What do Christian architects, a contractor, an international relations coordinator, a marketing photographer, a musician, a preschool administrator/teacher and a psychotherapist all have in common? As Christians, we know that we can be “salt and light” in the workplace sharing with non-believers our faith in Jesus Christ whenever that rare opportunity arises. But is that the main purpose for being at our work? Down deep inside us it seems not only do we want to know that our work matters, now and maybe even for all time, but ultimately we ponder if our work is one of the main reasons we were created?
These topics and more were at the heart of a lively discussion of the book, “The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work” by Darrell Cosden during a recent Vocare dinner at the home of Chris and Morna Comeau. As we seek to understand the purpose, meaning and worth of our work, the author asks us to ponder,
“Is a relationship with God a “purpose” in itself? Or does it also make other things possible?” (p. 79) Is it possible that, “Our everyday work (whether paid or unpaid) actually matters and makes a difference—not just in the here and now, but also for eternity. Work, and the things that we produce through our work, can be transformed and carried over by God into heaven.” (p. 2)
Assuming this premise, which the author supports widely with scripture, we all considered just how that might play out in our lives. Does our work add on to what God already created, thus further creating, similar to the regenerative and ever expanding growth of nature? Or rather are we not so much co-creating but slowly discovering what God has already created as it is revealed through us? Furthermore, since we are redeemed but still in the fallen world, are we not working in an ‘in between’ state that hinders our full potential and explains our foibles similar to that of a ‘super hero’ burdened by the constant presence of kryptonite. If in this state, we look on all that we have done and can declare only ‘some’ of it good, what will become of the parts we don’t like, our mistakes? Will they be redeemed, restored, transformed? We hope so in some way. Are we also called to make judgments about what will last so that we invest our time in worthwhile endeavors. Though sometimes we can’t see with our earthly eyes the eternal significance of our work, maybe we can recognize a created order and strive for excellence within it. One thing is for certain, change is constant and we must work for positive change allowing our work to reflect redemption.
So then, if we were created to create, and our work, in some form, lasts for ever, how do we keep our work from being derailed and suffocated by our own selfish egos? Knowing that an unhealthy inflated ego is based in the fear of being considered insignificant, it is important to remember that we pursue excellence not for self-worth, but for the Kingdom of Heaven, and it begins under Grace.
The starting point for a spirituality of work is the security of knowing that God in Christ accepts us as we are—and therefore we don’t have to justify ourselves to anyone—God or people… Experiencing this freedom will, in turn, allow us to get beyond our obsession with ourselves and allow us to give ourselves fully to our work, and through this, to others. P 105
As our lives image God, so should our work, performed with integrity and humility, glorify God while edifying and inspiring man for the good of all creation. And so, much like the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach, we work, we create for now and for all eternity, Soli Deo Gloria.
Luther Weber is an architect in the Washington D.C. area.