Customer Reviews: The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 6, 2014
you keep even half an eye on Christian publishing, then you know that gospel-centeredness is a major theme today, and especially so for publishers targeting their books at the New Calvinists. While this is undoubtedly a trend, and one that will at some point begin to slow, the point is clear: the gospel matters, and it matters to everything. There is no area of life outside the purview of the gospel. The gospel matters in the pulpit, in the home and in the family. The gospel matters at work as well.

The Gospel at Work is a new book from Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger and its big idea is this: You work for the king, and this changes everything. No matter what you do, your work has value because you are doing it for the Lord and who you work for is far more important than the details of what you do. This means that there is no such thing as a meaningless job and no such thing as a job that is insignificant.

Much of the book is structured around two of the ways that we can allow our work to become sinful. Each represents an extreme. For some the temptation is idleness at work while for others the temptation is idolatry of work. Some hope to find their significance and worth in the work they do so that work becomes “the primary object of our passions, our energy, and our love. We end up worshiping our job.” But then others “can slip into being idle in our work. When we fail to see God’s purposes in our work, we don’t really care much about it. We fail to give any attention to it, or we despise it and generally neglect our responsibility to serve as if we are serving the Lord.” And, sadly, both of these extremes are celebrated in our culture.

The challenge of The Gospel at Work is to avoid those extremes, and the way to do that is to work out the implications of the gospel in what you do.“ If you are a Christian, we want to challenge you to begin connecting the reality of what God has done for you in Christ to your job, thinking carefully about how this applies to and changes the way you think about your work.”

Now some of the gospel-focused books I have read fall a little bit short in actually connecting the gospel to the subject at hand. Thankfully, that is not the case here. The gospel tells us that we have a new master, a new assignment, a new confidence, and new rewards and in all of those ways it counters the temptation to make too much, or too little, of work. Let me provide an extended quote which helps show how carefully these authors have thought this through:

"Because of Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf, because he lives and reigns right now, we have identity, belonging, love, acceptance, forgiveness, adoption, justification, and reward. It is all ours for all eternity. Because that’s true, we are gloriously freed from having to pursue those things (or, rather, cheap imitations of them) through our work. Do you see? We don’t need our work to provide an identity for us. We already have an identity in Christ. We don’t need it to give us a place to belong. We already have been adopted by God because of Jesus, and we belong to his redeemed family. We don’t need work to make us loved or liked or accepted, nor do we need it to prove to ourselves that we’re worthwhile. Why? Because all of that has already been secured for us by Jesus! So where does that leave our work? What role does that leave for it to play in our lives? Simple. It leaves our work liberated from the impossible demand to provide something for us that it was never meant to provide and from the excuse that it doesn’t matter, and we are set free to live lives of joyful, heartfelt service to our King!"

As the authors progress through their subject, they provide a brief, but sound, theology of work, and then progress to practical matters: choosing a career; finding that difficult balance between work, family and church; handling difficult bosses and co-workers; being a Christian boss; and sharing the gospel at work. In every case they work outward from the gospel into practical counsel and guidance.

Where the book impacted me deepest is in its discussion of success. The authors redefine success, drawing it away from money, power, influence, change, or a respectable standard of living. From a biblical perspective, success is far simpler: it is measured in faithfulness. We are not all equally talented and we do not have equal opportunities, so we need to be very, very careful not to measure ourselves against one another. That can be a fatal mistake. Instead, we are to measure success by faithfulness to God in the things he has called us to do. That was very freeing to me and very encouraging.

The Gospel at Work is a powerful and helpful book exactly because the gospel really does matter at work, just as it matters at home and in the church and everywhere else. And since we all work somewhere, sometime, this is a book we would all do well to read.
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on February 2, 2014
The Lord knew what I needed to hear. If I had not clicked on a subtle Twitter post from David Platt I would not have known this book existed, which just proves to me God knows what He's doing. With that said, I've been struggling with my views on work, and not experiencing the peace a professed follower of Jesus ought to have. I found myself viewing work more as a burden rather than an act of worship or a means in which to serve and love Jesus and my neighbor. Instead, I would find myself frustrated, tired and longing for the weekend to come just so I wouldn't have to be at my job. Through Mr. Traeger and Mr. Gilbert I can now see I've been believing a lie rather than the truth. There is meaning and purpose in our work and that indeed the Gospel is what does it. Now that I recognize the truth I will repent and seek God's grace to persevere and claim victory over my sin. There are so many truths that speak to the heart that I recommend this book to anyone.
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on August 30, 2014
I was raised in a tradition that seemed to separate full-time ministry from the "secular" jobs Christians often have. There was an unstated idea that some people are "called" to be ministers and everyone else who isn't "called" ends up with a normal job. Since that time, God has helped me see that in reality we are all in full-time ministry wherever we are (even though some can make a living preaching and teaching God's word), and that we are all called to whatever vocation we may find ourselves in. To help solidify this understanding in my mind, I am always on the lookout for a good book that will help me understand better how to see all of life as sacred and lived before God. When "The Gospel at Work" went on sale on Kindle, I knew I had to pick it up.

While it was not the deepest or best book I have read on the subject, it did help reinforce what God has been showing me and renewed a desire to see my work as a calling. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and is worth the money, but it seemed to be more surface level compared to some I have read. If you have not read anything on this topic, then this is definitely a great place to start.

Ultimately the book can be condensed to two warnings and an encouragement or solution.

The two warnings are to neither make work your idol nor to be idle at work. If work is your idol, then you hang everything on the "success" of your job. But that can be hard to define. What truly makes one successful? More money? More prestige? Climbing the corporate ladder, as the saying goes? If we make too much out of work, then it becomes an idol, basically taking the place of Jesus Christ in our lives as our Master.

On the other hand, we can grow idle at work. This is a very real danger when we tend to see our work as unimportant to God and others. If our work does not matter, then we tend to waste time, not work as hard, and have a more negative view of our job and coworkers. This does not put us in a position to be good witnesses of saving faith in Christ.

The solution to these two potential dangers is to see ourselves as servants/slaves to God our Savior. When we work, we are ultimately working for Him. We are where we are because God has put us there at this point in our lives to live for Him. We work hard not to get something out of it (although God does reward hard service), but we work hard because we are working to pleas God. Whatever we do is done for His glory. When we take this attitude, we see our work as service to our King, so we will not make work our idol and neither will we be idle at work.

All of the chapters of this book are basically an exposition of these points, and the authors do a good job of explaining them clearly and convincingly and applying them to different scenarios (choosing a job, difficult people, balancing work with family and church, etc.)

If you are in the position I was, struggling to understand how your work glorifies God, this is a good book to read. I believe you will come away refreshed and with a new understanding of a biblical way to view your vocation.
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on February 26, 2014
You know what I’m really thankful for? That there are people starting to write on the relationship between the gospel and work. This is a subject in which western Christians desperately need to grow in our understanding. Many of us, me included, really struggle to do our work in a Christ exalting fashion. Many of us grumble and complain, and generally struggle to be satisfied in what we’re doing or even see the value in our jobs.

Unless it’s just me who’s guilty of some of these?

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert tackle this head-on in their new book, The Gospel at Work. Their goal in the book is simple: to help us see how working for Jesus gives meaning and purpose to all of our work, to recognize that “when glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work — regardless of what that work is in its particulars — becomes an act of worship.”

Traeger and Gilbert approach the subject from a different angle than, say, Tim Keller does in his excellent Every Good Endeavor (reviewed here). While one could argue that this is a matter of semantics, the authors are less concerned about delivering a fleshed-out theology of work, as opposed to digging into the practical issues related to how we look at work. In doing so, they spend the bulk of their time examining the twin errors of idolatry and idleness in work.

“Our jobs become idols when we overidentify with them,” they write. “Our work becomes the primary consumer of our time, our attention, and our passions, as well as the primary means for measuring our happiness and our dissatisfaction in life.” The key word here is “primary.”

When we give our all to the company at the expense of our families, when our minds are consumed by thoughts of work consistently, when we’re always looking at how we can position ourselves, or even when we see our work as being all about making a difference in the world… This is dangerous stuff, friends.

When work is “primary,” everything else is secondary, and we’ll always be dissatisfied. There’s always a next step, always another rung on the ladder, always a new challenge to overcome… but it will never be enough.

But idolatry in work is only one problem. The other is idleness. This, I believe, is the fundamental problem of many in my own generation. Where our parents’ and grandparents’ generation idolized work, we tend to treat it as a necessary evil. We “work to live”—treating it as something we have to do in order to do the things we want to do (again, unless it’s just me). So we don’t care about quality, we’re unreasonably frustrated by it, we segregate our jobs from our faith… Again, this is dangerous ground. Traeger and Gilbert write:

"Being idle does not necessarily mean inactivity — a lack of productivity. It can be an inactivity of the heart, an inability or unwillingness to see or embrace God’s purposes in the work he’s given you to do."

I said I believe my generation tends to lean towards idleness in work. This is true. But many of us—including me—tend to flip-flop between idolatry and idleness. I know there are many times when I’m entirely too consumed with the goings-on in my workplace. When I see things that bother me, they tend to weigh heavily… but my solution at times is to escape into idleness. To try and check out to escape my frustrations (whether they’re warranted ones or not is an entirely different matter).

What’s especially helpful for me is being reminding of this truth: “Ultimately you are in your job so you learn to love God and other people better. This is your new assignment.” Honestly, I’m working out a lot of the implications of this right now, a couple weeks after reading the book. But what I find helpful about it is it forces me to constantly confront my attitude and behavior.

Am I upset about the right things?
Am I spending time thinking about things that I don’t need to?
Am I phoning in my work, instead of giving my all—even on projects I don’t particularly enjoy?
Am I more concerned about accolades from coworkers than being satisfied with Christ’s?

Clearly, The Gospel at Work gave me a great deal to consider on these matters. Not that I have a lot of answers, but I’m starting to work these things out.

When we see what we do as an opportunity to learn to love the Lord and others with greater affection and Christlikeness, we can recognize that our workplaces are a mission field—even those of us who work in organizations operated by Christians. Those outside the bubble, have the opportunity to be respectfully bold witnesses for Christ among unbelieving colleagues, acting as people of integrity, building relationships, and (you knew this was coming) telling people about Jesus.

Those inside the bubble are not off the hook either. We still have to show our love for Christ in what we do, and going to work at a place where everyone professes to believe in Jesus doesn’t cover that. It actually raises the stakes. In that environment, it reveals far more about the state of your heart to people who (at least in theory) have the same expectations you do, who know that work is a good and God-honoring thing. That your coworkers are people with dignity and value because they’ve been saved by Jesus for His purposes. But it’s a place where idleness so easily sets in, and a compromised witness quickly follows.

The Gospel at Work may not be a theology of work proper, but make no mistake: it is as intensely theological as it is practical. Idleness and idolatry in work are theological problems and they’ve got serious practical implications. One makes work a burden, the other makes you work’s slave. But the gospel frees us from both idleness and idolatry. This book is a wonderful reminder of this, one I trust will be a great blessing to you as you read and apply it.
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on December 30, 2015
The authors state that one of the greatest needs in the church is an understanding of how our daily work according to God’s Word ties in with God’s ultimate purpose in the world. They contend that on one hand, we find ourselves overvaluing work to the neglect of our health, our families and the church. In this way we make our jobs an idol. On the other hand, we undervalue work in a culture that fosters laziness and glorifies retirement. In this way we can slip into being idle in our work.

Traeger and Gibert offer helpful questions for us to ask about how our work fits into God’s intention for our lives:
• Is my work shaping my character in a godly direction?
• How can I do my work, not just as a way to put food on the table, but as a sold-out disciple of Jesus?
• What’s the point of work in a Christian’s life? Is there any meaning to it beyond providing goods and services, making money, and providing a living for ourselves and our families?
• Why does God have us spend so much of our lives doing this one particular thing?
The authors state that our jobs are one of the primary ways God intends to make us more like Jesus, and that the New Testament has some things to say about what we should think of our work (Ephesians 6:5,7, Colossians 3:22-24).

They tell us that no matter what our job is or who our boss is, what we do in our jobs is actually done in service to King Jesus. That is the big idea of the book – that our work has purpose and meaning because we are ultimately doing it for the King. Who we work for is more important than what we do.

The authors aim is to help Christians see more clearly why God has given them work to do and how they might be thinking about work in sinful ways. They hope to help believes forsake both idolatry and idleness in favor of a more biblical way of thinking about work as service to King Jesus.

I appreciated sections in the book about how to choose a job; how to balance work, church and family; how to handle difficult bosses and co-workers; and what it means to be a Christian boss.

Helpful “For Further Reflection” sections are included at the end of each chapter. I used this when reading the book as a part of a book club recently.
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on March 13, 2014
Amidst a society that increasingly idolizes work as well as leisure, "The Gospel at Work" presents a welcome demonstration of the power of the Gospel to transform an often-ignored aspect of the Christians' discipleship: the workplace. Like Scylla and Charybdis, two extremes plague our philosophy of work. We are tempted to make work an idol or be idle in our work. Both reflect a deep-set selfishness. Instead of either extreme, our culture's man-centered views of work must be replaced by a God-centered view. Rich in doctrine and insightful in application, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert provide unparalleled instruction in "The Gospel at Work."

We live in a world that still recalls, even if it no longer embodies, a waning "protestant work ethic." But where does the motivation for such a work ethic come from? Where do we look for a renewed vigor and drive in the way we approach work? In "The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," Max Weber famously attributes the rise of the Protestant Work Ethic to Calvinists' anxiety over their assurance of salvation. It seemed, he proposed, that devotion to work served as a sort of coping mechanism in order to alleviate the need for certitude of salvation.

However, in the "Gospel at Work," Traeger and Gilbert propose something radically different: that the gospel motivates Christians to work joyfully and gives meaning and purpose to our jobs. Contra Weber's theory that fear and anxiety over assurance of salvation fosters a "Protestant Work Ethic," Traeger and Gilbert present the joy over confidence in the gospel as the motive behind a true gospel-centered work ethics.

As a college student at a top-tier university, I plan to use this book with students I'm discipling to encourage a Gospel-oriented approach to university studies, choosing jobs and working for the Lord. The books' insights are deep and its' application broad. I strongly recommend this book to anyone eager to learn how to see their discipleship of Christ extended to their workplace.
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on January 31, 2014
How does the gospel affect my daily life, especially in my work? How should a christian view his/her work or choose what work to do? This is what this book offers to all Christians, for those who have been working for some time or those who would start work soon.

The book first tackles 2 issues that is related to our work, idolatry and idleness, this chapter would be most apt for those who are already working, but this 2 chapters also serves as a great warning for those who will work in the future, neither idolise your work nor idle at your work. Different examples of idolatry and idleness was given in their respective chapters and I felt that it was comprehensive enough to cover almost all aspects a christian would face in a workplace. Most likely, anyone of us would likely identify with one or a few of the examples raised.

The authors then teaches how we should view and serve at our workplace, using many biblical principles the authors seeks to present especially Colossians 3:22-24 and what it means daily for us in our workplace.

For those who are looking for a job, or for those who are thinking of changing your job, the next section would be especially helpful. The authors shows several principles on how to know what work to choose. The chapter explains what the three ‘must-haves’ in the job are, and what the 3 ‘good-to-haves’ are in the job. This chapter goes across the grain of our social where what I like to do is under the ‘good-to-have’, instead of the ‘must-haves’.

The next section then deals with an important aspect of how we can balance our life, work and service? The authors used a simple yet helpful principle to balance all these, “pursue faithfulness, then fruitfulness, but not idolatry”.

The next section brings out some important points, there has been many books on how to be a good employee, but how many books have you seen on what it means to be a good employer? This section covers an area that deserves to be better served, bringing out many principles we can have that allows us to be faithful and showing Christlikeness as employees or as employers.

The last section explores the value of full-time ministry and a full-time job, the authors decides to tackle the question in terms of ‘value’, and how we ought to re-think about the meaning of value. Lastly there is an appendix for those who are working to help us grow whilst serving in our workplace.

This book is not heavy, yet filled with biblical principles and good examples, and is definitely to be helpful for almost every christian and well worth the price. Definitely a book I would recommend to any christian who wants to understand how they can glorify God in their work.
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on January 18, 2015
In reading a bunch of books on work for an upcoming series of talks at church I found this book the most helpful, down to earth and practical. Gilbert and Traegar say that we can either fall into the trap of idleness at work or idolatry of work. This theme is repeated through out the book which is chock full of biblical, theologically accurate real world application. It is the book I hope the workers at my church read!
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on August 19, 2015
My husband is in a book club at church. They just studied this book and he and the whole group was greatly blessed and encouraged by it. He keeps talking about things he learned and telling others about it!
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on April 25, 2014
I absolutely loved this book! I am a pretty avid reader, and this is definitely the best book that I have read in a while. It's message is so simple and so clear. Most of the book casts all the struggles of the work world in terms of two pitfalls: Idolatry and idleness. Page after page, the authors give examples of these pitfalls that are so convicting. I could hardly put the book down because it resonated so deeply with the problems that I know I have.

But the book does not just identify the problem. It also gives a clear motivation for our work. "We work for the King and that changes everything". We are to work "as unto the Lord". They do a great job of showing how the gospel gives us a new motivation for being productive without falling into idolatry or idleness.

I have read 3 other books on similar topics: "Why Business Matter's to God", "Every Good Endeavor", and "Work Matters". Each of these were very helpful, and I definitely recommend them. However, none were as Biblical, practical, and convicting as this book was for me.
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