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The late entrepreneur Steve Jobs recalled a childhood memory with his father when discussing the origin of Apple’s quest for perfect products with pristine aesthetics. The two were building a fence, and Jobs’ father said: “You have to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good-looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know.”

We are not the only ones who know about those invisible aspects of our work. God knows. All our ways are known to Him. To the true Christian, this does not elicit fear, but delight. Even our darkest misdeeds are known to Him—and will not separate us from His saving love (Rom. 8:38–39). Our past, present, and future sins have been paid in full, and Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:21).

But such assurance does not produce laxity in the Christian. On the contrary, it motivates us to no longer live for ourselves, but for our Lord, who ransomed us at such great cost (2 Cor. 5:14–15). We recognize that while we’re not saved by good works, we are saved for good works (Eph. 2:8–10). And while we depend on the Holy Spirit’s enabling power, our effort is required (Phil. 2:12–13; Col. 1:29; 3:5).

working unto the lord

We should view our work, as Dorothy Sayers put it, not as mere drudgery but as a “way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.” Our jobs allow us to love our neighbors as ourselves by providing goods or services that yield true benefit. Earning a living is a by­product, by which we avoid becoming a burden on others (1 Thess. 4:11–12) and gain the wherewithal to share with those in need (Eph. 4:28). Even if we do not enjoy our jobs, we can recognize God’s providence and perform our duties faithfully while pursuing new opportunities (1 Cor. 7:21).

Colossians 3:23 reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” The Christian lives for the audience of one: almighty God. Working for the Lord and not for men means that we are as diligent in those duties that go unnoticed by others as we are in those that are visible. The latter may be rewarded: verbal praise, a pay raise, perhaps even a promotion. But the former, done in faith, are no less acts of worship (see Rom. 12:1). Moreover, those unseen deeds generally have a cumulative effect that redounds to the good of our employer, though not in a way that is necessarily traceable to our actions.

Our jobs allow us to love our neighbors.

Working heartily to the Lord is a demonstration of integrity. One definition of integrity is the state of being whole and undivided. An integrated life is one in which each part is consistent with and complementary to the others. Someone who lives like a Christian on Sunday but like a pagan on the other six days lacks integrity. To work with integrity is to perform one’s duties with care, whether under the watchful gaze of an employer or not. Workers with integrity are more useful because they’re more dependable and self-directed. They work “not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, . . . rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Eph. 6:6–7).

There’s an irony: “people-pleasers,” in the long run, are less pleasing. They do not serve their earthly masters as well. Since they’re working to be noticed, they can’t be fully trusted. That’s a drag on productivity. Working as one kind of person when watched and another when alone, they lack consistency, wholeness, and integrity.

good work supports evangelism

To work with integrity is to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). It’s to show with our lives what we profess with our mouths (James 1:22; 1 John 3:18). In this manner, good works—both within and beyond our vocations—give evidence of saving faith (James 2:18) and can have the effect of winning an audience among non-Christians.

The vocation of a mother working at home with her children is as legitimate as any other and shines just as much. Strikingly, the Apostle Peter told women married to non-Christians that such men could be “won without a word” by the conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1). He doesn’t mean that a wife’s good work can be salvific for her husband. No, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). But a wife’s conduct in this situation can be more effective than her words in making an ungodly husband willing to hear the word of Christ.

Titus 2:9–10 refers to good works as adorning the doctrine of God our Savior. An adornment draws attention to the beauty of something or someone. We can’t make the gospel of free grace any sweeter than it already is. But we can make it appear attractive by the way we live, including our performance in the workplace.

the limitations of our work

Not everyone will glorify God when they see our good works. But our work can silence the mouths of those who say that Christianity makes people lazy, that we are “too heavenly-minded for earthly good.” The quality of our work should remove any basis for such accusations (1 Peter 2:15).

Even for Christians, our work will sometimes be accompanied by a sense of futility or monotony. Difficult colleagues, injustices, messes that must be repeatedly cleaned, and the other frustrations of life in a fallen world will accompany us until death or until the Lord returns. But here, as elsewhere, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

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From the June 2023 Issue
Jun 2023 Issue