What Makes Work Christian?

Post Icon

A couple of summers ago, I slaved away in an 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).”[1] 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.

I discovered that my work is Christian when my work manifests Christian conduct, character, and goals.

Then, as I began turning this idea over in my mind, I thought of all the John Piper sermons I listened to growing up. One of the core tenants of Piper’s thought is that everything ought to be done for the glory of God. Piper points out that if God formed the world for the sake of his name and if he saved us to demonstrate his grace, then certainly everything we do ought to be done for his glory (Is 43:7, Eph 1:5). In everything we do, we are either serving the Lord by glorifying him, or we are worshipping ourselves by stealing the glory meant for God and keeping it for ourselves. In other words, everything we do is a moral event.

When I had that revelation, everything clicked. If I believed that everything I do is a moral event, then I needed to examine my work through the lens of conduct, character, and goals. Immediately, I put this paradigm to work to think through my job at the warehouse. Sure, I was just shuffling packages around a warehouse, but, in the grand scheme of things, I was helping the market function properly. If I and all my coworkers quit, society would take a hit. I realized that the action of working in a warehouse was fundamentally good (conduct). Next, I thought about my heart posture (character). Most of the time, I worked hard for my bosses to hit and exceed my quotas, all while ultimately serving the Lord and not men (Col 3:23), Finally, I thought about the reasons for working at Amazon (goals). I worked there so I could save up enough money for seminary. Since I my conduct, character, and goals were Christian, my work at was Christian.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has wondered “what makes work Christian” or wanted to quit their secular job for a “better” ministry job. Perhaps you are wondering yourself about how you are supposed to think through your own job. I pray that thinking through your job with the lens of conduct, character, and goals will help you serve and glorify the Lord through your work.

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the CFC Newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


[1] David Jones, Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2013), 24.

  • culture
  • economics
  • Readers Choice Nominees 2023
  • vocation
  • work
Jacob Haley

Dancer Fellow

Jacob serves in the Center for Faith and Culture as the Dancer Fellow while pursuing an Advanced M.Div at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. If Jacob isn’t tucked away in the library, you can find him running, rock climbing, or playing chess.

More to Explore

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the Christ and Culture newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.