Preaching on Luke 9:18-27, Chuck asked, “Who do you say Jesus is?” We may struggle to discern our calling in life, but how we live is bound to our answer to that question, the same question Jesus posed to his disciples and which Peter answered correctly (Luke 9:18-20). The Gospels portray a particular type of Messiah on a particular type of mission and we are called to follow him daily in his way. That’s the life for which we’re made.
Nevertheless, what that looks like in any given area of life requires wisdom and faith. We recently invited four of our brothers and sisters to share during the Sunday school hour how they bring their faith to bear on their own daily engagements. Chuck began the conversation by asking a provocative question: if Jesus spent most of his life in something other than full-time ministry, did he waste most of his life? The answer, of course, is no: he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Our daily work apart from (or rather, invigorated by) explicit gospel ministry is important to the Church and to God.
“It’s important to treat my customers with love, kindness, and respect,” Charlie Farris responded when asked what difference his faith makes in operating several Jersey Mike’s restaurants. “Others are made in the image of God,” Mary Joan McClure, a speech-language pathologist, observed, “No matter what conflicts arise. My faith also helps me to lead by serving.” Kyle Osborne, a call center manager for a major technology company, concurred, exhorting employers to “treat humans as humans, made in the image of God, not cogs in the machine. They deserve dignified work,” which can be challenging to find in a call center.
Rachel Betts, an attorney working for an agricultural company, lamented that, “The workplace is a reminder we live in a post-Christian world.” There is a note of hope, however, because at work “we have the opportunity to represent Christ to our co-workers.” Charlie remarked that those moments pass by quickly and are easily missed, and Mary Joan shared that she struggles to see how her daily work advances anything about the Kingdom of God. In various ways, each person revealed their struggle to feel affirmed in their work, acknowledging that there is a hierarchy of professions for the world to rank whose work is more or less valuable. It’s a matter of faith to perceive the value God himself places on work, and such faith is easily sent tottering by the challenging influences of the modern workplace.
Despite finding meaning in helping to give tools to people so they can eat, Rachel resists finding her identity in her work, which is challenging because everyone else does this. Kyle also observed our workplaces can form us in ways contrary to the gospel: our performance does nothing to ultimately save us, but at work we’re constantly evaluated based on our performance. Christian leaders in the secular workplace need to find a path that dignifies others with grace while also cultivating standards of excellence through which all workers can grow.
This was not the conversation on vocation, but a beginning of a conversation on vocation. We invite you to consider your own daily work in the context of your faith, and bring someone else along on your pondering and prayer.