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  • Writer's pictureLogan MacLean

Faith & Work - Are You Putting God in a Box?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Are you putting god in a box

Splitting Our Lives Into Workable Boxes

We hear a lot about “our faith” and “the workplace.” We may ask ourselves or perhaps we’ve read Christian articles that ask, “How do we apply our faith to our workplace?” or “What is the intersection of faith and work?” or “How does your Christianity affect your career?” This can be a difficult question to answer for Christian professionals trying to understand how exactly, or practically, their faith is applied to their workspace, colleagues, and clients.

The question can be broken down into two parts: (1) “our faith” and (2) “our work.” We, as humans, seem to be constantly breaking down the complexities of our lives into more simple buckets…our family/spouse/kids, our friends/acquaintances/strangers, our work/coworkers/boss/clients/patients, our church/pastor/Christian friends/non-Christian friends, our emotions/thoughts, our hobbies/talents/skills…the list and sub-lists go on and on. Oftentimes, we then spend hours contemplating the question of, “How does (1) our faith apply to (2) our [fill in the blank]?

I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing. I, for one, love working in boxes and frameworks. My brain naturally likes to compartmentalize and put difficult things into nice little boxes to come back to later. When the busyness of our lives, complexity of our thoughts, and swings of our emotions make us feel like a mouse trapped deep in the bowels of a never-ending maze, sometimes we simplify and put things into mental boxes allowing us to start taking steps forward.

Compartmentalizing Our Relationship With God

The trap, when we spend our time breaking our lives down into manageable boxes, is when we forget the wholeness in which God has made us – the wholeness in who we are and what He has called us to be. We are so focused on, and sometimes quite good at, cleaning up the messiness of our lives and keeping our daily relationship boxes neatly organized, we also compartmentalize our relationship with God. We forget the mandate given to us by God, which was never intended to be chopped up into nice little fun-sized nuggets. We focus so much on the “how’s” and “what’s” of our lives and our faith that we forget the “why.” Sometimes we work so hard at getting good at the functionalities or logistics of life that we overlook the foundations that our daily thoughts and actions are built on.

The Wholeness of God’s Creation

Why do we work? All humanity is commanded to do all things in service to God. Everything we do – thought, word, and deed – is under His command. In all manner of living we must be holy (1 Peter 1:15). There is no thought, emotion, spoken word, or action that is neutral towards God and His calling to us. Nor is there any area of the universe where His command can be ignored. For “the earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” belong to Him (Psalm 24:1). When we look at ourselves, our personalities, our talents, our skills, our knowledge, our interactions, our work – all the ways in which we segment ourselves and our lives to make sense of who we are – we can untangle ourselves from the web of complexity by remembering that we, and all that we are comprised of, exist to glorify God.

Why do we have knowledge? In all that we have within our brain – the impressive facts, frameworks, skills…none of this is from our own doing. Every piece of knowledge we possess, every firing of one neuron passing information to the next, is not inherent to ourselves but has been given graciously by our God for us to steward for His glory. Our extensive knowledge and skills in our career specialty are not due to our own superiority, mental acuity, or profundity of intellect, but rest fully on God. All of our talents, regardless of how simple or complex, are given to us by God to glorify Him.

Why do we care for those around us? We work for the good of those around us because we know that they are image bearers of God. They are either dammed to an eternity away from the God who created them or blessed to spend an eternity of bliss with their Father, Lord, and Savior. We have the immense privilege to interact with these image bearers, whose value is not measured by economic output or status but has been established by their creator because this glorifies Him.

The Practical Consequence of Understanding the Wholeness of Who We Are

Coming full circle, we move back to the question of the practical and tangible. How do we “apply our faith to our workplace” then? For myself, when I contemplate how all of who I am, in its wholeness, is called to glorify God and how my knowledge, skills, preferences, personality, and every other aspect of me is built for good works that glorify God, I must begin my own answer with a correct understanding of what my “work” actually is.

My own particular work involves the interaction between my patient and me. This interaction occurs in the very presence of a holy God. Additionally, what I do at work “for the least of these,” I do for God (Matt 25:45). There is no neutrality in my actions. There is no action that is separate from what is commanded of me by God. There is no action that is “outside” of my Christianity and worship of God. Even the very clicking of the mouse button prescribing blood pressure medication sings the praises of God and calls to His dominion over all things.

I must pause a moment and examine the “mundane” interaction I have with my patient 15 minutes prior to wheeling him back to the operating room. I have the privilege to take care, speak in love, and take part in healing God’s creation. I have the honor to steward and execute on the knowledge God has given me. I have the opportunity to interact with my patient knowing that regardless of his social status or behavior toward me, his ontological value is greater than anything else in all creation.

It is through this lens of wholeness that we should view the mundane, the practical, and the logistical aspects of our lives. The specific environments that God has placed us in for “work” may differ in a similar way that an artist may choose one day to paint with watercolors and the next with charcoal. However, the actual subject matter – the image drawn – remains the same.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, we falsely restrict our worship of God. We segment our lives in different areas out of functionality. However, we do not stop there. We then partition aspects of our faith as well. We overcomplicate the question or only focus on the “how’s” and “what’s” of the application of our faith to the different settings we find ourselves in rather than first ensuring that we know the “why.” The starting point for such discussions must be with the knowledge that every moment of our lives is an opportunity of some form of worship and giving glory to God. We have been saved by grace through faith and we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8, 10).

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