Work and worldview.

While working my way through the book The Pastor Theologian by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson for review on this site, I read the following quote last night that I thought was worthy of consideration:

To put it bluntly, what you do to earn a paycheck and put food on the table is formative, perhaps in ways you don’t fully appreciate.

The context of this statement was an argument that theologians who move from the church context to the university context experience a shift in focus. The way they approach theological thinking and research is now shaped by the concerns, limitations, and assumptions of the academy rather than those of the church.

This started me thinking about my job. I am a scientific editor in the field of medical research, and the main part of my job is to communicate complex medical ideas in plain language so that they can be understood by patients with limited medical literacy. This requires precision and simplicity in language, as well as an eye to practicality and application.

One of my oft-repeated phrases (one with which my dear wife sometimes teases me) is “Words have meanings.” I apply this guiding principle not only to my daily work but also to my daily interactions and particularly my theological work, whether that is teaching or writing. I am sensitive to the nuances and potential problems raised by language because that “realm” is where I spend the bulk of my time and mental energy.

Without my really being aware of it, my work-life has been shaping my perspective on the world.

If this is true, consider then the fact that God is sovereign over where I live and what I do, including where I work. I think it’s safe to say that in His divine plan, He has guided my education and career path to this point. So if my current job is shifting how I see the world, it is doing so precisely because He permits it.

This shouldn’t surprise me. After all, God ordained for Moses to spend 40 years as a shepherd in Midian before he led God’s people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Something tells me that experience was helpful to him, years later, when he was caring for another large flock of wayward, stubborn, fearful sheep.

If nothing else, this truth should help to shift our mindsets when we feel “stuck” in a job that we don’t want or enjoy. Perhaps God is using this season of work to shape us in ways we don’t expect and to prepare us for work we have yet to encounter.

Your Turn: Have you ever considered how your current work may be shaping your worldview and perspective? Or do you perhaps think this idea is too much of a stretch? Please feel free to share your ideas below!

3 thoughts on “Work and worldview.

  1. Last night I got to see the movie Risen. In the movie, John 21:1-8 was depicted. Peter and the crew went fishing, and, of course, didn’t catch anything.
    I knew what was coming. Jesus came to the shore and said to cast the net on the right side of the boat. But something struck me at that time. Jesus let them (some would say ordained that they would) fish ALL NIGHT, knowing they would catch nothing. In fact, I’d argue my parenthetical above, that Jesus sovereignly foreordained that they would fish with apparent futility all evening. Then basically hand them more fish they’d have imagined the next morning.
    And I thought about our own lives, especially our ‘failures.’ I thought of how often we strive to do something, and do it well (for good reason), but how we must be mindful that the master may not be at all displeased with out “empty net.” It may be just what he was waiting for so that we’d see its emptiness so we’d enjoy Him filling it.

  2. I definitely agree that our work life shapes our worldview and perspective, perhaps in ways we do not recognize at the time. I’ve been a court reporter (stenographer) for over 10 years now, and while I have referred to it as fairly purposeless in the past, I’m more careful about that now. All of my striving in school and seeking out another career came up empty, so Michael’s comment strikes a chord for me also. I am working on being more patient and enjoying God and drawing closer to Him in this season, letting Him bring forth fruit or “fill the net” rather than trying in vain to do it myself. From what I can see, I think God has used my current job to grow my understanding of His justice and mercy, to develop my love for observing and documenting things well, to give me time and quiet space to write and blog, and lately, to teach me about “Godliness with contentment.” I’m hopeful that, as you said, this might be preparation for future work or service that I have yet to encounter. 🙂

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