Retirement

Tonight we complete our series on the Bible’s teaching about our working life. I will follow this with several Sunday evenings devoted to the Sabbath Day as the biblical counterpoise to our life of labor. Remember, our large point at the beginning was that Christians should be as distinctively, intentionally, and decisively Christian in their working lives as they are in every other dimension of their lives. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we can talk about our faith at any time and in any place, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be wise and thoughtful about how we identify our distinctively Christian viewpoint, and it doesn’t mean that in many situations we may have to be very careful so as not to give offense. I remember sitting in, a few years ago, on a Bible study that my brother was leading at his workplace on Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. Everyone in the room was an Air Force general or colonel and the subject of how a Christian should operate in an overtly secular environment in which there were very definite complications posed by issues of rank and the chain of command was never far from the surface of the discussion. It is by no means an easy thing to know, in many working environments, how much one should say or do to bring one’s loyalty to Christ into the open for the sake of integrity or witness. But, then, no one said the Christian life was an easy thing. Nevertheless, it is clear enough in the Bible that when we are at our work we are to be believers in Christ and servants of God. This we have seen is the explicit teaching of the Word of God and it is a special insight of the Reformed faith, with its conviction that nothing in our lives and nothing in the world itself lies outside of God’s rule or God’s interest. As Abraham Kuyper famously put it: “Not the breadth of a thumb exists in all of our life – and all of the universe – but Christ claims, ‘It is mine!’” That company you work for is God’s, whether the owner knows it or not. The employees that you work beside are the Lord’s creatures, whether they know it or not. The way the company does business is a matter for the last judgment whether anyone at the firm realizes that or not.

But if that is true, how much more must the principle of loyalty to God apply to our working life, given that God made us to work, given that it takes so much of our time and energy, and is one of the principal means appointed by which we are to receive the blessings of God. What is more, it is in our working life that many Christians most directly encounter the unbelieving world and are, therefore, given opportunity both to demonstrate and adorn their faith and to bear witness to its truth. We have made the point that the Bible’s view is that Christians are to serve the Lord directly in the work they do and by the way that they do it. But it is worth saying at least once in this series that Christians at work ought to be one of the church’s principal evangelistic forces. It is there that they are face to face with unbelievers and in contexts that provide not only the opportunity for the force of an example to tell but for many conversations in which the truth of the gospel can be brought to bear. The number of people who have been brought to faith in Christ through the witness of a Christian fellow-worker is very large and will be larger still if we still more faithfully seize this opportunity.

There can be no doubt that one of the reasons why, in the modern period, the church has had to take such a programmatic approach to ministry – for example, developing various programs to encourage and train Christians to share their faith – is because Christians individually and collectively have not forthrightly lived out their faith, adorned it, recommended it, and proclaimed it by word and by deed in the market place. It is frankly hard to believe that Christians faithfully living as the followers of Christ at their jobs wouldn’t be a more effective means both of evangelism and cultural transformation than the programs the church organizes and runs today.

Read the whole thing…

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 12, 1
Church: First Presbyterian Church, Tacoma

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Robert Rayburn serves as senior pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tacoma, WA.