September 2019 – Work – it’s where most American adults spend the majority of their waking hours. Yet, as many as 80% say they are outright dissatisfied with their jobs. So much so that a variety of reports and professional journals name job dissatisfaction as a significant factor in divorce, insomnia, anxiety, stress, depression, and even death.
At the other extreme, work can be a noble addiction and a misguided source of identity. The workaholic may wear his ambition as a badge of honor, but his ignored spouse and children seldom share his pride.
Vocation, calling, job, career – how does a Christian navigate the journey that likely will require some 90,000 hours of his or her life? And how do faithful parents guide their children in career decisions that can seem so paramount, especially as they approach adulthood?
Providing biblical instruction for those and many other work-related issues is the ministry of Theology of Work Project. TOW Project offers Christians an unmatched reservoir of rich content aimed at helping believers develop a biblical view of work. Resources include a complete book-by-book biblical commentary, a daily devotional, real-life testimonies, and articles, all focused on issues related to work.
As an introduction to the work of TOW Project, Leah Archibald recently fielded questions for AFA Journal. A mother of three, she is a content development specialist at TOW Project and author of Kids Can!, a new family devotional book for young families. (See below.)
AFA Journal: You spent a decade in the tech industry. What did you learn there about faith and work?
Leah Archibald: You know, I would go to work, and then I would come home and go to a Bible study with friends. I thought that one hour of Bible study was practicing my faith. But I came to realize that in the workplace, where I spent most of my time, I had many more opportunities to exercise my faith by bringing God into my relationships.
The work God gives us to do is important. If He cares about our lives, He must care about our work.
AFAJ: Garrison Keillor, radio host of A Prairie Home Companion, used to close his show with these words: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” From a biblical perspective, what makes work good?
LA: That’s the way God created it from the beginning in Genesis. God Himself is the worker. He made everything and called it good. Then He created human beings in His image, which means we are to be workers as well.
He also gives us this mandate in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” That’s not only a command, but it’s a joy to be able to do that work with God, the one who created everything.
AFAJ: How can parents begin to lay a biblical foundation for their young children regarding work and vocation?
LA: God calls all people to work, and that includes children as they are growing up. They need to see their parents working at home, as well as in the workplace. When parents can integrate their children into the goodness of the work that they do together in the home, that gives children a solid foundation for a work ethic that they can build on when they go into their individual careers.
Go back to the creation mandate in Genesis 1 when God told us to fill the earth and subdue it. Those two things are linked. We create more people in order to build and provide useful goods and services. In that way we bring order out of chaos and manage God’s creation under His supervision. So, the work we do in obedience to God begins on a very practical level with our family.
I have three young children ages 5, 7, and 10. They will spend hours building a castle out of Legos because God created them with a desire to wrest order from chaos. My job as a parent is to coach them gently so that desire leads them in a direction that is in harmony with the work that God has given His people.
AFAJ: As kids get older and begin to think more about the future, how can parents guide their teenagers or young adults in the area of vocation and calling?
LA: It is so exciting when young people start seeing the unique way God created them and how they might fit into God’s projects of restoring the world to His original design. So, as they’re coming into their own, they may need help evaluating their particular skills and gifts.
Another aspect of a parent’s guidance is to help their children discern the desires of their hearts. A good way to express that is to encourage your teen to ask Where do I feel the most alive?
And then, there are the needs of the world. Rather than ask What are my gifts, and how can I make the most money with them? guide your young person to ask where his or her gifts match with the needs of the world.
Most importantly, when we consider God’s calling in our lives, we must remember that everything we do in life is to be of service to God, whether in our career or in unpaid work we do. Colossians 3:17 says: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” That is what we are trying to teach.
Our primary call is to follow Jesus. After that, whether you go into medicine or become an industrial engineer or a stay-at-home mom, you have answered God’s primary call.
AFAJ: What does a vocational decision-making process look like? Is it difficult, like looking for a needle in a haystack?
LA: I know some people worry that if they haven’t heard an audible call from God, they must be doing the wrong thing. I want to remove that anxiety by reminding us that in the Bible there were very few people who were specifically called to a particular job.
The farmers, the shepherds, the fishermen – these people were simply doing the work that God placed before them. I want to say that we can do the same, without anxiety. As long as you are following Christ, there is freedom, even the freedom to make mistakes and go back and do something else in Christ.
In the end, you’re not going to be judged for not finding the one perfect thing that maximized your gifts. In the end, you’re just going to be judged on the merits of Jesus Christ applied to you by God’s grace through faith.
More Resources from TOW Project
▶ Kids Can! is a 28-day family devotional book that focuses on the value and importance of work as the fulfillment of the commands of Genesis 1:28, commonly called the Cultural Mandate. Using short Scripture-based lessons, Kids Can! addresses issues kids face at home, at school, and in the economic world. Discussion questions, prayers, and fun family activities bring the message home.
▶ Calling: A Biblical Perspective is a 33-page book available as a free download at theologyofwork.org.