In what is an otherwise a fine book on parenting, author Steve Wright, in an attempt to challenge dads to greater commitment in discipling their children, makes a comment that I fear reflects what many of us Christian married folk think about our work.
I often hear dads say, “Steve, I agree with what you are saying, and I wish I had more time to do some of the things you are talking about, but my job…” This is where I usually cut them off. God has given a job description to us, and there is no escape clause even for dads who work a certain amount of hours. You see, our career isn’t really our job. Our career puts food on the table and keeps the lights on so that we can do our real job. Our real job is laid our clearly in the Word. In case you don’t have this job description, you may want to print it and keep it in front of you (ApParent Privilege, 146).
On the following page, Wright gives the following three facets of a dad’s job description. They are to (1) love the Lord with everything they’ve got; (2) love and lead their bride; (3) love and teach their children.
Now, I certainly don’t have any problem with Wright’s job description for dads, nor do I think he is wrong to correct fathers who are using their daily workload as an excuse to avoid the biblical call to disciple their children. Amen and amen. What I find slightly troubling is Wright’s truncated view of work expressed in the above quote, and I am concerned with how such a view of work will impact the both the married and unmarried people in our churches.
The problem is found in viewing a dad’s daily work (what Wright calls his “career”) as a mere means to the real job of loving God, loving one’s bride, and parenting one’s children. I understand that he is countering a tendency among some Christian dads to devote an inordinate amount of time to work or career at the expense of other biblical priorities, but I fear that he has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction and has actually muted the Bible at important points.
When we approach our job or career as a means to accomplish something more important (more spiritual?), we have actually drawn a distinction where Scripture does not. Because God has designed and equipped man with the capacity to work and build and accomplish and exercise dominion, any work done by a Christian in faith is good and pleasing to God in and of itself.
Whether that work is drawing up a proposal for the new building project, finalizing a corporate tax return, giving a few extra hours to a patient before a major surgery, or completing a new fence and veranda for eager homeowners, it is all, when done in faith, a good work. Pursuing excellence, greater competence, and more responsibility in one’s job can all fall under the command to “do your work heartily as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). There may even be times when dad has to call his wife to let her know that he needs to stay late at work in order lighten the load for his fellow employees, thus fulfilling the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 27:39).
To see such work merely as a task that “puts food on the table and keeps the light on” so that we can can be about the real business of life once we get home seems to throw us into a secular/sacred divide. But such a dichotomy is ultimately unhelpful for both the married and unmarried people in our churches. For the married because it robs dads of the joy and satisfaction they are meant to derive from their work (or makes them feel guilty when they do find pleasure in their work); to the unmarried and childless because they will begin to think that what they do with most of the time–their job–is not nearly as important as what husband and dads do at home. By promoting such a dim view of work, we will unintentionally create the sense among those in our church that single people and those without children are second-class Christians.
I am confident that Wright doesn’t want to discourage men in their jobs–he says earlier in the book that it is a dad’s responsibility to instill a strong work ethic in his children (see page 40). Nevertheless, as we seek to correct what we perceive in many dads to be an unbalanced devotion to work and help them reclaim Christ-centered priorities, we must tread carefully lest we downplay the clear biblical emphasis on the inherent goodness of work and the joy a man can find in it.