Few people are more versed in the faith and work conversation than Bethany Jenkins. Jenkins directs The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, and she’s the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College.
Bethany recently came to Southeastern Seminary to address this important topic. In particular, she offers three lenses through which to view work.
Here are a few excerpts:
Why you need to understand your motivation for work.
“Most people know what they’re doing, but very rarely do we know why we’re doing it. Why do you exist? Why do you do one thing or not another? And when I talk about this, I’m not just talking about why someone becomes a plumber versus a professor. This really touches all things. Why am I angry when something happens to me? Why do I respond this way to this person? A lot of times we don’t know….
“These why questions are our hearts. One thing I’m struggling with is I’m dealing with this idol of achievement and approval. I could change my circumstances, but my idol will travel with me. So it doesn’t solve my problem to change a job. It might solve my problem to think about my heart.”
“But so often people don’t have these things separated. They come to you and say, ‘I don’t like my work.’ ‘What are you passionate about? Change it.’ That’s usually people’s first response. But their circumstances might not be their problem at all. It might be their heart. If you just automatically go to that changed job, you’ve missed out on a large opportunity to become more dependent on the Lord, be sanctified and know who they are themselves.”
You can change your circumstances, but your idol will travel with you.
On Martin Luther’s ‘masks of God’
“God could have chosen, and he did in past, feed us from manna dropped from heaven, or by a word as he spoke the world into being. But instead, he chose to create us to live in interdependent relationships with one another. We don’t get anything that we didn’t receive at someone’s hand at work.
“Whenever I think about this, I always think about whatever room I’m in and I try to imagine how people had to come together to put this event together. So you probably know the people who moved the tables, but there are unknown people who built that chair that you’re sitting in right now. All of these people at some point came together to do that.
“This is what Luther says when he’s giving a commentary on a Psalm [which] says, ‘He makes peace in your borders. He fills you with the finest of wheat.’
“Luther says, how does God do these things? And he says,
God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting. But He does not want to do so. . . . What else is all our work to God — whether in the fields, in the garden, in the city, in the house, in war, or in government — but just such a child’s performance, by which He wants to give His gifts in the fields, at home, and everywhere else? These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.
We have the saying: ‘God gives every good thing, but not just by waving a hand.’ God gives all good gifts; but you must lend a hand and take the bull by the horns.”
Make the bars and gates, and let Him fasten them. Labor, and let Him give the fruits. Govern, and let Him give His blessing. Fight, and let Him give the victory. Preach, and let Him win hearts. Take a husband or a wife, and let Him produce the children. Eat and drink, and let Him nourish and strengthen you. And so on. In all our doings He is to work through us, and He alone shall have the glory from it.