Book Review: The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Treager and Greg Gilbert
When Christians leave church on Sunday afternoon and step into office on Monday morning, many do so without the gospel. They leave that on coat rack at home with their kids’ backpacks. They will wear it again when they dive into their church’s midweek Bible study, pray with their family, or go to church. But the gospel seldom makes it to the work floor.
Sebastan Traeger and Greg Gilbert wrote The Gospel at Work: How Working For King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs to remind Christians that they need the gospel at work for it alone provides Christians with fulfillment. The two authors conclude,
No matter what you do, your job has inherent purpose and meaning because you are ultimately doing it for the King. Who you work for is more important than what you do .
They use the next 160 pages to tease out the implications of working for King Jesus.
The acessable book begins with a discussion of the two great errors that transform the beauty of God’s design for work into a mangled mess. Traeger and Gilbert warn, “we can let our job become our idol…on the other hand we can slip into being idle at work.” After providing the reader with six questions that will help him or her diagnose whether or not they have swerved into the ditches of either idolatry or idleness, the authors detail how the theology of the gospel should shape the Christian’s motivation for working. They encourage their readers to use their job as a means to love God, to love others, to reflect God through improving the world, to secure the money they need to care for their family, to find enjoyment, and to create a platform for gospel expansion. In short, Traeger and Gilbert believe the gospel can be boiled down to, “Work Hard, work smart, trust God (71).”
Though the gospel is simple, its influence upon the workplace is anything but trite. The authors reveal the extent of the gospel’s power as they wrestle with the following questions: “How do I choose a job? How do I balance work, church, and family? How do I handle difficult bosses and coworkers? What does it mean to be a Christian boss? How can I share the gospel at work? Is full time ministry more valuable than my job?”
These chapters highlight the book’s true value. The authors avoid the temptation to create a modern version of the 1950 homemaker books that turned societal expectations into morale codes. In the place of heavy burdens, the authors hand the readers freeing biblical principles that can be used by teenagers nervous about their first job and by executives looking for the next great thing. Concepts such prioritizing obedience to God and love for others above our felt needs shows the reader how to avoid jobs that will lead to to his or her financial or spiritual ruin. The decision-making pyrimid found on pages 77 and 81 alone makes the book a must have.
The authors show Christians that an effective work, church, and life balance consists of finding a job that enables one to provide for themselves, care for their families, and share with others. Successes is located in biblical principles as opposed to keeping up with this Christian or that Christian.
All these practical chapters are built around questions or principles that help the reader to tease out what is driving his or her perception of work. Each chapter also contains a list of questions that can be used by couples, counselors, or Bible study groups to further applicaiton and discussion.
The authors also reveal the sustaining power of God’s sovereignty. Instead of worrying about missing out on job opportunities or descending into petty office politics, the believer locates his confidence in the powerful hand of God who is working all things, even the dead-end job, together for his good. Traeger and Gilbert also note,
We compete by working at whatever we do with all our heart, not by undercutting and sabotaging the efforts of our coworkers.
The book should also be commended for addressing the bosses. While many books deal with complaining spirits and unbiblical competitiveness on the ground floor, few books speak to those who occupy the corner office on the second floor. Traeger and Gilbert’s go up the elevator. They remind employers that their authority comes from God. CEOs shuold use such authority to bless others though sacrificial service that should inturn create a platform for gospel expansion. In short, both the employee and the employer should view the jobsight as space for gospel living that will benefit others and facilitate evangelsim.
The authors believe God has sent Christians to career fields with a missional purpose. Christians who work can reach scores of people that would never pick up the phone if a pastor called. But the authors caution the Christian against merging either idolatry or idleness into one’s evangelism. Both the cutthroat Christian and the lazy Christian undermine the beauty of the gospel. To reach the lost, the Christian must work faithfully, speak honestly about God, and love others well while tapping into the resources of the church.
Though Traeger and Gilbert should be applauded for having given their readers a biblical understanding of how the gospel shapes work, their book could be enriched if they addresses issues related to gender. They only briefly touch on the role of motherhood as work. The also do not tease out how the roles of fatherhood and motherhood shape the discussion on work and life balance. Though the book could have been enriched, its content still proves helpful for both men and women who are thinking their work in light of the gospel.
Those who bring the gospel to work with them will find work to be a joy because it ceases to be a race for money, power, or meaning. The authors correctly note, \
We don’t need work to make us loved or liked or accepted, nor do we need it to prove ourselves that we’re worthwhile. Why? Because all of that has already been secured for us by Jesus!
The Gospel liberates the Christian to work!
Do you know that joy? Are you bringing the gospel to your job?
If not or if you are like me need help thinking through the job-related questions that Traeger and Gilbert tackled, I would encourage you to read their book!