Jun 7, 2016 · Courtney Jacob
Work and Identity
Our culture clearly places a high value on work. Whether hourly or salaried; employed, self-employed, seeking employment, stay-at-home or not physically able to work, we all encounter cultural biases based on our work that threaten to define our value. Culture places so much emphasis on work, we often find our identity intricately entwined with how culture views the work we do.
Our culture also seems to have an obsession with the concept of work ethic. Just this morning, I heard a caller on a radio proclaim, “You have to work for what you want! If she’s not going to work, she doesn’t deserve a sugar daddy!” Just about every phrase in that declaration stirs up stereotypes based on cultural expectations related to work and work ethic. Culture has stereotypes for people who work too much, people who work too little, people who choose not to work, people who can’t work, and more.
Because of this intense cultural pressure, our work often occupies a substantial amount of our time and thought. But do we ever stop to think about the definition of work? What qualifies as work, and who is deciding how much work is the right amount? Our culture’s answers to these questions often do not take into consideration individual circumstances or the amount of control individuals have over their circumstances.
It’s no wonder then that when our circumstances no longer align with our culture’s expectations or when we move into a new phase of life like retirement or stay-at-home parenting, we’re sometimes left with an identity crisis, searching to define ourselves and affirm our value.
The Intersection of Faith and Work
But is this cultural definition the standard by which we should assess our work, and more importantly, develop our identity and sense of value? As Christians, we need the constant reminder that our faith informs every aspect of our lives - even our work. Our faith is part of our life 24/7. It does not stop and start when we walk through the doors of work. Clearly embracing the intersection of faith and work in our lives takes effort on our part. We must be sure our definitions and understandings of work reflect God’s perspective as presented in scripture.
In our Groundwork seriesWork Faithfully, we seek to do just that by turning to both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures to answer questions like:
Is work the result of sin?
How does God define work?
What is God’s perspective on the purpose of work?
Does my work matter?
How can I contribute to God’s work if I’m not a pastor or missionary?
What if I hate my job?
Why bother with my work if no one cares or notices?
What if I can’t work?
How can my job be my calling if I find it frustrating and tedious?
For centuries, Christians have explored the intersection of faith and work through the concept of vocation—the idea that God calls and equips us to do particular work. Vocation has helped many believers see the purpose and value of their work in God’s kingdom. It has helped them determine their gifts and identify what they are best equipped to do.
But even the concept of vocation has been corrupted by our human nature. Sometimes, we talk about it too narrowly, defining it only as religious service, such as pastoral or mission work. Other times, we speak of it too loftily, leading us to only identify particular fields as worthy of vocational calling or expecting each of us to experience grand revelations of God’s calling in our lives. But often, calling and vocation develop in a much more mundane and ordinary way.
In his sermon titled “Learning in War-Time” C.S. Lewis wrote: “We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation. A man's upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation.”
Throughout our series, hosts Dave Bast and Scott Hoezee dig into scripture for clarity regarding these simple, yet divine concepts of Christian vocation and calling.
Despite of all the questions we may have about work in our culture vs. in scripture, about how we can best integrate our faith and work, and even how we can identify our vocation and calling, most of us just want to know how we can honor God by working faithfully.
In his book Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, Cornelius Plantinga suggests that vocation is not first and foremost career focused at all.Instead, he states, “A Christian’s main vocation is to become a prime citizen of the kingdom of God.” So, how can we best live into this kingdom building vocation?
Join us in our Groundwork seriesWork Faithfully:
God's Intention for Our Work - Genesis 1:26-31, 2:15-25, 3:14-21, 4:19-22
God Remembers Our Work - Ecclesiastes 2:17-23, 3:9-14, Psalm 90:14-17
Work for God's Glory - Isaiah 60, Revelation 21, Jeremiah 29
Work, Calling, and God’s Providence - 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:16
...and together we’ll discover how our faith helps us see the value of our work in God’s kingdom.