I have read dozens of books about work from a Christian perspective, and Dan Doriani’s book Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation is the best of them. It is theologically sound, and at times, I found it challenging. The book studies work, but he tells us that it especially aims to promote “good work”.
What is “good work”? Is all work good, and worthy for the believer to participate in? As we will see, the answer to that is no. For example, in the book, Doriani states that mindless work crushes the soul. He tells us that too much Christian instruction on work urges disciples to be faithful in the work assigned to them, but not enough people consider, “Should we be doing this work?”
Along this same line, on his program The Briefing, Albert Mohler talked about professions (law, engineering, medicine), that believers and their children may not be able to be a part of in the future. Specifically, he asked how long Christians can genuinely hold to Christian convictions and stay in the medical field. You can listen to that discussion here.
Doriani proposes that “good work” has five elements:
- Disciplined effort
- Correct social appraisal
He tells us that all honest work is holy, pleasing to God and dignified. All honest work is sacred when devoted to the glory of God. In all our work, we strive to bring credit to God’s name. No honest calling is morally superior to any other. Every morally good task has dignity, whether the laborer runs a floor sweeper machine or runs a company. He tells us that Scripture has relatively few specific rules for work. Instead, God trusts his people, guided by his Spirit, to apply the Decalogue to their work situations across the ages.
Doriani tells us that some work, while perfectly legal, is not considered ‘honest work’ – it is utterly immoral, useless, or destructive. What are some examples of work that is legal, but immoral or destructive? How about working in the gambling (gaming) industry, or being involved in producing pornography. And, as Mohler states, it may soon be difficult for Christians to enter the medical profession if they are gong to be expected to perform abortions.
What about working for an organization that produces cigarettes or alcohol? If you worked in the Accounting department of one of those organizations, would that be acceptable as a believer? What about a job that requires you to work on Sunday? What about working at a restaurant (or any other business), where the leadership consistently treats the servers (or any workers), with a lack of respect? Is it OK to be a divorce attorney? How about being an actor that has to perform sex or nude scenes as a part of their work?
Doriani tells us that large, complex businesses tend to create moral dilemmas and temptations to compromise for morally alert employees. But he tells us that we can work in corrupt enterprises, if we resist compromise, restrain evil, and promote justice.
What is your reaction to Doriani saying that we can work in corrupt enterprises if we resist compromise, restrain evil, and promote justice? What are examples, other than those I’ve listed above (gaming, pornography, etc.) of work that you would not feel a Christian should do, and why?