Hugh Whelchel is the executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, a biblical advocacy think tank based in the Washington, D.C. area. Whelchel has taught and spoken on the topic of faith and work on the radio and around the U.S. He has also contributed to the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, The Gospel Coalition, and ByFaith Online.
I first met Hugh in 2003 when I started teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary Washington, D.C. and he was serving as the school’s executive director. Hugh is someone I highly respect. He is an important voice on the topic of faith and work, and I believe you will greatly benefit from what he has to say.
God has structured things for his glory and his goodness and humanity is directing it in evil or good ways. If you are going to engage culture, it’s about taking the things you are skilled at and asking, “How can I direct them in a good way?”
Moore’s comments are part of a renewed interest among Christians regarding the biblical doctrine of work.
This doctrine teaches that all things come under the lordship of Christ, including the work of our vocations. Our work matters to God. As human beings created in the image of God, we work and create as a reflection of that image. The work of our hands is intended to serve three great ends:
- To glorify God
- To further the kingdom of God
- To serve the common good
The biblical doctrine of work is one of the most powerful means God provides for us to shape and influence culture. Yet today we hear many Christians say that we should not be involved in shaping culture.
People who say this are supporting the social status quo, whether they agree with it or not. A few years ago, Tim Keller had this to say:
When Christians work in the world, they will either assimilate into their culture and support the status quo or they will be agents of change. This is especially true in the area of work. Every culture works on the basis of a “map” of what is considered most important. If God and his grace are not at the center of a culture, then other things will be substituted as ultimate values. So every vocational field is distorted by idolatry.
When Christians do their jobs with excellence and accountability, in a distinctively Christian manner, they cannot help but have a profound effect on the world around them. Thomas Cahill, in his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, tells how Christian monks in the Middle Ages moved out of Ireland and through pagan Europe. Along the way, they established academies, universities, and hospitals. The monks transformed local economies and care for the poor and unfortunate through these new institutions.
The Irish monks’ goal was not to change the pagan culture into the church. Instead, their vocation was inspired by the gospel, and that changed the way they carried out their work. They worked for the flourishing of mankind, rather than strictly for themselves.
Christians today have a similar opportunity. If we are serious about the truth of Christianity, we need to engage in cultural renewal. Like Moore encourages, we need to “take the things we’re good at” and “direct them in a good way,” a way that serves the common good of our culture and the kingdom, for the glory of God.
Always seeking your joy in Jesus,