Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some Thoughts on Christians in the Workplace

It has been suggested to me by a woman in my church that a series of lectures on the issue of Christians in the workplace would be helpful, for the issue of job dissatisfaction is being experienced rather accutely by many. In the light of this, I'd like to put the issue on the table, offer some thoughts (which I may unpack in detail in subsequent posts), and get some feedback from you, the faithful reader.

First, I take it as pretty much incontrovertible that all (legitimate) vocations, though common and not holy, are potentially God-honoring. Further, this involves no transformation or redemption of anything. Since adjectives are not adverbs, a non-holy job (accounting) can be done holily, thus glorifying the Lord while retaining the common and secular nature of the work itself.

Secondly, there is a built-in ache that accompanies all earthly toil. As Vos taught us, eschatology precedes soteriology, which means, among other things, that the frustration we feel is supposed to be there.

Thirdly, the nature of our market-driven society, in which we are forced to compete with one another for wages, for position, and for power necessarily compounds the frustration people feel. Work, for many Americans, is not just some thing we have to do for eight hours a day in order to have enough money to enjoy our extra-curricular lives, but it has become our lives.

Fourthly, many have reached a point where they have ceased even asking out loud whether they are working too much. If you are a manager, a partner, or an executive, you pretty much have to put in sixty-plus hours a week, right? The ladder only goes in one direction (up), so unless you want your personal stock to plummet, you'd better keep climbing.

Fifthly, the mantra that we must do all things "with excellence" is most often applied to those areas where excellence is rewarded in a visible and worthwhile way. In a meritocracy, a 10% pay increase is worth more than a "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug.

Lastly, every culture has its blindspots, which make certain verses in the Bible seem non-sensical. In Uganda, it's the one about not starting to build a house without making sure you have the money to finish it. In Hungary, it's the one where Peter says that the disciples can't possibly be drunk since it's only 9am. Maybe for us capitalists it's the one that condemns the withholding of just wages from laborers for the purpose of living lives of earthly luxury and self-indulgence?