False ideas about work emerge not just from the secular culture but also from poor theology. Therefore, church leaders must guard zealously against sacred/secular dualism that can produce an exaltation of the soul over the body (and thus of the so-called spiritual over the material) and/or a hierarchy favoring the work of clergy over that of the laity. Pastor Tom Nelson from Christ Community Church—who has been teaching his members about the redemptive value of work for ten years—takes this very seriously. "We're language police around here," he says. "We try very hard as a team to help each other avoid that dichotomist thinking and language."
Church leaders also need to address the fuzzy thinking some of their parishioners may have regarding work satisfaction. We've seen that for Christ-followers, the primary motivation for work is not self-fulfillment, self-enrichment, or self-promotion. That cuts directly across our secular culture's claims. Christianity insists that our lives—including our work—are all about God and his work, his mission. This should be inspirational because it provides profound meaning to our labor.
Leaders who begin teaching more on work may find that people have some misplaced fears: Does the fact that their work is not "all about them" mean that God intends for labor to be only drudgery? Is he indifferent to our joy? Does he call us to work that we loathe? Are we only in the center of his vocational call if our work is miserable, painful, and unfulfilling? No, no, no, and no again!
Church leaders must help their people recognize that Satan delights in distorting our understanding of the Father and his loving purposes. Even believers who have walked for years with God can get tangled up by the enemy of our souls, feeling guilty when they engage in work they love—as though that is a sign that the work must be selfish. It's not.
Dying to self in the context of our work does not mean that we must search for and take on the job we think we'd most dislike. God creates us each with passions and talents. He then endows his followers with spiritual gifts. He sovereignly arranges our circumstances and experiences. He forms us with unique personalities and designs. He puts in us the capacity to find deep joy and purpose by serving him through work that draws on our unique, God-given combination of natural and spiritual gifts. We serve him as we serve others through our work, because he has called us to be his hands and feet in the midst of our beautiful but broken planet. That work is often difficult and may be draining, but it also can bring rich satisfaction and reward. As author Frederick Buechner says in his pithy definition of vocation, "the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."