Faith, Work, And Rocket Science

Faith, Work, And Rocket Science June 6, 2015

Albert_Einstein_HeadSince the waning days of World War II, western nations have been working feverishly on rockets—fire propelled, metal tubes that take off in one place and deliver a payload to a precise location, far away. With President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon and return him safely again to earth, rocket science emerged as the most intellectually rigorous, challenging domain of human endeavor. Upon this historical foundation, a phrase emerged. Obvious and relatively simple tasks have received the description: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”

As I launch this Marketplace Faith blog, I ask: So what about living your faith and work—does it take a rocket scientist or are we in the realm of simple and obvious faith-life material?

First answer for all of you literalists out there: NO. Living faith in the context of your work is NOT rocket science, so being a rocket scientist is not required. Of course if you are a rocket scientist there is faith to live in your work.

Second answer is also NO. Jesus presents himself as a leader and teacher. He invites people to entrust their lives to him as they follow him. People on a journey with him, will inevitably find that his loving leadership shapes the way they approach their work life. Here’s Jesus’ most famous recruiting pitch:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 19:4)[1]

Final Answer is YES: The Apollo Moon Missions were complex in the extreme with little margin for error over a journey that was almost 200,000 miles each way. As I talk to people about the intersection between their faith life and work life, the general idea (the what) makes sense but the practical out workings (the how) are like Apollo: complex in the extreme.

“In my industry, everyone understates their margin. Is this lying?”

“My boss always says the ‘check is always in the mail’ even when it’s not in the mail. Should I protest?”

“Some of the campaigns I’ve been asked to work on seem to contribute to the objectification of women. Should I participate? Should I even work in advertising?”

These are the questions my friends are asking.  Answers to the “how” questions deserve the rocket science appellation. As we begin this Marketplace Faith conversation, exploring the ins and outs of following Jesus in the world of work, I acknowledge the bi-polar nature of the task. It’s simple and infinitely difficult at the same time.  And what we are chasing after is actually more process than task.  And herein lies the hope. Jesus said, “come follow me, and I will show you how.” When his hearers embrace his summons, it puts them in the place where he will teach them.

Now I realize that the idea that there is a Jesus who is so real that he intervenes and delivers instruction may be disconcerting to some of my readers. We will address this issue in the next two posts.  Yet for others there is great comfort here. “I sign up to follow, He shows up to teach me how.” When we embrace the leadership of Christ, it sets us up to receive the grace of Christ, which in turn empowers us to live under the direction he’s giving. Jesus often gave his first followers impossible tasks (feeding thousands, walking on the water), and then provided the enablement they needed to succeed.

When I embrace the idea that Jesus will lead me in the realm of my work, it nets out to two things: 1) I am signing up for a daunting process. 2) I am signing up to experience God’s gracious provision, wisdom, and power to succeed at this daunting process.

What do you think? Does it take rocket scientist skills to live your faith at work?

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next two posts that will address the following questions in turn:

  • What do we mean by living our faith in the context of our work?
  • Why would living the Christian faith in the context of your work be a good thing?

Photo: Photograph by Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J. Modified with Photoshop by PM_Poon and later by Dantadd. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons [1]New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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