I think this is well said by John Stott. Love for our neighbor is a critical motivation. But when the sacrifices become so great, and people begin to say “missions is not actually loving — go away,” it can be easy to say “are we sure it is really worth this?”
That’s why it is critical how Stott points out that there is an even more fundamental reason for missions than love for our neighbor, and which is indeed worth all possible sacrifice:
Here lies the supreme missionary motivation. It is neither obedience to the Great Commission, nor compassion for the lost, nor excitement over the gospel, but zeal (even “jealousy”) for the honor of Christ’s name….No incentive is stronger than the longing that Christ should be given the honor that is due his name.
(Quote from a recent newsletter by Global Training Network, which is well worth learning about and supporting.)
God does everything he does with excellence, and Jesus surely never engaged in shoddy work in his time of working as a carpenter before his public ministry. Therefore, we should not settle for shoddy work in our occupations, either.
Yet, because much Christian teaching on work is still thin and compartmentalized, this often happens. We need to correct this by affirming that we are not to compartmentalize our work and our faith, as though God’s call on us applies only in the area of church and our personal lives. Further, if we were able to recapture the compelling biblical vision of work in the church, it would do wonders for the effectiveness of our testimony to the gospel before the world.
I love how Dorothy Sayers makes these points in Why Work:
How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of life?
The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays.
What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly — but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? [Great point! Shoddy and careless workmanship is an insult to God because it misrepresents his nature and pervasive concern for all areas of life.]
No crooked table-legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could any one believe that they were made by the same hand that made heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.
Yet in her own buildings, in her own ecclesiastical art and music, in her hymns and prayers, in her sermons and in her little books of devotion, the church will tolerate, or permit a pious intention to excuse, work so ugly, so pretentious, so tawdry and twaddling, so insincere and insipid, so bad as to shock and horrify any decent craftsman.
And why? Simply because she has lost all sense of the fact that the living and eternal truth is expressed in work only so far as the work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique. She has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred.
Dorothy Sayers, in Why Work:
The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company which chose its staff exclusively for their piety.
Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt.
God is not served by technical incompetence.
Especially in a challenging economy, some people take the perspective that you should work whatever job you can, because the most important thing is to make money and earn a living from your work.
This perspective can sometimes sounds virtuous at first. And, of course, earning a living is indeed an important and essential component of work. If you can’t earn a living at your work, that turns it into an a-vocation, not a career.
However, there is actually something very un-Christian in that view of work. The problem is that it has turned making money into the chief and leading principle for our work. But that is not to be the case. Making money in your work is only one component among at least two others to which we are to give chief consideration in choosing a job.
That perspective of work outlined above subordinates the equal importance of finding work for which you are a good fit to the cause of financial gain. That is not right. It dehumanizes people and robs them of their ability to find real fulfillment in their work and, ultimately, make their greatest contribution.
The great Christian thinker Dorothy Sayers captures this perfectly in her short essay “Why Work”:
At present we have no clear grasp of the principle that every man should do the work for which he is fitted by nature. The employer is obsessed by the notion that he must find cheap labour, and the worker by the notion that the best-paid job is the job for him.
Only feebly, inadequately, and spasmodically do we ever attempt to tackle the problem from the other end, and inquire: What type of worker is suited to this type of work?
People engaged in education see clearly that this is the right end to start from; but they are frustrated by economic pressure, and by the failure of parents on the one hand and employers on the other to grasp the fundamental importance of this approach.
Steve Jobs often said “you need to love what you do.” I’ve seen some Christians stalk down about that, saying things like “well, I have to live in the real world — I can’t afford the luxury of seeking a job that I love.”
But without even knowing it, Steve Jobs was actually reflecting a very Christian view of work. And, as Jobs knew, this is actually the perspective that tends toward the greatest economic success in the long-run as well, for it is impossible to excel over the long-term at work that you don’t enjoy.
Finding work that you love is not a luxury. It is an implication following from the Christian view of work — namely, that work is not only about economic realities, but as Sayers also says, something that should be looked upon “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.” That reality needs to be upheld right along with the economic purpose of work. Anything else is a truncated view of work, and to say “but I need to live in the real world” is the easy way out and actually lazy.
To those who say “but what if sweeping floors is the only job you can get; shouldn’t you take it?” The answer is, first, the biggest problem with this question is that it seems to assume that there is no one out there who actually likes sweeping floors. But beyond that, most of the time people asking this question are settling too easily. If you are literally going to starve if you don’t sweep floors, then sweep floors. But don’t stop there. While sweeping floors, hold on to your aspirations to find the work that is a good fit for you, and keep looking for it.
Too often, people fall into the fallacy of using economic realities to bludgeon people into giving up their aspirations and dreams. Why do we have to settle so easily for the “either/or”? As in “either you are a dreamer who wants to find the work that fits yourself well, or you can live in the ‘real world’ and do work you hate but earn a living.”
I reject that dichotomy, as all Christians should. It is unloving, un-Christian, contrary to the nature of human beings in the image of God, contrary to the reality that work is intended by God to be more than economic, contrary to God’s very own purposes for our work and, ironically, in the long-run it is also contrary to the legitimate economic aspect of work.
An incredibly insightful observation by Jefferson Bethke in Jesus > Religion:
I think the more focused Christians are on external behavior, the greater the possibility they are trying to make up for what they lack in their hearts. When we have no real transforming power of Jesus in our hearts, we hold up a list of external behaviors so someone can look at us and identify us as Christians.
Too many think they are wonderful with people because they talk well. They don’t realize that being wonderful with people means listening well.
This is a very helpful video animation summary of Daniel Pink’s superb book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Many have probably seen this, but this is worth bringing out again. The concepts of intrinsic motivation that Pink outlines need to permeate the way every manager thinks.
If you are actually going to make a difference for good and obey God (the rules you are supposed to obey), then you have to know which rules not to follow.
In other words, you have to have a well-thought-out philosophy of rule-breaking.
This is not about breaking legitimate rules, being a pest, or being rebellious. The example here is Jesus, who broke man-made rules that hurt people, in order to bring true help to people.
If you are actually going to make a difference in the world, you need to be willing to break those sorts of rules. There are no exceptions, and this is why many people in Jesus’ day didn’t like him.
The greatest irony is that if you don’t break the rules that hurt people when called upon, you aren’t actually a “rule follower” at all. For in thinking you are keeping the “rules,” you are actually breaking the greatest rule of all — the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Again, I’m not advocating disrespect or disregard for legitimate authority. Once again, Jesus is the example here who, for example, healed people on the Sabbath even though it was against the rules of the Pharisees. Jesus recognized — and was teaching us — that the letter of the law is never to overcome the spirit of the law.
If you break a rule to stand out, or make yourself look good, that is the wrong reason. If you break an ethical rule, that is also wrong. I’m talking here about manmade rules that seem “reasonable” but in actuality keep people down and cause harm. There is a time and place to break such rules, just as Jesus did. The ethical thing to do with such rules is to break them when necessary for the good of others.
So this is not about reducing ethics; not in the slightest. It is about elevating ethics by refusing to allow bad rules to get in the way of doing the right thing.
Sometimes, authority is used (even inadvertently) to institutionalize the doing of harm. When this happens, don’t let the fact that something is a “rule” distract you from that. Do the right thing.
Mark Batterson has an excellent article on this over at Catalyst which I have now adopted as an excellent summary of my own “philosophy of rule-breaking.” It is worth checking out.
One clarification: Let me add one clarification, which I think is important. What if you work in an organization that has really bad policies. Am I saying you should break those policies? The answer is no (unless they are unethical). But I am saying this: you need to work for their change. That means talking to your boss, or whoever, and making an intelligent case for change. Don’t just let the policies be. Seek to change them.
Bad policies need to be obliterated. And that starts with speaking up (in a winsome, respectful way) instead of robotically accepting their existence.
In addition to this, though, more people need to recognize that in most cases, their company is not intending them to follow the letter of the law when it clearly results in bad things for the customer. In other words, most of the time companies expect their employees to exercise judgment. Learn what your company expects of you there, rather than assuming they don’t want you to exercise any judgment at all. Then, use your judgment.
I love the way he summarizes the book at the beginning. And it is great to have these quotes posted online. I hope they give you a good flavor of the book if you haven’t checked it out, and some good reminders if you have.
It’s technically been out since September 9, but I’ve been holding off on blogging it because they are continually out at Amazon. I see that today they seem to have gotten more in stock, but now there are only two left.
To which I say: just get it anyway! They should have plenty in stock soon, so there’s no need to wait any longer.
I read the book myself, rather than an outsourced narrator. It is my first time reading an audio book, but I wanted to do it in order to capture the intent and passion of the book.
I hope I succeeded — it’s a slight challenge to be the reader, because I kept thinking to myself “since I’m actually reading a book, is this the one instance where you are actually supposed to sound like you are reading, or should I do this as if I’m giving a message?” It was tough to get the balance right, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
The audio version will be great if you have a commute or just prefer audio books. Beyond that, even if you’ve already read the book, the audio version might give you new insights and angles on things as you hear the content spoken.