Spiritual growth objective
Grow in using our gifts to engage in work that glorifies God and promotes the flourishing of our neighbors.
Introduction to Work
Because work occupies such a large role in our lives, spiritual formation necessarily aims at transforming our view of work and our approach to work. Why is this transformation of our work so important for spiritual growth?
God is a worker and created us to work. The opening chapter of the Bible portrays God completing six work “days” before his Sabbath rest (Genesis 1; cf. Psalm 104). God displays his wisdom and creativity in producing a vast universe and a planet filled with an astonishing array of creatures. God brings order, complexity, and design as he works to form the world to be a fit habitation for human beings and a setting for the drama of his kingdom to unfold. And when God makes human beings in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), he naturally gives us the gifts and resources to mimic his creativity in work, and he calls us to work as rulers and stewards (Genesis 2:15), fashioning still greater glory out of the riches of God’s good world that he has placed into our hands. Work is not merely a necessary means for survival. Doing good work in the world to serve others and contribute to the growth of human culture is a central part of God’s good purpose for our lives. Thus, our work has eternal significance, for God will gladly receive the products of human labor in the glories of diverse human cultures in the eternal new creation to come, and God’s people will be Christ’s eternal royal servants, reigning with him forever (Revelation 21:24, 26; 22:3-4).
Sin corrupts every dimension of human work. The corruption of sinful human hearts inevitably manifests itself in the corruption of our work. A calling and creation meant for our joy is now cursed, and work has become painful and unsatisfying toil (Genesis 3:17-19). Sinful human beings direct their work toward selfish and destructive ends, and people use their skills and resources to devise means of exploiting rather than serving others. When work is no longer understood or practiced as service to God and his kingdom, it easily becomes an idol from which we seek our ultimate purpose, security, and satisfaction. Like all idols, work is a cruel and dissatisfying master when we rely on it for meaning and direction that only God can provide. Moreover, the destructive impact of work’s corruption occurs not only in the lives of individuals but also multiplies exponentially when it takes root in the powerful organizations, structures, and systems that human beings form to accomplish work.
Spiritual growth renews and reorders our work according to God’s kingdom. Our spiritual growth remains radically incomplete if it does not transform the way we understand and engage in work. We spend a great deal of time learning and training for work, and work (both paid and unpaid) occupies the largest portion of our waking hours. Through work we use our gifts and resources to form relationships, make products, plan events, form organizations, and build institutions that change the world. In union with Christ by his indwelling Spirit, God gives us a new vision for the meaning and purpose of work centered in the mission of his kingdom to bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3). As God shapes us into the likeness of Christ, he empowers us and forms us to engage in work as an act of love for God (Exodus 31:1-6; 1 Chronicles 15:22; 25:7; Ecclesiastes 2:24-26) and a service of love for our neighbors (Ephesians 4:28). By setting us free from the lies and bondage of sin, life in Christ liberates us to become people who engage in work formed by faith, hope, and love for the sake of becoming more like God and promoting the common good.
Resources for Study
Bible study guides
For a taste of the book, see this short talk by the author on work as public discipleship:
1. Check your understanding.
According to the Bible, what is the “heart,” and why is it so central to being a human being and to spiritual growth?
What are the Christ-like character qualities and virtues that the Holy Spirit forms in people united to Christ?
Can you identify some key biblical texts that offer teaching about these qualities, virtues, and practices?
What some practical ways to assess and to cultivate the Christ-like maturity one’s heart and character?
Make a commitment to do some self-examination and ask God to show you areas of weakness needing growth. Keep these matters of the heart and character in mind and bring them before God as you pray from the Scriptures in your practice of the daily office and your ongoing conversations with God as you live a praying life throughout your day.
Make a plan to incorporate some specific practices into your life that will help you cultivate a particular virtue and mature in Christ-like ways. Make sure that your ideas are concrete enough that you will can see and evaluate your progress. Discuss these with your growth group or some trusted Christian friend to seek their support, wisdom, and encouragement.