Lesson 3 - A Renewed Hope

Integrity in the Workplace

Here, Keller argues that Christians in the marketplace have to contend against a perfect storm of factors that make it difficult to work with integrity: pressure for profitability in the global economy compounded by a university system that is teaching our students that morality is relative. And if it’s true that the only purpose of business is to maximize shareholder value, as Milton Friedman wrote, then what we’ve got here is a recipe for ethical corner-cutting.

All of this means that if Christians are going to resist these pressures, we’re going to need a strong moral compass. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

As Keller outlines in Every Good Endeavor, Christians in the workplace must cultivate reputations as non-vindictive, generous, calm in the face of failure, and collaborative. And, he adds, this might cost us something: profits, customers, accounts, and bonuses. Needless to say, integrity in the workplace requires a good deal of courage.

Reflect:

  • Think about the economic pressures in your industry. How do they encourage corner-cutting and underhanded dealing? What are some of the unethical practices common in your industry? Name a time that you’ve succumbed to these pressures.

  • There are many dimensions to integrity in the workplace, but Keller names a few. Christians should not be ruthless people. They ought to be gracious, generous, poised, and ready to cooperate. When you consider your own professional life, where is there room for you to improve in these four areas?

  • Think of a time when integrity in the workplace cost you something.

A Worldview for Work

While Keller has shown that there is a way to do any kind of work (within reason, of course!) Christianly, our theology of work will depend on the type of work we’re doing.

For some jobs, working Christianly will involve what William Diehl calls “the ministry of competence” in his book The Monday Connection. A Christian contractor, for instance, ought to build solid houses at a fair price.

But other jobs, says Keller, will require us to make judgments out of a carefully formed worldview; some vocations inescapably involve questions of values. A teacher, for example, must answer all kinds of questions that are implicit in the vocation itself: What kind of humanity are we forming through our instruction? What is the purpose of education? How can education contribute to human flourishing?

Reflect:

  • A worldview is not something we look at, but something we look through. In other words, our beliefs are like contact lenses: we can’t see them, but we can’t see without them. How has your own worldview impacted the way you approach your work, consciously or not?

  • In what ways does your job require you to make decisions about values? What practices can you cultivate to shape a coherent Christian worldview?

Renewed Hope for Work

To close his presentation, Keller once again returns to J. R. R. Tolkien’s novella Leaf by Niggle, in which Niggle, a frustrated artist, deals with the disappointment and sense of failure that can come when we can’t quite realize the grand vision we’ve had for our work. Niggle worked and worked and worked, but only managed to paint one leaf of what was supposed to be a dazzling tree.

And, as Keller says, sometimes our work doesn’t materialize the way we hoped it would and “we can only get one leaf out.” Because of the fall, for most of us, our life’s work will be left incomplete. Without the hope promised by the gospel of Jesus Christ, this might drive us to despair.

But because of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “your labor is not in vain.” As Keller explains, Christian faith gives us hope that the passions God has given us will be fully realized when he makes all things new.

Reflect:

  • How have you experienced frustration, incompletion, or disappointment in your work?

  • The gospel tells us that we do not find our value—or our salvation—in our “life’s work.” How might a renewed sense of hope energize you in your work, in spite of the discouragement that comes with working in a fallen world?

Putting it Together

As you consider how you might situate your work into God’s grand story of creation → fall → redemption → consummation, take a few minutes to engage these questions:

  • Think Theologically: How has Keller's presentation opened up new ways to think biblically about how you go about your work?
  • Embrace Relationships: Keller argued that Christians should have reputations for collaboration and cooperation in the marketplace. Where is there an opportunity for you to build relationships in your workplace or industry?
  • Create Good Work: Keller suggested that the Bible sees work as one of the ways that the people of God join in the mission of God. What is one way that your work can function as a small foretaste of God’s coming kingdom?
  • Seek Deep Spiritual Health: Keller showed that the stories our culture tells about work are often false ones, leading to pride, despair, or futility. How can the Christian story help you to make your work life part of a healthy spiritual life?
  • Serve Others Sacrificially: Keller notes that working God’s way will be costly—it will require our time, our energy, and our resources. Where is there an opportunity to serve the best interests of your employees, co-workers, customers, or your community, even at a cost to yourself?

Want to learn more? Explore the extra content for this course.

This course is provided in partnership with The Gospel Coalition.