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The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs Paperback – January 28, 2014
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This book is a great primer on putting our work in the perspective of our lives and God’s kingdom. Written by two ordinary Christian men who have lived the ups and downs of life and work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert have given deep thought, purpose, and context to the subject of work. An easy, instructional, and edifying read. -- Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management
“You work for the King, and that changes everything!” That is the basic argument for this much-needed, superbly written work on work. Our job is necessary, and it is also an opportunity to glorify God and advance the gospel. Thank you Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert, for writing a book that is long overdue. -- Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina
The best advice I could give anyone is to read The Gospel at Work. It’s more than a book about finding purpose and meaning in our jobs; it’s a book about how to have success in life. Sebastian and Greg have done a masterful job of providing practical guidance on a question we’ve all asked at one time or another: “What is the point of work in a Christian’s life?” If you want to be successful in life and really enjoy the work you do, embrace the principles found here. This book is filled with countless gems of wisdom! -- Gloria S. Nelund, chairman and CEO of Trilinc Global
The ideas in this book are not a theory for the authors but the reality in which they live. One writes as a businessman, the other as a pastor. Both wrestle faithfully with what the Bible teaches about our work, showing us the exciting possibilities when we see our world through God’s eyes. -- J. D. Greear, Ph.D., pastor of the Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Caroline, and author of Stop Asking Jesus into Yo
Imagine sitting down with someone for a deeply wise, biblically faithful, and intensely practical conversation about your workplace and work. You’ll find that here. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert combine real-world practicality and theological fidelity in this immensely pastoral book. After finishing it, I looked up and said to my wife, “Every Christian should read this book.” -- Jonathan Leeman, editorial director of 9Marks and author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love
Everyone knows that work is both necessary and hard. But what about its meaning? Some think of work as merely a distraction from ministry; others, as a necessary evil to provide for higher ends; others still, a place where ultimate purpose and identity can be found. In this book you will find two careful and experienced guides---brothers whose wisdom and teaching I deeply respect---who know not only the right questions to ask but also where to find the life-giving answers. -- Justin Taylor, managing editor of The ESV Study Bible and coauthor of The Final Days of Jesus
The Gospel at Work is a book by practitioners for practitioners. The combined business and pastoral perspectives of the authors make this a real “how to” narrative. Clearly defining our purposes for working while answering many of our key questions about our careers, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert point us to a freedom that can only be provided by Christ. -- Lou Giuliano, former chairman, CEO, and president of ITT Industries and cofounder of Workforce Ministries
I read every word of this book and loved it. I want to make this a basic staple in my discipling and get lots of copies. This provocative and practical book asks and answers the right questions in the right way. It will even help you know how to better pray---privately and publicly. Two of my favorite people have now produced one of my favorite books. -- Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks
The Gospel at Work is a field guide for anyone who wants to seriously consider how to give glory to God through his or her job. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert answer a series of questions about how faith and work intersect with sound biblical answers. You’ll be more equipped to live out the gospel in your career after reading this book. -- Dr. O. S. Hawkins, president and CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources
Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert understand that one way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents he has given us. In doing so, we fulfill our God-given privilege to beautify our various stations for his glory---giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will one day be a universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started. Read this book. It will make you think and set you free. -- Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of One-Way Love
About the Author
Sebastian Traeger is the executive vice president of the International Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously worked in business and technology where he started, led, and built several companies such as FiveStreet, Razoo, Silas Partners, and Village Phone.
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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.
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.