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Your Work Matters: A Message From Chuck Colson

Americans are rethinking work, at least in the sense of employment.  While there are many factors behind what has been called “The Great Resignation,The Great Quit,” and “The Great Reshuffle, we shouldn’t underestimate the connection between how people see work and our culture-wide crisis of meaninglessness. 

09/5/22

John Stonestreet

Chuck Colson

On this Labor Day, here are some important ideas from Chuck Colson on the importance of work.

Americans are rethinking work, at least in the sense of employment.  While there are many factors behind what has been called “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Quit,” and “The Great Reshuffle,” we shouldn’t underestimate the connection between how people see work and our culture-wide crisis of meaninglessness.

 Christian ethicist Oliver O’Donovan has written:  

“In work we make a difference to the world, not merely the kind of difference that any event must make … but a purposeful difference. In work we not only affect things; we effect things….  To work well is to bring intelligence and love to bear upon the grain of our worldly material, whether that is inert stuff, living beings or abstract relations of things.”

In other words, our work, whether physical labor or intellectual pursuits, matters. Here is a recording of Chuck Colson, from many years ago, explaining a Christian vision of human work.

“In American society, most of us spend more of our waking hours at our jobs than in any other activity. While that may or may not be a positive commentary on our culture, it’s a fact that’s got to be considered by churches and ministries seeking to equip Christians to live faithfully. Yet, in our work cultures today, most of us have been trained to separate our faith lives from our work lives. The chasm between the two worlds disturbs us, signaling that something is wrong. And this comes at a time when the single most common demographic among people in the church is work, and at a time when the culture of that workplace is most foreign to our faith.

For years we’ve lived with the belief that the real work of God’s kingdom was done by missionaries and members of the clergy. Others work to make money to support the ‘real work.’ Yet, Scripture insists that our work is good. The ancient Greeks thought of work as a curse; Christianity gave meaning to work. Work, for the Christian, is a calling. After all, Jesus grew up with the callused hands of a carpenter, and the very fact that He worked gives dignity to our work. The Reformation, as I wrote with Jack Eckerd in Why America Doesn’t Work, ‘struck at society’s dualistic view of work. Just as they saw the church comprised of all the people of God, not just the clergy, so the Reformers saw all work—sacred and secular, intellectual and manual—as a way of serving God.’

Work embraced as a calling expresses the glory of God, and it’s part of—very literally—following Jesus. Through our work God provides for us and for our families, contributes to the common good, and also gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. He has given us work as the way to fulfill His mandate to us as humans—to take dominion over the world he has created. As we work, we extend God’s reign and influence as his agents or stewards.

And the way that we take that dominion, confronting the challenges and difficulties that “go with the job,” is, in itself, our witness to the reality of God and our faith in Christ. Excellence in our calling, which the Bible calls for, makes the most powerful witness for us in the workplace. Sure, we could wait for those who are seekers and skeptics to come into our church buildings, but the vast majority never will. We could wait for them to seek out a pastor, but most don’t know any.

Now more than ever the “indigenous believers,” those Christians already in the mission fields of accounting, sales, software, construction, and other honorable vocations, need to be equipped to work with integrity and thus share their faith in actions as well as words.”

That was Chuck Colson. I hope that this Labor Day can be a sabbath from your work today.

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