This summer I had the amazing privilege of participating in the first-ever Marketplace Bay Area Urban Project, an InterVarsity summer immersion project geared at exploring the intersection of faith and work. The 10 of us worked at various internships or jobs during the day, and lived together in a house at night.
I started the summer having just graduated from Boston College (shout out to BC-ACF!), asking questions about how my Christian faith can be integrated with my work before starting my first full-time job as a Management Consultant.
Coming into the summer, many of my questions regarding work always had a hint of escapism. How can I be a Christian in the business world without losing my integrity? How can I endure a boring job in a cubicle for many months or years? How can I bring my faith to work when the environment is so hostile? I believed the workplace was scary, and Jesus was my lifesaver from the dangerous waves of that world.
Like any good InterVarsity program, we kicked off the 7 weeks with a manuscript study of Genesis 1-2 led by Jon Ball, Associate Divisional Director. During the study, we examined how intimately God formed Adam and Eve, breathed into them the breath of life, and commissioned them to multiply and work the ground. The original picture of shalom ("peace") in Genesis 1-2 is right relationships in the world, which includes work.
Wait . . . what? Work is a good thing? And it's part of what it means to be human and created in God's image? How radical is that! If we believe that to work is to be more fully human, as we were created to be, then work is truly sacred. In fact, we learned that the Hebrew word for work, avodah, is also used in scripture to mean "worship." Work is worship!
Jesus' Heart for the Workplace
I began to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ heart for work and the workplace. I sensed that he was calling us to something greater. Work is good, and work is worship –- how countercultural is that? We live in a world in which the norm is "Thank God It's Friday" (TGIF), but integrating faith and work does not mean finding ways to endure the necessary evil that is work, while living for the weekends or maximizing a ministry outside of work. Nor does it simply mean bringing bits and pieces of faith in Christ to work, like trying to be a nice person, or not lying on a report. Yes, we ought to have Christ-centered integrity. Yes, work is a way in which we can worship God, in our approach and diligence towards accomplishing our work. But more importantly, work is the very place where we can love our neighbors, and live out Jesus’ famous words: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).
I find my focus shifting from howJesus can save me from my work to how Jesus can use me in my workplace to share his love with the people around me. No longer am I a bystander in God’s redemptive work in the workplace, nor is work simply a means to an end, or a necessary evil. In reality, we often spend 40+ hours of our week at our workplaces, and it is so amazing to realize that God cares deeply about our work, and wants to actually use us to bring his presence into our workplaces.
During the Marketplace Bay Area Urban Project, we explored how Jesus cares about so many other areas of our lives, too. We had many workshops and conversations about the topics of passionate discernment. We had the privilege of hearing Professor Gary Vanderpol (Denver Seminary) teach us about “economic discipleship.” We talked about how the ways we receive, spend, save, and give our money can reflect Jesus' huge heart for the poor. Indeed, Jesus cares deeply about our work, our passions and hobbies, our involvement with social justice, and our money management. How can my actions reflect that reality? Just as I want to give my work to Jesus, how can I also give these other areas of my life to him?
From how we approach work, to how we love our friends and neighbors and how we manage our time and resources, may we continue to ask Jesus to give us his heart for the world.