Why Work Matters to Our Faith
As part of our 40 Days of Hope Lenten calendar, we asked various supporters in our network to share reflections on why they pray, serve, or give. Read more at: www.hfny.org/lent
Work and purpose are closely connected. Especially in America. Especially in New York City. In my career, I have often oscillated back and forth between the decision to work either at a faith-based organization or at a secular organization, wondering which was more in line with my purpose and God’s call for my life. (Believe me, I have the resume to prove it!)
Over a year ago, I moved on from my staff role at Hope for New York and into a sales position at a fintech company. As you can imagine, the job responsibilities and office environment at my new job are very different. I still get to use many of my natural gifts in my current role, but it can feel like there is something missing, something I took for granted while working at HFNY. That “something” is my understanding of how to live out my faith sincerely—which is more challenging in this new secular context. If I let myself stay on auto-pilot, faith just doesn’t come up that much on its own for me.
Working at a place like Hope for New York, I heard the gospel multiple times a week and saw it lived out every day. I had formal and informal prayer time with my co-workers. And, the work we did was always rooted in the organization’s mission and in bringing the gospel to New York City. I prayed and thought about God’s presence in my life and my work. All. The. Time. Right now, I am in the role and at the company the Lord has placed me in, but I’ll confess that I have let my spiritual life suffer this past year.
It’s so easy to lose focus on what’s really important—intimacy with Jesus, glorifying God, living out the gospel—when the structures that help you do that have changed. So…do I get a pass on my faith because it’s no longer connected to my job? Do I compartmentalize my relationship with Jesus because it’s not part of my day job? The answer to these questions is a resounding “No,” but as I reflect, there are still many questions I don't have answers to. Here's what I know to be true, whether you work in a faith-based organization or not:
- All work gets its value and purpose from God. “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). This is something I struggled to understand. Work is good. God works, He creates. God made us to work. And when we work, we reflect an image of Him. God gave Adam work to do in the Garden of Eden before the Fall (Genesis 2:15). Before sin entered the word, there was work to do! There is a quote by Martin Luther that says, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” I have deeply appreciated this sentiment and used it as motivation to value the tasks placed before me. Pursuing excellence in work is honoring God.
- Christians need community. Even if we know our work is valuable and we seek to honor God in our work, we cannot do it alone. If you are working at a secular company, there likely are other believers there. Find them. Identify each other and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25). Remind each other that you are not alone. Your work is not compartmentalized from your faith. If you do not have brothers and sisters in Christ at your workplace, seeking support outside of work is all the more crucial. Go to church on Sunday. Find a community group. Share the aspects of your day to-day with them. Resist the desire to work in isolation.
- Work with integrity. Maybe you don’t get paid to lead others spiritually, but no matter what task has been placed before you, you can probably think of unethical ways to get ahead. And you’ll probably see some of your peers chase them. Resist. Do work you would be proud of, knowing that you are ultimately working toward an eternal kingdom, not merely chasing earthly riches (John 6:27). Pursue success without compromising your morals.
- Don’t abdicate your spiritual responsibility to full-time ministers. If we let pastors and ministers do all the work, we are missing out. God’s work of restoration should bring us great joy (Psalm 92:4). Pastors and ministers often get front row seats to the work God is doing; it’s tiring work but often inspiring, life-giving work, too. But as followers of Christ, we all need this. For our benefit, we need to participate in God’s work on earth.
- Wherever you are, God is with you. The Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). In your work, in your thoughts, in your rising, in your doing, and in your sleep sleeping, God is taking care of you. This is true, even if you feel far from Him. This is profound encouragement. Think about that! Your decisions, your actions, your work—they all matter to God.
Yes, having a job where you have time set aside to pray, serve, pursue spiritual health is a privilege. But most Christians in the HFNY network—like most Christians in the church for the last 2000 years—haven't always had this privilege. Even the Apostle Paul took time to earn money by tentmaking (Acts 18:3).
Also, most Christians are lay people, or people not working professionally in a ministry capacity. And when we work 40+ hours per week, the thought that our work is separate from the Lord or separate from our spiritual life is discouraging. But the good news is: It’s not true!
Our work matters. Remember that what you do matters. How you spend your time and energy matters. God is sovereign over it, and we don’t have to do it alone. We have the Holy Spirit, and we have the body of Christ. No matter where God has placed you or me, or which path we are on, we are part of God’s people and his priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We get to honor God and find real joy in our work!
Tory Crowley was on HFNY as our Manager of Mobilization before working in her current role at Policygenius.