Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship with Monday Work. Tom Nelson. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011. 234 pp. $15.99
Work Matters is a welcome addition to my digital bookshelf because Tom Nelson, writing as a pastor, has effectively bridged the gap not only between Sunday worship and Monday work, but between the pastorate and the laity.
I’ve met many seminarians working “secular” jobs who view their work as a necessary evil until they can find a full-time pastorate somewhere. They live with no sense of calling to their current place of employment and almost feel as though they are “serving their time now” in exchange for their dream job later. That’s not true with everybody. But how many books have you heard of that extol the high calling of vocation, “Christian” or not?
This book is geared more towards the modern working man, from the minimum wage earner, to a the business professional, to the CEO of a major corporation. But pastors and others serving in the ministry can benefit from this too. After all, work is work, and that work can be pretty challenging.
Tom Nelson, a pastor himself, believes it’s time for us to develop a good theology of work, reminding readers that work, for us, should be synonymous with worship, not a four-letter word we mutter under our breath when the alarm clock sounds on Monday morning.
I once teased my wife when she was asking me about my plans for the week and said, “Don’t talk about Monday as if it’s already a foregone conclusion.” The truth is, work already is a foregone conclusion, for her as a stay-at-home mom, and for me as an employee of a very large accounting organization, and for most everyone else.
In chapter one, Nelson takes us all the way back to Genesis to point out that God created Adam to work in a garden. Work is part of God’s purpose for our lives, one that is wholesome and good. When we work, we have the opportunity to worship God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength—our whole being.
Nelson is not living in a dream world about work. He recognizes how draining and frustrating our jobs can be, which is why his second chapter deals with Genesis 3, the fall. Sin introduced a curse for us, bringing frustration and futility to our work. Yet even the writer of Ecclesiastes, in all his talk on futility, says work should be something we delight in (Ecc. 3:12-13).
Though our work may be subjected to futility now, it was not always so and will not always be so. Just as Christ has redeemed us and is coming again, so too He will redeem our work. All creation groans in anticipation of His coming. That happens with our work too. But just as the servant with ten talents received greater reward for his faithfulness, so too our work on earth prepares us for greater—and more meaningful—work in eternity.
This is only the first four chapters. The book goes on to discuss the meaningfulness of our work and the value of our work developing Christ-likeness in us. His chapter on how “common grace” and promoting the common good should be communicated by our work owes much to the Puritans. Nelson’s concluding chapters address some of the challenges we face in our work, from temptations to sin to periods of unemployment. He rounds it out with a call to the reader to plug in and participate in the church and her work in the world.
Although he doesn’t address retirement or sinful vocations, he proves the assertion of his title: Work matters.
Overall, the book was a helpful reminder of the value inherent in my work and the challenge to live by the axiom “The only Christian work is good work well done.” I’m going to worship God through my work today. Will you?
I received a digital copy of this work from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review.