Gilbert encourages Christians to take their work seriously at Commonweal Project luncheon
Christians should take their work seriously as one of three God-given spheres of responsibility, said Greg Gilbert during The Commonweal Project’s Spring Lecture Luncheon on Wednesday, March 7, at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Gilbert, who is pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, presented the first of two lectures based on his new book, The Gospel at Work, at the event. The second luncheon of the series will be held April 25.
According to Gilbert, there are three spheres of human responsibility: family, church, and work. He emphasized the importance of bringing the gospel to the workplace sphere in addition to the others, which typically garner the most attention.
“It makes sense that spiritual truth plays into our church and family spheres of life, but many seem surprised that work is also spiritual,” he said. “Christians should make it as normal to apply the Bible at work as it is to apply the Bible to family life.”
Using Jesus’ parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14 as his text, Gilbert emphasized that these talents — contextually a unit of measurement — are not representative of abilities but of everything given by God. Understanding this misconception changes the meaning of the text and the application of the parable, especially when it comes to work.
“If the message of the parable is that the talents are every responsibility and every opportunity that God has placed in your life, then the message of the parable becomes much more expansive,” Gilbert said. “In that case, what Jesus is saying is: ‘Until I come back, I expect you to be engaged heartily with your love and your energy and with great joy and determination in not just the things you like and are good at but in everything God has put into your life,’ which changes the meaning of that dramatically.”
He advised pastors to help their people remember that whatever they do, they’re doing it for the glory of the king, and to encourage congregants to connect their life in the workplace to Christian discipleship.
“When you speak to your people, you want to do it with relevance, in a way that’s going to interact with them where they are,” he said. “You want to be able to bring biblical truth to bear in the places where they’re feeling pressure.”
Gilbert also addressed the idea of “calling” and explained that the common conception of a calling in life does not necessarily fit what the Bible teaches. 1 Corinthians 7:17 reads: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” This call is not just the “one big thing” but the life God has assigned, Gilbert said. And it encompasses all responsibilities, opportunities, and changes, he explained. In the spheres of life — church, family, and work – work is no less a part of the life Christians are called to.
“Our jobs are one of the three massive arenas that the Lord has built into the fabric of our lives to make us more like Jesus, to sanctify us, to conform us more closely to the image of the Son.”
Regarding idolatry and idleness — the two main issues Christians face in work — Gilbert said the key is remembering that work is for the glory of the king.
“If you’ve found yourself being idle in the heart when it comes to your work, it might be that that bad opinion of your job is coming from a low opinion of your master, who put you there in the first place,” he said.
The Commonweal Project was created at Southern to equip Christians and pastors with a biblical theology of work and economics.