This post first appeared here at the blog of the Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement.
In this installment of our series featuring resources on Faith, Work and Economics, we recommend Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.
Nelson guides the reader in rethinking work through a biblical worldview, focusing on the Scripture’s treatment of work, and examining how God shapes people’s lives in and through the workplace. In this book, readers learn not only from the lives of biblical characters, but 21st century Christians who work in a variety of contexts—from higher education and business, to medicine and the home— and who demonstrate the difference a biblical view of work makes in one’s life and vocation. Reflection questions and prayers are included at the end of each chapter.
3 Key Points from the Book
This book is a great introduction to the theology of work, focusing on the concepts of stewardship and flourishing. Nelson integrates this with a variety of occupations and includes sections on selecting a career, dealing with unemployment and pursuing vocational contentment. Here are just three things you’ll learn by reading Tom Nelson’s Work Matters.
We are Gifted by God for Work
Few people pay attention to a couple of obscure Bible characters, Bazalel and Oholiab, who were craftsmen God gifted and appointed to help create furnishings for the Tabernacle. But when a world-class architect studied Exodus 31 and learned that work is God-given and Spirit filled, he began to see his workplace as his primary place of discipleship to Jesus. Although economic factors may influence the kind of work we do for a season, Nelson notes that “we do not need to see these as vocational detours, but rather what God has for us to do in this particular stage of our life journeys” (157). Indeed, we are still gifted for work according to the sovereign will of God.
We Can Maintain Integrity at Work
Nelson includes a discussion on maintaining personal integrity at work. Here, he uses the story of Daniel, who “resolved that he would not defile himself.” Because of this, no one could dig up any dirt on his record. Nelson also examines the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife to discuss the realities of sexual temptations at work. Using Joseph’s example as a model, Nelson shares practical advice which can help a Christian maintain integrity at work—especially when this involves business travel.
We Should Seek the Common Good
The main way we love our neighbors is through our work. Rather than only focusing on profits, we must also focus on contributing to the common good as the Reformers understood it. For example, Luther’s view of vocation was in the context of our calling as workers to promote the well-being of people and the world at large. This means going beyond tolerance. Nelson writes:
“Christ does not call us to be merely tolerant of those we work with, but to roll up our sleeves and demonstrate Christian love, compassion, and common grace” (134).
This also means going beyond providing fair wages, listening to employee grievances, and encouraging opportunities for career advancement. For example, Nelson shares the story of a CFO friend who showed up at his single-parent employee’s Habitat for Humanity home and helped put donated beds together:
“My friend did not merely bring a spirit of tolerance to the workplace; he also brought Christian compassion, neighborly love, and common grace” (134).
Tom Nelson demonstrates that our vocational calling and our worship should be integrated in a seamless way of living. Work Matters is an easy read which blends Bible study and theology with practical application. The book would benefit believers who work in almost any context—from the business world, to medicine, the academy, and the home.