Greg Gilbert has been the senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville for 10 years. A graduate of Yale University with a master of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gilbert is the author of “What Is the Gospel?” and “Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your Salvation.” Gilbert wrote “The Gospel at Work” with Sebastian Traeger. He and his wife Moriah have three children.
When it comes to work, why do you use the language “King Jesus”?
The average person will spend about one-third of their lifetime working.
Gilbert said who you work for is more important than what you do.
“This is broader than work,” Gilbert said. “If you can paint a picture for people of a relationship between themselves and a king, that does much more than other relationships. There’s a sense of allegiance and obedience that is different than just you and a friend, teacher or rabbi.”
Regardless of the season and your specific work, we must see our assignment as handed down from on high.
“What’s most important isn’t the responsibilities you have,” Gilbert added. “What is most critical is that we, as Christians, recognize all of our responsibilities have been given to us by King Jesus. Therefore, we are to do them with excellence, energy, love and an eye toward serving Him. That is true whether we like our job or not or think this is our particular ‘calling.’”
Gilbert said we must look down the line and remember the chain of command ends with Christ.
“We tend to think, ‘If I have authority in a job, then the supervisor or president of my company gave it to me,’” he said. “No, that’s not right. The hierarchy does not top out there. Whatever hierarchy you’re under, it tops out at God because all authority derives from and is given by Him.”
How do most people approach work?
In the United States especially, Americans find themselves either at two extremes, being too attached to work or too detached from it. Gilbert cautions us to be conscious of which way we tend to lean.
Idolize: “Over and over again, all of us tend to idolize our work, to tend to make it the most important driver in life—the thing that gives us significance, meaning, well-being and personal satisfaction that would be bound up in how the job is going,” Gilbert said.
Idle: “Other times, we find our hearts go idle in our jobs,” Gilbert added. “We sort of lose sight of the fact that this is really for God’s glory and our sanctification. That’s when you get discontent, bitter and do the job halfway because you don’t want to be there.”
Why are we wired to work?
Before the fall, God appointed Adam to specific assignments in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2.
From the get-go, we were wired to work.
“It’s a part of being made in the image of God,” Gilbert said. “In the same way God is a creator and producer, He wants us to create and produce as well. God is also a maintainer (Colossians 1:17). He does a kind of factory job of just making sure the train runs on time, rain is falling and systems keep running, if you will. The daily grind of our jobs reflects even God’s work of maintaining a thing in existence.”
Gilbert offers five “purposes” to work:
1. Love God.
2. Love people: “The only reason a job exists is because it’s doing something for society,” he said. “Even if it’s a few degrees back from people, you’re doing it somehow to help others.”
3. Reflect God’s character.
4. Make money: “We need to make enough money to care for our families and even to have enough left over to be generous to others,” he added.
Why is enjoyment at the bottom of your list?
Both Christian and societal cultures place passion and pleasure in and for your job at the top of the pyramid.
Gilbert advises us against unattainable enjoyment expectations and clarifies “calling.”
“That kind of thinking has all kinds of negative effects,” Gilbert said. “If you’re not in a job that you think is your calling and there’s something else out there, you can mail it in on the job the Lord has given you right now. Calling is never used in the Bible in the way we Evangelicals use it, as in the one big thing God wants us to spend our lives on, so it’s basically a lifelong Easter egg hunt to find our calling.”