in the workplace in the days ahead. Number one, do not despise hard work, work hard. Bring a different attitude and ethic to your job. Don’t get sucked into the cynicism of our times. Value hard work. Do not despise hard work. Do not despise physical labor. It’s good. It’s very important. By the way, do not slip into the racist attitude that this kind of hard work is for immigrants. That’s just crazy. But many people are moving in that direction. There is virtue in hard work. And thank God for hard working immigrants. Learn to be a hard worker. Don’t whine when you start having to work hard. Go for a day’s work for a day’s pay. Have a nose to the grindstone attitude, a get-it-done attitude as you approach your work. Your job is a privilege. An employer doesn’t owe you a job, it’s a give given to you. It’s yours to do what you want with, but take this biblical attitude and work hard. Secondly, think calling. Think calling. So what I mean by that is work for a higher purpose. Your calling is not just to fill orders at a Chick-fil-A, it’s to glorify God and to bless the people who are coming in and to serve them by doing something good. One of my favorite stories in the reformation was the way that people took this idea of glorifying God and they started to apply it everywhere. So Johann Sebastian Bach, the brilliant musician, started to compose his music. And he would put the little initials SDG at the bottom of his compositions, meaning Soli Deo Gloria which meant I am writing this and composing this and making music for the glory of God. That’s how I’m working. And you’ll find in Europe that these initials, SDG, Soli Deo Gloria or “to God alone be the glory”, were started to be, Bach actually carved it into some of the organs that he played on, but you find it in public buildings, in taverns, in churches, where it just became sort of a motto that we’re working for a higher purpose. We’re working for the glory of the One that we serve, not of our own glory, but we’re working to praise Him and to bless others through Him. So think calling. You are called as a worker. You’re not just doing the job, you have a calling. Thirdly, show up. Show up. Be consistent in your job and faithful. One of the most important parts of work is just showing up. It sounds simple, it sounds crazy, but showing up and doing the job till it’s done. It’s really important. You know I’m a baseball fan. And one of my baseball heroes is a guy named Cal Ripken Jr. Cal Ripken, I saw him play and then he retired, but he played with the Baltimore Orioles. He was a great shortstop. Unstoppable as a shortstop. He was a nine-time All Star. He was elected to Hall of Fame but the thing that he was known for is that Cal Ripken had a streak of 2,632 consecutive games played, and that’s the record in baseball. It will probably never be broken. He just kept showing up. In fact that’s the motto over his career: Cal showed up. When he was sick, when stuff happened in his life or with his family, he was still showing up, because he made a commitment to at work. And there’s something about showing up at work and being consistent that is part of integrity in the workplace. So my advice to you if you wanna distinguish yourself, just keep showing up, because a lot of people don’t. Okay, advice number four, start small. Start small. You’re probably gonna start with a small insignificant job. You may complain about it. Don’t, it’s a great place. Start small. If you pastor church, it’s an advantage to start small because people notice all your mistakes. It’s great. You don’t wanna start in a big church. If you start doing work at FedEx or McDonald’s or whatever, don’t complain, just do a great job. I’ve seen so many people and they keep waiting for the ultimate job, and they say no to all these startup jobs and then they end up having no job. So start with something and build a record. That’s what you do with your first job. You build a record of consistency and faithfulness and good work. Something you might wanna try in the summer as you encounter older people is ask somebody you respect who’s older and say, tell me about your first seven jobs. It’s a really good question for our conversation, ’cause they’ll love to talk about it. But you’ll learn how interesting are the jobs that led to them doing what they’re doing, and the faithfulness in these little jobs.

So my first job was working on a farm picking beans in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I work there for a summer. My father shipped me away. He said you need to learn hard work, so I want you to go to this farm. You’re gonna work with this farmer. And we’d get up at four in the morning. On mornings we’d go to market. And on days when we weren’t on market, we would pick beans or do produce and then get them ready, and pack the truck and then leave and the same thing over and over again. It was really hard work. That was my first job. My second job was as a music store clerk, just selling guitar picks and instrument rentals and things like that. My third job was as janitor at a beauty parlor I mean, it was grungy. It was toilets, the works. It was stuff that I’m glad I learned to do that kind of thing. It was grungy work. My fourth job was just a landscaper, to just cut lawns all day. My fifth job was to work at a construction site to clear the site of all the garbage that was there. My sixth job was to work in a warehouse, to move boxes around. My seventh job started to have, I was a radio producer of a radio program. And all that was before I was a pastor. But these were the insignificant, quote, “insignificant jobs” where I learned basic lessons that prepared me to be a pastor, to be a church planter, to eventually be a professor, to lead a seminary, to lead a university. So don’t despise the day of small things, folks. These little jobs, treat them seriously and do them well. Okay, number five. Just, again, these are steps to distinguish yourself as you become a good worker. Integrity rules. Integrity rules. Integrity, integrity, integrity. The most important characteristic of anybody who comes to work for you. So if I’m looking to hire somebody, the very first thing I’m looking at, the biggest thing I’m looking at is character and integrity because it’s the core of who you are. Warren Buffett, the famous investor said, I look for three things in hiring people, the first thing is integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is high energy level. If you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you, Warren Buffett. Interesting. And when I hire people too, I have a list of things I look for, and every employer does. And character is at the top of the list. Other things include competency and your capacity to work and chemistry with the people who are there and your ability to work with people, and things like that. But integrity rules. Do not ignore that in your life now. Number six, when you work, if you wanna distinguish yourself, pursue excellence. That is you do a job and you do it well the first time. You stand out by doing excellent work. There’s a great story about Martin Luther where he met a man who’ve just become a Christian through his ministry, and this man was eager to serve the Lord, so he asks Luther, he says, what can I do, how can I become a good servant? What should I do? And he was assuming that Martin Luther would say, well, you should quit your job and become a minister or a monk or a missionary or something like that. And Luther asked him, he said, well, what do you do now? And the man who just became a Christian said, well, I’m a cobbler, I make shoes. And Luther said, well then make great shoes and sell them at a fair price to the glory of God. Do excellent work for His glory. Whatever you do, do it as for the Lord, and do it to the very best of your ability. Do it right the first time. And by the way, that includes when you’re in a job seeing what needs to be done and doing it. Not just waiting around for someone to tell you what to do but to see what needs to be done. If a floor needs to be swept or if somebody needs a ride, you take the initiative. It’ll distinguish you from all the other people. Do excellent work. I’m told that in the CCU School of Business, they have a motto that goes like this: The calling card for Christ in the workplace is competence. The calling card for Christ in the workplace is competence. That’s good. And they say, if you’re competent, people will take you seriously. They’ll listen to you. They’ll listen to you say about your faith as well as other things. If you’re not competent, you will lose your sway in the workplace. So again, once again, excellence. If you’re gonna be a Christian worker, one who does good works, one who works well under Christ, do excellent work. Commit yourself to that, not mediocre work. Okay, two more and then we’ll close. Number seven is prepare now. Start thinking about your future job now. So if you’re gonna interview, do your homework on the company, on the job. If it’s an online interview, oh, you can learn, I learn so much from watching these online interviews of perspective employees for my office. And if they can look you in the eye and speak with confidence, it tells you something. If they’re kinda looking all around and it tells you another thing. I’ll tell you who gets the job. Be careful, by the way, with what you put online. Because what you put online with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, it follows you. Be careful. now, again, I’m a Boomer telling mostly Millennials this, so take that into consideration. But be careful with being overly frank online, because everything you put online will follow you. The Internet will keep a permanent record of them. You have an electronic footprint that will never be washed away and employers can check it out. So be discerning about how you deal with that online world. And in a highly competitive workplace, little things like that can catch up with you. And then finally, a final step to distinguish yourself if you’re gonna be a great worker is start here at CCU. In other words we have this department at CCU called EMS, employment management services, and they provide links to employers right now so that you can get jobs right now with over 200 companies from Fortune 100 companies to Colorado owned businesses and start doing work part time by building your resume, so that when you graduate, you can have several jobs on your resume and the words of several employers saying, you gotta hire this person, ’cause they’re really, really good. And so that’s one of the blessings of CCU that CCU offers and that will set you apart from others. And we’ll also allow you to pay down some of your debts. EMS, check it out. If you haven’t, please do. It’s an opportunity waiting for you. One of my sons who graduate at CCU had three jobs through EMS. He was thinking about becoming an architect, so he worked for an architectural firm, and he realized after working there, I don’t wanna be an architect. That’s fair enough. Great! But then he had other things on his resume that lead to his great job afterwards. So these are things, friends, that will give you a stairway to distinction when you work, so you will not only get those comments but you’ll be hired and you’ll have a job that you love and you can work hard at, and bless others with because you are designed like I was to be a worker. It’s just your calling. So don’t run from that, but embrace it. And we will be cheering for you especially those of you who are about to graduate as you enter the workforce. We’re so thankful we’ve had the privilege of having a part in your life, giving you a foundation, but we anticipate what God will do through you as you live out your calling in working for His glory. Let’s pray. Father God, thank you so much for just the wisdom.

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