The big idea of this chapter is summed up in this quote:
Jobs become vocations and begin to matter when we connect what we do to God’s kingdom vision for this world.
Scot argues that it is the examined vocation that matters …
– All work is spiritual
– All work matters
– Find combination of your gifts & abilities with kingdom of God
– The mundane matters to God. Ordinary jobs matter to God
And this means rejecting a sacred / secular divide that says some jobs are matter more because they are innately ‘spiritual’ – the missionary, pastor etc. No, what makes a job ‘matter’ is connecting it to the kingdom priorities of Jesus.
This will means several things:
1. Not pursuing money as the goal of our vocation
2. Life is about relationships; about love because we are made in the image of the trinitarian God. It is about loving our neighbours as we love God. Be relational in whatever work you do.
3. The calling is to find the intersection between God’s kingdom, relationships and the world’s needs.
4. When you find it, Scot says, focus on what you can do well.
In short, let everything be swallowed by the kingdom – in and through it.
One short chapter can only say so much and the focus is on putting work in the bigger context of the kingdom of God. This is something we need to hear and factor in to our thinking about work.
But for me this chapter also raises a lot of questions.
How does this relate to the ruthless, competitive and unstable contemporary world of work of yesterday’s post? What does vocation mean in such a context where the average life of a company may be 5 years and people switch jobs every 2 or 3?
If it is only the ‘lucky few’ (with excellent education, skills and networks) who have real choice about work, while for most others work is more a necessity to be negotiated and survived, how does this shape our ideas of ‘vocation’?
What theology needs to be done about persistent and long-term unemployment within a highly competitive globalised market?
What are the implications of the apparently ever-increasing demands of work as costs are driven down and down and fewer and fewer workers are under pressure to be more and more productive? Remember the dreams of a ‘leisure society’?! The IT world has led instead to a 24/7 world of work. There is always work to do and wherever you are, it can be done. Increasingly we are never ‘off duty’ from work.
A couple of examples here:
One friend tells me of the company where he used to work: all employees were assessed on a bell-curve of productivity. 20% were always in the bottom sector. So even if you were doing your job OK, if your fellow employees were working harder, you got a warning. After a number of warnings you were out. So the less productive people were continually being dispensed with and new hungry ones brought in a never ending cycle. Employees could ‘inform’ on each other if they thought someone was holding up the team. A workplace not so much of colleagues as competitors for the scarce resource of employment.
Another friend who works for a big insurance company was telling me that his boss now insists on a team conference call every Sunday evening at 9pm to prepare for Monday morning. To refuse is career suicide. What would you do?
How should pastors and churches be teaching and preaching about the realities of work? I’m not the first to suspect that many preachers live in a very different world from many working people in their churches – especially in terms of the instability, continual pressure to perform well, and relentless demands of the working world.