A couple of summers ago, I slaved away in an Amazon.com warehouse. Day after day, I scanned packages, placed packages in totes, moved the totes to carts, and ferried carts to the right location so that delivery drivers could grab their load. The summer after that, I worked at a sandwich shop—slapping lunch meat on bread, cleaning the bathroom, and trying to remember the difference between a Reuben and Rockefeller sub.
Throughout all of my different jobs, I’ve had questions about work I just could not shake. How does my work change because of my proclamation that Jesus is Lord? Can I say that I am serving the Lord by making sandwiches if my atheist coworker is doing the exact same job (and doing it better!). Wouldn’t that mean that we are serving the Lord in the exact same way?
In other words, what makes work Christian?
As I continued to read and learn, I discovered that my work is Christian when my work manifests Christian conduct, character, and goals.
I began to come to this conclusion in my Christian Ethics class at Southeastern. Drawing on a rich protestant tradition with the likes of Reinhold Niebuhr, John Frame, and the Westminister Confession of Faith, my professor Dr. David W. Jones argued that moral events must be evaluated through the lens of conduct, character, and goals. That is, when examining an event like a murder, Dr. Jones would want to break the action apart in order to look at the action of killing (conduct), the motives of the murderer (character), and the end for which the murdered committed the crime (goals).
Dr. Jones pointed out that simply examining a moral event in terms of conduct runs into a number of problems such as why “murder is prohibited (cf. Exod 20:13), yet capital punishment is prescribed (cf. Gen 9:5-6, Rom 13:4).” Indeed, paying attention to character and goals also enables us to make sense of Paul’s argument in Romans 14 about meat sacrfied to idols. Paul permits Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols. However, for the Christian who considers eating meat sacrificed to idols to be sin, he sins when he eat meats sacrificed to idols (Rom 14:23). Paul evaluates the action of eating meat not purely on the basis of conduct, but also on the character or goals of the believer performing the action.