“What do you do?” That question is as common among businesspeople as “How many are you running Sunday morning?” is at pastors’ conferences. Our society is obsessed with work, and probably not in the healthiest way. We identify ourselves based on what we do, we define our lives by the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated, and we get frustrated when our jobs seem futile and pointless. What should our attitude towards work be? Is it the Alan Jackson “Good Time” model of working all week in order to party on the weekends? Is it the “Retirement” mentality that tells us to put in our thirty years so we can golf a lot later?
In The Gospel at Work, Traeger and Gilbert tackle some of these questions, as well as others. One of the things I have always appreciated about the “” guys (those associated with that ministry or who have association with Capitol Hills Baptist Church) is their attempts at writing quality books that deal with relevant issues in ways that are accessible to laymen as well as trained pastors. I think these two authors have done a good job of achieving that goal in this book.
It is important to know what The Gospel At Work is not. It is not meant to be a comprehensive theology of work. For someone who wants to do a thorough study on the subject, this book would be great to read in conjunction with Leland Ryken’s Redeeming the Time, Stephen J. Nichols’ What is Vocation? and John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. The Gospel At Work is only 158 pages long, and has a narrower focus, specifically this: “No matter what you do, your job has inherent purpose and meaning because you are doing it ultimately for the King. Who you work for is more important than what you do (p. 14).” David Platt writes the forward, and that combines with the Introduction to serve as a potent challenge to believers to view their work as something that is done in and of itself to advance the gospel (as opposed to just seeking to use your work as a vehicle to look for gospel opportunities).
Chapters one and two deal with two extremes at work: idleness and idolatry. Both are big problems. Both get you off track. Idleness in work is sloth and dishonors God. Idolatry in work puts something in the place of God. Both extremes are to be avoided. Chapters three and four were two of the most helpful in the book. The authors deal with how the gospel changes my view of work and what my motivations should be for working. I won’t list all the content, but I gained a lot from reading these chapters. The rest of the book deals with specific practical matters: How to Choose a Job, How to Balance Work, Church, and Family, How to Handle Difficult Bosses and Coworkers, What Does it Mean to be a Christian Boss, How Can I Share the Gospel at Work, and Is Full-Time Ministry More Valuable Than my Job? The final chapter deals with how we should define success, something that is greatly needed in a relativistic culture that has no idea what real success is.
This was a good book that made a good contribution to the discussions that have taken place over work and vocation. It is easy to read, accessible to all ages and educational levels, and I can heartily recommend it to those who are struggling with how their work fits into God’s purposes for their lives.