Peanut Butter Hot Dogs & The Work We Do

That's right. Peanut butter on a hot dog.

Perhaps you think that these are two things that don't go well with each other, but I disagree. A nice grilled dog with a slather of peanut butter will get you through the day. I promise. (*I couldn't find a picture that didn't look disgusting, please forgive the lack of graphics).

There was a long-standing discussion between my wife and I when we first met. It had to do with how my major in college - religion - related to her major - business management.

In other words, who was evil and soulless and who wasn't.

I obviously held the upper hand, because I was studying to work for God but she was studying to work for the "man" or the almighty dollar. "Obviously" business and faith couldn't go well together, much like peanut butter and hot dogs.

We've managed to figure out how to get through this, but sometimes we revive the old discussion just for fun.

All sarcasm aside, the idea of faith & work living comfortably together hasn't had an easy ride in the past:

Some contend that your job is just what you do so that you can do what God "called" you to do.

Some say that your "job" IS your "ministry".

Some still elevate those who are "called" to missions or pastoral work above those who are CEO's, nurses, or accountants.

The reality is that everything we do cultivates spiritual formation into Christlikeness. If we want work or vocation to shape us well, we need a good theology of work. A way of understanding how God is present in what we do - regardless of the role or impact it has.

Klaus Issler in his book Living into the Life of Jesus, has a brilliant chapter on what Jesus says about work and money. He quotes the late Dallas Willard's breakdown of four key terms in work:

1. Job: what I am paid to do, how I earn my living.

2. Ministry: that part of God's special work in my time that he has specifically allotted me.

3. Work: the total amount of lasting goods that I will produce in my lifetime.

4. Life: Me. My experience and who I am.

The key in these four terms is that Willard presents them in four circles that are all part of one another. Your job, ministry and work are all part of the same circle which is your life. So, whether you preach on Sunday or manage a small firm on Monday, all work is the meaningful sum of what God is doing through you as you yield to His Spirit every day.

In the words of Miroslav Volf,

"All human work, however, complicated or simple, is made possible by the operations of the Spirit of God in the working person; and all work whose nature and results reflect the values of the new creation is accomplished under the instruction and inspiration of the Spirit of God."  (Work in the Spirit, 114)

So work and witness, ministry and manual labor, Christlikeness and customer service are all interwoven like a tightly wound quilt that warms us and gives rest to our bones. Today, the work you do - whether in a factory or a family room, a hospital or a sanctuary - produces long-standing effects in the Kingdom of God.

So the question is this - if all work is part of God's life and transformation plan for you then how will you approach that work today?