Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The Gospel at Work BOOK CLUB

The Gospel at WorkThe Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert. Zondervan. 152 pages, 2014.

In last summer’s Calling, Vocation and Work course, taught by Professors Williams and Matthews, I got my first interest in seeing how I could integrate my faith with my work. Last week, I started a book club at work with a few friends to read and discuss The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert. My hope is that this book club will be the beginning of a local “Faith and Work Movement”.

This week we look at the first two chapters in the book. We discussed several passages in these chapters, and I wanted to share some of them with you below:
• Consequently, one of our greatest needs in the church is an understanding of how daily work according to God’s Word ties in with God’s ultimate purpose in the world.
• We in the church desperately need to see how God himself delights in work and God himself designed our work by his grace for our good and for his glory.
• At the same time, we need to see how work, as a mark of human dignity, has been marred by human depravity.
• As a result, we find ourselves on one hand overvaluing work to the neglect of our health, our families, and the church, or on the other hand undervaluing work in a culture that fosters the unbiblical ideal of laziness and glorifies the unbiblical idea of retirement.
• In the gospel, Christ himself has secured salvation from our sin, satisfaction for our souls, and significance in our work in such a way that we are now free to worship God wholeheartedly as we work, to love others selflessly in our work, and to trust God completely with our work. The gospel brings significant meaning to the seemingly mundane and provides a supreme purpose for every employee and employer on the planet.
• But if you’re a Christian, there’s another set of questions that is even more important — questions that have to do with how your work fits into God’s intentions for your life. Is my work shaping my character in a godly direction? How can I do my work, not just as a way to put food on the table, but as a sold-out disciple of Jesus? What’s the point of work, anyway, in a Christian’s life? Is there any meaning to it beyond providing goods and services, making money, and providing a living for myself and my family? And why, for that matter, does God have us spend so much of our lives doing this one particular thing?
• Nothing in our lives, including our jobs, is there simply as “window decoration.” It all fits into the great story of creation, sin, and redemption. God has a purpose for all of it.
• God’s intention, from the very beginning, was for human beings to work.
• Work is not a result of sin. From the moment God created Adam and Eve, he gave them work to do. The work Adam and Eve were meant to do was perfectly joyful, perfectly fulfilling work. Adam and Eve’s sin, of course, changed that.
• Work became painful and necessary for Adam’s and Eve’s very survival.
• Understanding that part of the Bible’s story and work’s place in it is actually crucial for us as Christians, because it helps explain why our work will always, to some degree or another, be marked by frustration. Work is hard because both we and the world around us have been affected by our turning away from God.
• Our jobs are one of the primary ways God intends to make us more like Jesus. He uses our work to sanctify us, develop our Christian character, and teach us to love him more and serve him better until we join him on the last day in resting from our labors.
• The New Testament actually makes a pretty big deal of how we should think about our work. The following passages of Scripture are crucial if we’re going to have a biblical understanding of our jobs and their purposes in God’s plan of redemption. In Ephesians 6:5, 7, the apostle Paul tells us to perform our jobs “with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ . . . Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” In Colossians 3:22 – 24, he tells us we should do so “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” “Whatever you do,” Paul goes on to write, “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
• Look more closely at what the Bible says about your job: Whatever you do, you are to do it “as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” You are to work “with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters.” Do you see the incredible significance of those phrases? Work is not just a way to pass the time and make money. Your job is actually service that you render to the Lord himself!
• Do you realize that no matter what your job is, no matter what it is you do in it, no matter who your boss is or even your boss’s boss, what you do in your job is actually done in service to King Jesus! He is the One who deployed you there for this time of your life, and it is for him that you ultimately work.
• That’s really the big idea of this book. No matter what you do, your job has inherent purpose and meaning because you are doing it ultimately for the King. Who you work for is more important than what you do. The world will tell you otherwise.
• You work for Jesus. That fact is the most important thing you can know and remember about your work.
• When glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work — regardless of what that work is in its particulars — becomes an act of worship.
• We are freed completely from thinking that our work is without meaning and purpose, and we are equally freed from thinking our work holds some ultimate meaning.
• When we get right down to it, it seems that most of the sins we face when it comes to our jobs can be boiled down to a couple of pitfalls. On the one hand, we can let our job become an idol.
• On the other hand, we can slip into being idle in our work.
• It’s enough to recognize that neither of them square well with the biblical idea that we work for King Jesus.
• Jesus, not our job, deserves to be the central object of our heart’s devotion.
• Sebastian (Seb) has been an employee, a boss, an owner, and an entrepreneur, as well as a husband, father, church member, and lay leader in his church. Greg has done many of those things as well, and he also serves as pastor of a church.
• Our hope is that this book will help some Christians to see a little more clearly why God has given them work to do and how they might be thinking about work in sinful ways. We hope this book will help some Christians forsake both idolatry and idleness in favor of a more biblical way of thinking about work as service to King Jesus.
• What does it mean when we say that a person has made work an idol?
• The trouble starts when our pursuit of enjoyment or influence or status in our work begins to make our work the source of ultimate satisfaction or meaning for us. When that happens, our work has become our god.
• An idol is something that you desire more than you desire Jesus.
• Idolizing your work, however, is more than just a bad idea; it’s a deadly spiritual danger. If your pursuit of joy, satisfaction, and meaning centers on “what you do” and “what you are accomplishing,” you’ll find nothing but emptiness at the end of that road. Deep and lasting satisfaction can only be found when our worship is directed at the one who alone deserves it — Jesus Christ.
• Our jobs become idols when we over-identify with them.
• Here are some of the most common ways we idolize our jobs:
1. Your work is the primary source of your satisfaction.
2. Your work is all about being the best so you can make a name for yourself.
3. Your work becomes primarily about making a difference in the world.
• If you give yourself to the idol of work, you’ll find it is an impossible taskmaster, a slave driver that can never be completely satisfied. It will always disappoint us and let us down. It will never finally grant the satisfaction it promises.
• Here’s the fundamental problem with letting our work become an idol: There is always more that can be done, more that can be achieved. There is always a “What’s next?” to pursue. We can always improve our work just a little more. We can always help more people, make the city a little bit better. We can always make our work a little more efficient and a little easier. The goalposts keep moving, and satisfaction proves elusive.
• Have you made your work an idol? If so, the solution is simple, though not easy: You need to repent! You need to turn from that futile and wrong way of thinking, recognize your idolatry of work for what it is, and refocus your mind on working as an act of worship to God.

1. Read and Reflect: Luke 18:18 – 29
2. Is devotion to your work a primary organizing principle of your life? What would those who know you best (friends, family members) say?
3. The chapter lists several warnings about ways we can sinfully make work an idol. In what ways do you make work an idol?
4. Making work an idol can be a subtle sin, one often cloaked in otherwise seemingly good intentions, like working hard, earning money, and so forth. Name some practical ways you can guard against making work an idol.
5. Think of a time in your life when you were satisfied with an accomplishment in your work. Maybe it was a well-written paper, a well-delivered presentation, or a completed building project. How long did that sense of accomplishment last? What does that experience suggest about the futility of making your work an idol?
6. What are the “What’s Nexts?” in your life? How can you hold these loosely?
• But the opposite is also true for many of us — we under-identify with our work. We care too little about it and find ourselves being idle in our work. Idleness literally means not working, just sitting idly by while others provide for us.

• One of the most subtle — and perhaps most dangerous — forms of idleness in our work is our failure to recognize God’s purposes for us in the workplace.
• Being idle does not necessarily mean inactivity — a lack of productivity. It can be an inactivity of the heart, an inability or unwillingness to see or embrace God’s purposes in the work he’s given you to do.
• When this kind of thinking takes hold in our minds, the results are devastating. Despondency, joylessness, complaining, discontentedness, laziness, passivity, people pleasing, score settling, corner cutting, Monday-dreading gloom — these are the fruits of being idle in our work.
• How do you know when you’ve allowed yourself to become idle in your work? What are the warning signs that you’re not grasping God’s purposes for your life in your job? Here are some common ways in which people let idle thinking creep into their work.
1. Your work is merely a means to an end, a place to serve your own needs.
2. Your work totally frustrates you.
3. Your work becomes divorced from your Christian discipleship.
• Our work is not something we do in addition to our growth as a follower of Christ. Our work, here and now, is an expression of our Christian faith.
• How would your work change if you began to approach your job as an arena for God’s glory and your own growth and discipleship? It changes everything.
• If you are guilty of idleness in your work, again, the solution is for you to repent — to turn from wrong ways of thinking, recognize your idleness in work for what it is (sin), and recommit yourself to God’s purposes for your job.

1. Read and Reflect: 2 Thessalonians 3:6 – 15; Colossians 3:22 – 24
2. Think about your current job. Are you more prone to being idle or making your work an idol?
3. How would the way you approach your work change if you truly believed each day that God had his purposes for you in your work?
4. Idleness can be a sinful response to our experiences of futility and frustration in our work. Think of a time you responded to this feeling by being lazy or resentful in your work. What can you specifically do differently next time to honor God?
5. From what we know, Jesus was likely a carpenter, Peter was a fisherman, and Paul was a tentmaker. Each was familiar with the toil of manual work. It is hard to imagine them being lazy in their woodworking, or fishing, or tentmaking. How can you think, speak, and care too little about the simple responsibilities God has given you?
6. Genesis teaches that God is a worker. He created, ordered, and designed. List four or five implications for your life based on this truth.

I encourage you to join the Faith and Work movement and read this book along with us.


The Gospel at Work Book Club – Session 2

Below are highlights from Chapter 3 “The Gospel in the Workplace”, which we discussed in our second session:

• Begin by asking yourself these questions: What difference does it make in my workplace that I am a Christian? Does it make me a more moral person? Do I have integrity? Am I less competitive than others? Do I always have a smile on my face? Is it that I’ll go the extra mile for a coworker and stay late to help on a project? This is all great! But is that all there is to it? Does our Christian faith only work itself out in our jobs in these ways? Or is there more to being a Christian who works?
• Being a Christian in the workplace means the truth of the gospel should work itself out in every detail of your life, including your job.
• The key to confronting and defeating idolatry and idleness is understanding how the gospel of Jesus cuts the root of both of these lies.
• This means our jobs can never give us what we truly want. Only Jesus can. By his life, death, and resurrection, he has already achieved for us the highest joy, the highest meaning, the highest significance, and the highest prize. When we believe our jobs can provide this for us, we forget the gospel and believe a lie.
• The truth of the gospel cuts the root of idleness as well. If it’s true that our lives now belong to Jesus, then everything in our lives has new significance — including our jobs. We are not free to “mail it in” on anything! The Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper declared, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’ ” That’s true, and it includes our lives and our jobs as well, for there is also not one spare minute Jesus does not claim as his. This means idleness is not an option for those who believe the gospel.
• If you trust in Jesus Christ’s life and death in your place — if you have given your life to him in faith — then you work for a new master in everything you do.
• If you are a follower of Christ, you look to Jesus to reorder your assignments and obligations, and he is very clear about what matters most.
• No matter what you do for a living, you are working for something different than what the non-Christians around you are working for.
• But ultimately you are in your job so you learn to love God and other people better. This is your new assignment.
• So many of the problems we confront in the workplace boil down to issues of self-worth and confidence. We aren’t saying that the gospel gives you a new self-worth. Instead, it gives you a new confidence.
• The point of the gospel isn’t how great you are; it’s how great Jesus is, and how deeply you benefit from his greatness. Knowing you are loved by God in spite of yourself turns out to be the real answer to all the things you think you need self-esteem to achieve.
• As a Christian, you don’t need to esteem yourself more highly. You have a new confidence knowing that Christ loves you — and that changes everything.
• What are you working for? The rewards Jesus provides are far greater than anything the world offers. And they last forever!
• Consider what Paul writes to the slaves in Colossians 3. Why does he tell them to work with sincerity of heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters? Because they know that they “will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:24)! If that is true (and it is), then no vacation house can compete with this reward. There’s no greater reward in the universe than what Jesus gives to those who work for him.
• Knowing that you work for King Jesus and not for other people changes the way you approach your job. You have a new master, a new assignment, a new confidence, and new rewards — all because of Jesus.
• What does this freedom look like in your day-to-day work? It means you can respond to circumstances and situations differently because your ultimate identity and reward have already been secured by Jesus.
• When you are secure in your new identity in Christ, and when you embrace your new assignment from him, you are free to stand firm amid all the nauseating ups and downs of life at work. You have anchored your soul to something that is truly immovable. And it’s why who you work for is more important than what you do.
• Let’s take a look at some of the ways that your identity as a person saved and loved by Jesus gives freedom in the workplace.
1. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to worship God through your work.
• To worship is to give God the honor he deserves. This means obeying God in every task you perform, knowing that when you do that task with all your heart, you are pleasing God. It means your attitude and aims are no longer tied to yourself and your circumstances.
• The goal of life is not how much money, power, fame, or comfort you can accrue. Rather, you desire to please God and make much of him. Even more, worshiping God in the workplace means you find yourself learning about him, seeing his work, and enjoying his presence in your job.
2. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to serve others wholeheartedly. It’s incredibly difficult to find someone who simply wants to do good to others. As somebody who is working in order to love God and love others, you can be that person. You should be that person!
• God has loved you unexpectedly and unashamedly. You can now extend that same love to others. On the job, you can love your coworkers, employees, and bosses by looking out for their good and serving them, not for your own gain or to set yourself up for future success, but simply because you love them.
• Serve and love your coworkers unexpectedly and unashamedly, because that is how Jesus has served and loved you.
3. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to trust God in your work. Even if our worst fears come true, it is because the God who loves you and is working in all things for your good has allowed them to come true. He’s not surprised by the things you worry about; he’s not shocked. He allowed these things to happen for a reason, and your response is to have faith in God in the midst of these circumstances.
4. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to rest from your work.
• Regular rest is a natural restraint that God has built into our lives. It’s a gift that reminds us we are dependent on God and allows us to enjoy the fruit of our labors — even when our work on this earth feels endless!
• Idleness in work leads us to think that rest is the only thing that really matters.
• When we idolize work, we resist rest.
• But here’s the thing: God knows your limits. He designed them. You can trust him when he says you need to rest. There are many ways to put into practice this truth about rest.
• First, set some natural boundaries. While you’re at work, be focused, efficient, and intense. Once you leave, rest from your work.
• Second, bookend your days with prayers of dependence and thanks to God.
• Third, set aside Sunday as a day of worship and rest — even if you fear that taking off an entire day will cost you profit or promotion.
5. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to do your work well.
• In doing your work for Jesus, you have the greatest intrinsic motivator you could ever have — the power of your desire to please him because of all he has done for you.
• We should do good work simply because we work for the King.
6. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to have joy in your work.
• Even if nobody notices you are working hard, he notices, and that means your work for him has eternal significance.
• Ultimately, the evidence of the gospel in our lives at work is not so much in the things we do but in the freedom we enjoy in the midst of our work.


  1. Read and Reflect: Romans 6:18; Galatians 3:26 – 29; Matthew 22:34 – 40; Proverbs 22:29; Ecclesiastes 1:2 – 3
  2. The most important thing about you as a worker is that you know Jesus. Why?
  3. In what ways have you worshiped God through your work this past month? Think of two examples — one of how you learned to appreciate God more and one in which you grew in your obedience to God.
  4. How does working for Jesus confront your idolatry of work? How does it confront your idleness at work?
  5. Reread the Great Commandment in Matthew 22. How does this commandment from Jesus change the way you should think about and relate to your colleagues?
  6. God created the Sabbath day as a day of rest. What does this say about how we should view our work?
  7. Explain the basics of the gospel. How do these truths apply to your job?

The Gospel at Work Book Club – Session 3

• We should approach our jobs as if we are working for the King, and when we do, we experience a new freedom to work with joy and diligence, neither idolizing our jobs nor being idle in them.
• Yet a question remains: Why does God want us to work in the first place? What are the King’s purposes for us in our work?
• The Bible doesn’t give us one single grand purpose to motivate us in our work. Instead, we are given multiple reasons, different motives, for working. Let’s look at some of those purposes to see how they can motivate you to do your work with all your heart.
• Before anything else, we should love God in and through our jobs. Diligent, sincere, good work is to be motivated by our love for Jesus. Your love for God should motivate you to work, no matter the particulars of what you do, “with your whole heart.”
• Just as our love for God should motivate us to do our work well, so should our love for other people.
• Do you see what Luther is saying here? God provides for our needs through the work he calls us to do in and for the good of society.
• God takes pleasure in well-ordered societies, and he is glorified when we do our part to make this happen. When we give our time and ability to making and improving society, we are doing what God intended us as created human beings to do, even if the societies we create and sustain are not themselves eternal.
• When we realize we work in order to love others, it motivates us to work hard and work well, to encourage the people who work with us, and to strive not just for our own good but for the good of those around us.
• Believe it or not, part of the purpose and motivation for your work is to reflect God’s own character to the world around us.
• In one way or another, your job somehow involves the work of bringing beauty out of ugliness, order out of chaos.
• Another way we reflect the character of God is in our exercise of authority. If you exercise authority over people in your job, do so in a godly, humble, loving, caring, and responsible way. The way you exercise authority will speak loudly to your employees, revealing not just your own authority but the way you submit to God’s ultimate authority.
• In the same way, choose to live well under the authorities God has placed over you. If you are an employee, respect and honor those who are in authority over you.
• One of the main reasons we work is so we can provide for ourselves, our families, those we love, and others. We work so we can eat.
• It glorifies God when a Christian works hard to provide for his family and to be a blessing to others. It shows others that our contentment is grounded in God, not in the things of this world or in our own advancement.
• If God has called you to do your job simply to provide for your own needs and the needs of your family and to have opportunities to bless others and support the work of the church, then he has given you a valuable blessing and called you to do a very good thing.
• Our ultimate sense of meaning and purpose as Christians should come from knowing that everything we do is for Jesus’ glory, which in turn should motivate us to work with all our heart wherever he has deployed us in this season of our lives.
• We work to glorify Jesus, no matter what we do. The Bible could not be clearer about this. And one of the ways we glorify Jesus is by our providing for our needs and then having enough left over to provide for the needs of others.
• Enjoying our work and finding satisfaction in it bring glory to God. Why? Doing so reveals that our hearts find their rest and joy and satisfaction ultimately in him, no matter what circumstances he has decided to deploy us in.
• People are pretty good at recognizing those who are more interested in themselves than in serving others, who care more about getting ahead than about loving and caring for the people they work with. If that’s the aroma you are giving off at your job right now, then you are destroying your witness to Jesus long before the gospel message ever crosses your lips. Be the aroma of Christ in your workplace. Adorn the gospel; don’t sabotage it!
• No matter what you do or how much you like your job (or don’t like it), the most important thing is to do your work in faith — faith in God and in his plan for you and for this world. So work hard, work smart, and, above all, trust God!
• So remember that no matter what you do, whether you’re a private, a cook, a lieutenant, a latrine cleaner, a trench digger, or a tank commander, it is the King himself who has deployed you to that job. It’s his call. You don’t deserve to be in his army in the first place. You deserve to be crushed by it. Wherever he’s decided to deploy you, trust him and serve him well. It isn’t what you’re doing that really matters. . . It’s who you’re doing it for.

1. Read and Reflect: Ephesians 6:5 – 7; Genesis 1:26; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 12:11; 1 Timothy 6:17 – 19; Ecclesiastes 5:18 – 20; Titus 2:9 – 10; Proverbs 19:21
2. Christians have many good, biblical motives for work. Which motive in this chapter do you currently reflect on the least often? Why is it hard for you? Pray that God will help grow that motive in your heart this month.
3. Authority in the workplace — whether you exercise it or live under it — is often misunderstood or mishandled. How does working under God’s authority reshape your attitude, whether you are a boss or report to a boss?
4. How does your specific work accomplish God’s purposes for others? Give examples for your family, your church, your company, your coworkers, your customers, and society at large.
5. Reflect on each motive listed in this chapter and reread what the Bible says about each motive. Does reflecting on these motives help your heart be more content? How can knowing and believing each of these help your heart be more content?


• How do I choose a job? What does the Bible have to say about the process of choosing a career path or deciding to pursue a particular calling in my work?
• We make an idol of choosing a job when we base our criterion for “the right job” on bringing glory and honor to ourselves rather than on bringing honor and glory to God.
• We fall into idleness when we fail to see God’s good purposes for work.
• How can we cultivate a mind-set that resists the world’s patterns and adheres to a biblical, gospel-shaped perspective? The answer is that we need to begin with God. As trite as this may sound at first, the fact is that most Christians don’t begin their job searches with God and God’s priorities; they begin with themselves.
• And what’s the right order? Well, it goes like this: Obeying and Loving God on the bottom, Serving Others in the middle, and Pleasing Ourselves on the top.
• So what does it mean, practically, to keep God’s priorities as the base of our decision making when searching for a job? We’ve developed six key questions you should ask yourself as you consider potential job opportunities.
• The first three questions are what we call “must-haves.” They’re the questions to which, as Christians, we really must be able to answer yes for a job opportunity to be a real option for us. They’re the questions that rest at the base of the pyramid. The last three questions are what we call “nice-to-haves.” They’re the questions that belong higher up on the pyramid — the things that are great if you can get them but aren’t necessary in a job.
The Must-Haves:
1. Does this job glorify God? Is what I would be doing in this job honoring to the Lord, or does it dishonor and disobey him?
2. Does this job permit me to live a godly life? In other words, will this job allow me to obey God in every area of my life, or will it mean I have to sacrifice obedience in other areas?
3. Does this job provide for my needs and allow me to be a blessing to others? Scripture commands us to be hard at work in order to provide for ourselves and our families and be generous toward those in need.
The Nice-to-Haves
4. Does this job benefit society in some way? Is this job good? Does it seem beneficial to others, to the people around you?
5. Does this job take advantage of my gifts and talents?
6. Is this job something I want to do?
• So how do you make a decision about which job to choose? Very simply, you start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up. Because in the final analysis God is in control. He is sovereign over everything — and that certainly extends to our jobs! We can place our lives and our careers in his hands, knowing he is a good and kind King who works all things for his glory and our good. He will not waste our deployment.
• So above all else, trust in God as you choose a job. Jobs are temporary; God is eternal. If it looks like you may have to choose a job that isn’t perfect for you, praise God and do it with all your heart. One day that job will end. And if it looks like you’ve landed the job of your dreams, work at it with all your heart. Remember, one day it, too, will end! Either way, you work for Jesus. You can trust he has good reasons for the work he is giving you to do.
1. Read and Reflect: 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 28:19
2. Think about your last job change. What must-haves did you have as you evaluated that job? How do those align with Scripture?
3. How does the list of considerations in this chapter influence your thinking about your next job? Your career track? How does this list compare with what your colleagues think would be the next “smart move” for your career?
4. Which nice-to-have consideration are you tempted to sinfully elevate to must-have status? Why?
5. When we consider changing jobs, our culture often encourages us to talk with a career coach, a mentor, or a professional recruiter. Those are all good things to do. What other things might a Christian do to seek counsel in this decision?
6. “Work hard, work smart, and trust God.” In what ways have you seen God’s fingerprints on your life and career?



• The area of balancing responsibilities is tightly related to the issues we’ve been discussing in this book.
• On the one hand, we don’t want to be idle at work. We can’t throw up our hands and decide work doesn’t matter. After all, God intends us to work, and he intends us to work for him. Whatever we do, we should do it with all our heart. Failing at our jobs isn’t the solution. On the other hand, we can’t declare that our jobs are of the utmost importance and be content to fail in our other responsibilities.
• We can’t sacrifice God-given responsibilities on the altar of work.
• We tend to think of our various responsibilities as somewhat unrelated to each other, like a set of balls we’re trying to juggle.
• The Bible doesn’t depict the responsibilities of life as a juggling act. In fact, Scripture is clear that we have one primary assignment and that everything else is subordinate to it. What is that primary assignment? It is our calling to follow Jesus.
• In his book The Call, Os Guinness gives a great explanation of why following Jesus must be our primary responsibility. He says it is necessarily first because as believers our lives are by him, to him, and for him.
• Do you see how comprehensive this calling to follow Jesus really is? We have been saved by Jesus; we are given to Jesus; and now we are called to live for Jesus. Discipleship to him must be our primary, overarching, undergirding assignment.
• Your discipleship to Jesus is not just one more ball flying around in your life. It is not in competition with other responsibilities. It is your first responsibility, and all others are defined by it.
• The chaos of balancing our lives begins to clear up when we understand we have one primary responsibility. Our various callings and duties in life are no longer in direct competition with one another because they are all subsumed under that overriding responsibility of following Christ.
• We will often feel the pressure of our secondary responsibilities bumping into one another, even when we understand they are subservient to this primary goal.
• For every assignment in your life, you will find in the Bible both a minimum standard for faithfulness and principles for pursuing further fruitfulness. By a minimum standard for faithfulness, we mean the basic requirements Scripture gives in an area of our calling.
• If you are failing to live up to these basic standards in one of your assignments, then you are not being faithful in that area.
• By principles for pursuing further fruitfulness, we mean those ways in which we can grow beyond this minimum expectation of faithfulness.
• On either side of faithfulness and fruitfulness we will find the two pitfalls that tend to define the sinful patterns associated with our work — idolatry and idleness. Fail to meet the minimum requirement of faithfulness, and you fall into idleness. Push beyond fruitfulness, and you fall into idolatry.
• So here’s the guiding principle: pursue faithfulness, then fruitfulness, but not idolatry. You might want to memorize that! It’s a simple way to think about how to best manage the complex assignments God has given you.
• Determine if you’re being faithful in your assignments. 2. Consider where you might be able to invest for greater fruitfulness. 3. Avoid the trap of idolatry, where you are mastered by your work instead of serving the Lord.
• What is the minimum standard of faithfulness when it comes to your family? In all honesty, it’s probably higher than you think!
• According to Ephesians 5:22, 25, faithfulness in your family is a pretty high bar: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as you do to the Lord . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
• If you have children, the standard of faithfulness is also quite high: “Fathers, . . . bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV).
• Husbands and wives can also invest in each other and their children in order to maximize fruitfulness.
• Is it possible for a person to wrongly idolize his wife or his children? Sure! There are two ways this can happen. First, if your investment of time and attention into your family causes you to fall below the Bible’s standard of faithfulness in other areas of your life, you’ve wrongly elevated the importance of your family.
• Even more fundamentally, however, Jesus himself set the threshold of idolatry when it comes to family. He said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
• If you love your family more than you love Jesus, then you’ve crossed the threshold of idolizing your family.
• What about your involvement in the church and your relationships with others in the body of Christ? According to the Bible, the minimum standard of faithfulness when it comes to church seems to be that every Christian should be meaningfully committed to the life of a local church community.
• The minimum standard of faithfulness here is a meaningful commitment to a local church — a commitment that leads us to meet together regularly with that church and be actively involved in encouraging, loving, and urging on the other members of that church.
• And yes, it is possible to turn your service and leadership in the church into an idol. If your investment of time and energy in your church causes you to default on being faithful in your other God-given obligations, then you’ve idolized the church, and you need to reassess things.
• We must guard against thinking that our ministry in the church is somehow indispensable. No matter what you do in the body of Christ, you are still only watering and planting. Only God makes things grow. Forget that, and you’ve wandered across the threshold of idolatry.
• The minimum threshold in the arena of work is to be able to provide for ourselves, take care of our families, and have something left over to share with others. That’s it!
• The threshold of idolatry when it comes to work is well-defined by Solomon when he states, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint” (Proverbs 23:4 NIV, 1984 ed.). Solomon talks about getting rich, but we can easily substitute other ideas there as well. Don’t wear yourself out to get satisfaction. Don’t wear yourself out to get influence. Don’t wear yourself out to get power. Don’t wear yourself out to get respect. Don’t wear yourself out to get stuff. If you fail to restrain yourself, you’ve crossed the threshold into idolatry of work.
1. Determine what it means to be faithful in each of your assignments.
• The world has its own ideas of what a “minimum standard” would look like for each. As Christians we should define these things from the Bible as it intersects with our particular circumstances.
2. Evaluate yourself with regard to each of those assignments and what it means to be faithful in them.
• Ask yourself hard questions.
3. Repent of any sin you discover.
• If you’ve discovered you’re being idle in one or more of your assignments, repent.
• At the same time, if you discover that one of your assignments has become an idol, repent of that too.
4. Consider where you might press forward in fruitfulness in one or all of your assignments.
• As long as you’re being faithful in all your assignments, there’s no need to feel guilty. If life is full, then life is full.
• God designed our lives so that our various assignments aren’t independent of each other. Shipwreck in one area will often mean shipwreck in other areas. But if we’re being faithful in all our assignments, we can be confident they will all work together in a beautiful virtuous cycle to increase our fruitfulness across the board.
• All our assignments are really just parts of the one primary responsibility we have to follow and honor Jesus. Keep that in mind, and you will be able to avoid both idleness and idolatry. You will also press forward in fruitfulness as the Lord gives you the ability to do so.
1. Read and Reflect: Matthew 6:25 – 34; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; John 17:6; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 10:24 – 25; 1 Corinthians 3:5 – 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:10 – 12; Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 23:4
2. Think of an example in your life (or in the life of a friend) of the consequences of being called to something rather than being called to Someone. What fruit did that confusion bear?
3. Which good responsibilities has God given you (church, family, relationships, work, etc.) that you are most tempted to prioritize over him? How can Christian friends help you counter this tendency?
4. Do you have realistic expectations about what it looks like to be faithful in your relationships with family, church members, and colleagues? Find a Christian friend this week to discuss this with. Ask each other tough questions about these relationships.
5. Jesus has first called you to himself to be a disciple. Have you allowed otherwise good responsibilities to distract you from spending time with him? Has this impacted your spiritual growth? 6. How is aiming for faithfulness and fruitfulness different from pursuing balance?


• But let’s be honest. The difficulty we perceive with our coworkers or bosses or employees often doesn’t have as much to do with them as it does with us. If we’ve been harping on anything in this book, it’s that we all have a tendency to think about our jobs in sinful and selfish ways — a tendency that extends not just to the tasks we perform but also to the people with whom we work.
• If you make work an idol, you will perceive your boss as an obstacle and your coworkers as competitors. Ungodly thoughts about work lead to ungodly thoughts about our coworkers.
• The biblical worldview we’ve been talking about in this book challenges and confronts our sinful attitudes toward our coworkers. It teaches us to think of them not as obstacles or competitors but as people — people made in God’s image and loved by him. In short, it frees us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves in a place where love is often in radically short supply — the workplace.
• Once you realize you work for Jesus and your first responsibility is to follow him, then you realize your job isn’t just about you anymore. Your job becomes an arena in which to worship and bring honor to God. And guess what? The second most important way you do that — right after loving God — is by loving other people, according to Jesus.
• In this passage, Paul challenges us to think about our responsibility as Christians to serve those who are in authority over us. One of the ways you are called to honor Jesus is to give yourself for the good of others. Your boss is one of those others.
• Because far more important than whether your boss’s eye is on you is the inescapable fact that God is watching you! Always. Whatever you do, you should do it sincerely and with your whole heart, knowing that God sees. His eyes should provide more motivation for you than a quarterly performance review ever would.
• If you treat your employees with disrespect and unkindness, you can be sure your Master in heaven sees that. If you treat them with kindness, gentleness, love, and patience, you can be sure he sees that too.
• A gospel-centered perspective on our work changes the way we think about our boss, as well as the way we think of our coworkers. We work ultimately for Jesus and should see our primary responsibility in our jobs as one of faith-fueled service. We work to love Jesus, and we work to serve others. Even if our bosses are difficult and our coworkers are mean, we are called to serve them because that brings honor to our King.
• We can identify several marks of a worker whose service is defined by faith in God and the good news of the gospel.
Mark #1: Determination Not to Complain
Mark #2: Happy Submission to Authority
• If the first mark had to do with keeping a rein on our tongues, this one goes to the heart.
• It is easy to submit when your boss is a paragon of kindness, respect, and goodwill. But when your boss is a flat-out jerk who is arrogant and self-absorbed, how you respond reveals your heart — whether you really are working for Jesus.
• If you’re struggling with a difficult situation with a boss or coworker, try this. Start praying for that person every day. Pray for their family, their relationships, their circumstances, and their challenges. Pray for their salvation. Pray, too, that you would be able to work for them (or with them), not just with resignation, but with sincerity of heart.
Mark #3: Unfeigned Humility
• The Bible teaches emphatically that followers of Jesus should be people marked by conspicuous humility. They should not think too highly of themselves. They should consider others more important than themselves. They should have the same mind in themselves that was in Christ Jesus. Though he was God, he took the nature of a servant and became obedient even to death.
Mark #4: Godly Competitiveness
• As Christians, the gospel frees us from the need to compete in ungodly ways with our peers. It rearranges and resets our ambitions. Instead of being driven merely to make much of ourselves, we’re driven to make much of Jesus in everything we do.
• Our goal as Christians is to compete with and love our coworkers all at the same time.
• How do we do that? We compete by working at whatever we do with all our heart, not by undercutting and sabotaging the efforts of our coworkers.
• Compete, but compete with honor.

1. Read and Reflect: Colossians 3:22 – 4:1; Philippians 2:5 – 8, 14 – 16
2. Because we are sinful, it doesn’t come natural to not complain or to happily submit or to be truly humble. Which mark listed in this chapter do you find the most difficult? Why? Pray that God will change your heart to be faithful and honor him through your work.
3. What does Jesus’ submission to sinful, imperfect earthly authorities teach us about our own submission to imperfect bosses, managers, and directors at work?
4. Who at your workplace is the hardest for you to love? Do you ever pray for them? Do they know you are a Christian? Do you excuse yourself from loving them?
5. What are some practical ways that you can love and serve your boss or coworkers this week?
6. Do you work with any Christians? If so, consider meeting with them to strategize about how to encourage one another and be a bright witness for God in your workplace.
We’ll continue in a few weeks with chapters 8 and 9. Won’t you join us?

Chapter 8: What Does It Mean to be a Christian Boss?

• The topic of leadership has attracted more attention from the world than any other subject we’ll talk about in this book. Whatever authority we have is derived from God. Hence, we have an obligation to exercise our authority, not just for the good of the company, but also for the good of those over whom we have authority.
• If you make an idol of your work, you will ultimately end up using your employees. Conversely, if you become idle in your work, you’ll ultimately wind up neglecting and demoralizing those you lead.
• That is not how we want to lead our employees! We should do it in a way that will honor him — which means caring for and loving our employees. We must teach them about God’s own authority and his purposes for them in their work. This is only possible when we have a deep understanding of what authority is, where it comes from, and how it can be used in a godly way. Let’s think about it in terms of six principles of authority taught in the Bible.
Principle #1: Authority Is from God
• When you use authority well, you show your employees and everyone around you that authority is ultimately a good thing, that it comes from a God who himself exercises authority with perfect love and perfect justice. How you wield authority, therefore, really says more about the God you serve than it does about you.
Principle #2: Authority Should Serve and Bless Others
• When you use authority to build up and not tear down, to right wrongs and not perpetrate them, to encourage and not crush, to work for others’ good and not just for your own, the result will be light and life in your workplace.
Principle #3: Authority Can Be Terribly Abused
• The world’s sinful abuse of authority and determine to use it for good, as God intended.
• Keep a watch over your heart. Make sure you aren’t slipping into the world’s patterns of lording it over your employees and using them for your own purposes. Don’t use for evil and selfish purposes what God intended as a source of light and life for others.
Principle #4: Authority Should Imitate Jesus
• Because we follow Jesus as King, we should strive to use authority like he does.
• If the King of the universe humbled himself to death and looked to your interests rather than to his own, how could you ever think anything less would be sufficient for you? Use the authority God has given you in the same way that King Jesus uses his.
Principle #5: Authority Should Be Sacrificial
• Godly leaders serve others. They look out for them and work for their good.
Principle #6: Godly Use of Authority Is Gospel Motivated and Grace Empowered
• That doesn’t mean we decide somehow that accomplishments don’t matter. It doesn’t mean we can’t spur one another on toward team goals and even correct and reprimand employees and coworkers when they’re not doing the job. But it does mean that when we spur our employees on and even when we correct them, we do so, not with thoughts of our own glory and reputation, but with graciousness and a genuine, loving concern for their good and the good of the team.
• The most important strategy for leading well is to cultivate a heart that really desires to do so.
• A very easy and revolutionary idea is to pray for those who work for you.
• Is there any better way to love your employees than by praying to the King specifically for them? I’ve also found it incredibly helpful to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with my employees.
• You can develop a mentoring relationship with one or more of your employees.
• Far too few bosses in the world are willing to give the time and effort it takes to serve as mentors to those coming behind them.
• Do you strive to use your authority to build others up in your workplace? Do you remind yourself every day that whatever authority you hold comes from the hand of your King? Do you therefore seek to exercise that authority as he would exercise it? Or does none of that ever really cross your mind?
• Remember that even if you’re the boss, you are one who works for Jesus. Recommit yourself to exercising your God-given authority in such a way that your King will be honored and revered, even among those with whom you work.
1. Read and Reflect: Genesis 1:28; 2 Samuel 23:3 – 4; Matthew 20:25 – 28
2. Think about those people you exercise authority over, formally or informally. It may be an employee or an intern. How did your life this past week faithfully model — or muddle — godly authority and commend the gospel to them?
3. The biblical view of authority is countercultural and radically different from the world’s perspective. What do you think are the most important differences?
4. Have you been given, or do you desire, more responsibility and authority in your work? List three or four specific ways you can glorify God through a biblical approach to authority in your own context.
5. Are you a boss or worker who only cares about colleagues for their output? Think about people who may report to you or look up to you, and list one way you can pray for each of them this week.
6. Have you ever apologized to someone in your workplace for your attitude, speech, or actions toward them? What was it for? Do you need to do so now?
Next time we’ll finish the book. Won’t you join us?

Chapter 9: How Can I Share the Gospel at Work?

• If you have made your job an idol, then likely you may not be especially sensitive to opportunities to speak the gospel to your coworkers.
• Idolatry of work will blind you. It will keep your eyes from seeing the spiritual realities around you.
• If you’ve already marked yourself as someone characterized by idleness, cynicism, and general disengagement in the daily grind, it doesn’t matter how much passion you feel when you say, “And so now I do everything I do for Jesus’ glory!” They’re just not going to listen to you. It’s as simple as that.
• Idleness in your work will destroy your credibility to talk about the gospel of Jesus.
• Evangelism isn’t the primary purpose for our work. The Bible reveals to us all kinds of purposes and motivations for our work. However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. One of the purposes is evangelism. We are ambassadors for the King always, including the time we are at our jobs.

So how can we faithfully share the gospel with people at work?
1. Just do good work as a Christian.
• When you get a chance to speak the gospel to one of your coworkers, make sure you’ve already been backing it up by being a good and faithful worker yourself.
• Practically, you can hold up your challenges at work to the light of the gospel and ask yourself how you can approach them “as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
2. Learn to put God on the table.
• Let people know in natural, easygoing, confident ways that you are a Christian.
3. Build relationships beyond the office.
• Strive to break through the personal/professional boundaries that can form between you and your coworkers.
4. Use the witness of the church.
• As you build relationships with people, look for ways to involve other Christians from your church as well.
5. Have a “mission field” mind-set about your work.
• What specific group of people has the King deployed you to work among each day?
• You could also consider taking your job to another part of the world, even places where it may be difficult for career missionaries to go. The globalization of the business world is one of the most important developments in missions in all of history.
• Workplace evangelism gets a bad rap sometimes. People assume that when you do it, it’s going to be tactless, awkward, and disruptive in some way. It doesn’t have to be that way.
• An ambassador of the kingdom of Jesus should be wise and winsome. She should look for opportunities to make it known that she’s a follower of Jesus, but she doesn’t need to be arrogant or obnoxious about it. She should take advantage of openings in conversations and be willing to defend her faith when necessary, but do so in a way that attracts people rather than repelling them. Wise and winsome is worth pursuing.
• If your definition of wise and winsome is “only speaks about Jesus when there’s no chance of offending anyone,” you may as well hang it up. You won’t find one of those.
1. Read and Reflect: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 20; Philippians 2:16; Matthew 28:20
2. Have you shared the gospel with anyone in your workplace in the past year? Ever? What excuses do you use to prevent your faithfulness to God in this area? Who at your office would be surprised if they found out you are a Christian?
3. Are there other Christians at your workplace? How can you meet with them to pray for the office or to strategize on how to be a winsome witness for the gospel?
4. Making work an idol can lead some Christians to focus too much on the tasks at hand rather than on investing in others. However, being idle can lead some Christians to fail to honor God through their work and even to poorly reflect the gospel. Have you seen either of those negative examples in your workplace? How can you learn from this? 5. Is your reputation at work more important to you than being a faithful, winsome witness for Jesus? If so, repent and ask God to change your heart so you can find joy in serving Jesus the King. 6. How is your job a mission field? Pray that God will give you an increasing vision for how he can use your job for the Great Commission.

Chapter 10: Is Full-Time Ministry More Valuable Than My Job?

• This struggle to find meaning in our work is not unique. We have conversations regularly with people who are frustrated with their jobs because they can’t see how what they do is a strategic, meaningful use of their time. They look at pastors and missionaries and think, “Now, that’s meaningful work.
• Are there some jobs that are more valuable in God’s eyes than others? Are there some jobs that are more meaningful than others? Are you wasting your time if you don’t quit your “meaningless” job and start applying at missions agencies? We think the answer to those questions is no, and we want to show you why we think that’s the case. Ultimately, the struggle with thinking your job isn’t valuable grows out of a mind-set of idleness about work.
• If you fail to see God’s purposes in what you’re doing, it’s incredibly easy to look at where he’s deployed someone else and think, “I’d rather be doing that.” On the other hand, if you’ve made an idol of your work, this kind of question will infuriate you, and you’ll respond to it very differently. Instead of feeling like your work is valueless, you’ll work overtime to explain to yourself why other people’s work is not as meaningful as your own.
• The whole big idea we’ve promoted in this book is that the value of our work isn’t finally found at all in the particular thing we do; it’s found in the fact that whatever we do, we do it for our King.
• Isn’t it a given that God values the work of a pastor more than he does a businessperson or a police officer? Well, no. God deploys each of us to do what he would have us to do, and the Bible makes it very clear that determining what he values is far beyond our competence.
• Our standards of what is valuable, of what deserves reward, are not necessarily God’s standards at all!
• We should never fool ourselves into thinking that God always honors the things we honor, overlooks the things we overlook, or values the things we value. His standard is his own.
• The best way to think about our jobs in relation to one another is not to try to determine which have more value relative to others, but rather to realize they all work together as one harmonious whole, like a body.
• Nobody who is working and making a contribution to the larger “body” of human society should ever fool themselves into thinking their contribution is not of value.
• If you struggle with thinking your own job is worthless, perhaps you should think about what would happen if nobody did the job you do.
• If you have the opposite problem and are convinced that your job is one of the most important in the world, pay attention to Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 12:21: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” Think about it.
• The same is true when it comes to our jobs in society. None of them stand alone. All of them are ordered by God to create one well-functioning body, and the roles of all of us complement and support one another. They all work together to make society work.
• The King deploys us as he wills. He puts us where we will serve his purposes best. Some he deploys as pastors and missionaries; others he deploys as teachers and businesspeople. Ultimately, it is up to him.
• Therefore, don’t resent it too deeply if you find yourself in a place you’d rather not be. This is where the King has deployed you, and he has reasons for doing so. Maybe he’ll deploy you to do something else later. You may be learning skills now that will make you more effective in your next deployment. What matters is doing the work your King has given you to do — and doing it well.
• So be encouraged. Maybe the current assignment your King has given you is not what you would have chosen for yourself. That’s fine. Consider yourself privileged and blessed beyond measure even to be in his service at all. Trust him. Trust his judgment. Trust his wisdom in how he is using you. Serve him with everything you are, wherever he has placed you.
• Discerning God’s will really comes down to what you want to do, multiplied by what you are gifted to do, multiplied by what opportunities are available to you right now.
• God hasn’t hidden his will from you, sending you out on some sort of sick scavenger hunt. No, it really is simply a matter of lining up desire, gifting, and opportunity.
• It requires you to think, pray, and seek godly counsel. It requires you to vet your desires and make sure they’re not sinful in some way, to be honest about your gifts and abilities, and to find contentment in that season when what you want to do simply isn’t available.
• It comes down to calling. What has God called you to do? In other words, what has he given you desire and ability and opportunity to do? Yes, God calls some people into full-time ministry in the local church, and that is a noble calling. He calls others to be lawyers and doctors and soldiers and politicians and sales people and managers, and those are noble callings too, because they all work together to create a well-functioning society.
• What has God called you to do? What do you want to do, and what has God given you ability and opportunity to do? We need to be asking those questions rather than trying to run some equation that will tell us, “The most valuable job on the planet is X.” No, the point is not value. The point is whether you are doing what God has called you to do — and whether you are doing it well.

Conclusion: Defining Success

• You work for the King. No matter your company or compensation, you work for King Jesus. That’s the idea we’ve been hammering home throughout this book, and once you start conceiving of your job in those terms, the ramifications are enormous.
• When you work for Jesus, the allure of making your job the object of your worship fades.
• Once you realize you work for Jesus, you also realize he has put you in your job for a reason, and therefore idleness in your work — being blind to God’s purposes and thus not caring about your job — is no longer an option.
• For a Christian, though, the definition of success really has little to do with any of those things — money, power, influence, change, a respectable standard of living. Instead, success is defined as faithfulness — doing whatever we do with sincerity of heart because we know the King is watching.
• What makes you a success is being able to stand before King Jesus one day and say, “Lord, where you deployed me, I served well. I gave it my all. I worked at it with all my heart because I was working for you, not for human masters.”
• Working for Jesus also frees us from measuring success by the results we get. Instead, we define success simply by working well and trusting God with the outcome.
• Proverbs 16 is one of the most important passages of Scripture to read, especially if you’re a driven, results-oriented person.
• We may plan and scheme and work, but the outcome is God’s to determine. What a wonderfully freeing truth that is!
• We work hard and smart. We work with all our heart. And we trust God with the results.
• Working for Jesus frees us from having to measure success by immediate rewards.
• We hope you can see how focusing your mind on the truth that you work for Jesus brings immense freedom in your job.
• We don’t need our work to provide an identity for us. We already have an identity in Christ.
• So where does that leave our work? What role does that leave for it to play in our lives? Simple. It leaves our work liberated from the impossible demand to provide something for us that it was never meant to provide and from the excuse that it doesn’t matter, and we are set free to live lives of joyful, heartfelt service to our King!

Appendix: Five Practices to Help You Live Out the Gospel at Work

• For those of you in the marketplace, I suggest you read a chapter of Proverbs every day.
• I also encourage you to pray through your calendar, your to-do list, and your workplace relationships every day. Before you start the day, pause for a few minutes to pray through the various meetings, memos, e-mails, phone calls, and interactions you’ll have.

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