How does your Christian faith relate to your job? Your career? Your everyday work? How relevant is God’s Word to your daily employment, whether part-time, third shift, freelance; from the shop floor, to school hallways, to the corner office? What does it mean to be a Christian in your vocation?
Bible Gateway interviewed Rev. David H. Kim (@dhkimnyc), general editor of the NIV Faith and Work Bible (Zondervan, 2016).
[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Find Purpose and Passion in Your Daily Work with the NIV Faith and Work Bible]
Why is it necessary to understand how to integrate the Christian faith with a person’s daily work?
Rev. David H. Kim: One of the fundamental premises of this Bible is that the gospel changes everything. If this is true, how does the gospel change the very thing we spend most of our waking hours doing—work. If we begin to see how the gospel is able to change our work, it can have a profound effect on our sense of calling and the meaning behind the work that we do day-in and day-out.
When the gospel enters our work in a robust way, there’s a deep encouragement and renewed sense of purpose that people begin to experience sometimes for the first time.
Why is there a need for this Bible?
Rev. David H. Kim: This is a good question because initially I thought the world didn’t need another study Bible. However, as I considered this further, I began to see the value and need for a Bible like this. The longer I work in this space, the more I realize that people not only need a gospel-inspired vision of work, but they need a new vision of the Scriptures.
For various reasons, when people engage the Bible, they don’t see very readily how it relates to their work. We want to broaden people’s conception of the applicability of the Bible to work and so having the features and materials in this Bible reminds people that the whole of Scriptures addresses the whole of our lives, including our work. We need to be reminded of this every time we open the Bible, so that we experience the hope and power of the gospel in our work every day.
Explain what you mean when you say faith is an indispensable part of work.
Rev. David H. Kim: The often-surprising truth for many people is that we all integrate faith into our work, but most of the time we’re completely unaware of what faith underlies our attitudes and responses to our work.
Faith is an indispensable part of work, whether that work is paid or unpaid. All work flows from some underlying assumptions, and the content of that faith can dramatically change our expectations for our work. For example, in a New York Times article titled “What Work Is Really For,” philosopher Gary Gutting argued a position he attributed to Aristotle: “We work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” He later encapsulates his belief that “Leisure, not work, should be our primary goal.” Many people functionally share this belief that work has no greater meaning than the paycheck it provides. A natural consequence of this faith commitment is the belief it’s okay to do mediocre work so that in your free time you can enjoy your true passions.
On the flip side, if you believe the gospel changes everything, then you must wrestle through the implications of this wide-sweeping, life-encompassing statement.
How do you respond to people who say work has no greater meaning than the paycheck it provides?
Rev. David H. Kim: There’s something very noble about bringing home a paycheck to provide for oneself and one’s family. However, there’s so much more to work than just a paycheck. This is unfortunately a very common view which I believe accounts in part for the statistic that approximately 70% of people are disengaged at work. Think about the loss of meaning and productivity and the staggering economic implications of that statistic. If you think your work is ultimately about a paycheck, then that will affect the quality of your work as well as the quality of your own life.
We were created for a purpose and when our underlying assumptions don’t reflect this deeper purpose, we begin to whither as human beings. We may get a paycheck, but over time what we sense is the dying of our souls. On the flip side, when we connect our work with a greater sense of purpose and calling beyond the paycheck, we begin to see the kind of flourishing that we were called to create.
What are ways in which the gospel transforms our work, other than evangelism and ethics?
Rev. David H. Kim: While these are two important aspects of faith and work, there’s so much more that the gospel is able to change. In the NIV Faith and Work Bible we introduce a simple yet robust framework to expand people’s conceptions of how the gospel transforms our work—motivations, relationships, and world.
First, the gospel is able to change our deepest motivations for why we work and this alone can have a profound effect upon us and our work.
Second, the gospel changes how we view and work with others in a way that both humanizes our interactions with them and empowers them to work well. The gospel moves us to see others as people created in God’s image and that can have a profound impact on people’s productivity and work satisfaction.
Third, the gospel impacts the way we do our work in ways that hopefully brings a greater flourishing to our world. Because of the gospel, God is doing a new work, and he invites us to participate in this innovative work that affects the entirety of our world.
How is it that work has become the source of people’s identity instead of the expression of it?
Rev. David H. Kim: When God created the universe, this world beautifully and gloriously revealed his unfathomable being. As image-bearers of God, human beings likewise create in ways that reflect our identity. Yet, our identity was bestowed upon us by God and when humanity rebelled against God, we were divorced from the source of our identity. In this vacuum, work can wrongfully become the source of our identity wreaking havoc on our lives and work. Work was never meant to carry the weight of our identity.
So when we try to find our sense of security, value, worth from our work, we’ll find ourselves anxiety-ridden and burdened. When people criticize our work, whether that work is a spreadsheet, a coffee, or our children, we take it very personally as if they were attacking us. This response shows how instead of taking criticism in ways that help us in our work, we become easily defensive and negative. The gospel has brought a new identity in Christ that then allows our work to no longer be the source of our identity but the rightful expression of it.
How does the gospel renovate redeem the world through work?
Rev. David H. Kim: Of the three areas the gospel renews—motivations, relationships, and world—this is the hardest to put into succinct words.
When we think of our world today with all of its interconnectedness and complexities, the scope of gospel renewal includes systems and structures that are far beyond what we might consider day-to-day. For examples, economic and political structures that have a far sweeping impact on the lives of billions is not outside the purview of the gospel’s redemptive influence. When economic structures and policies allow people to have access to capital, it releases a host of productivity that could humanize many bringing a greater flourishing to our society to the glory of God.
Our work is connected to much larger structures and systems that can be influenced and changed to align with God’s intention to bring order and fruitfulness into the world.
Does each book of the Bible actually speak to the issue of faith and work?
Rev. David H. Kim: Absolutely. When we think about our work it deals with our motivations, our desires, our sense of security, purpose, and status. Our work deals with a whole host of relationships. Work impacts the flourishing of individuals, communities, and nations.
So much is wrapped up in our work and each book of the Bible points to Christ and the good news of what he’s done that impacts the whole of our lives and the whole of our world. When our eyes are opened to see how each book of the Bible points us to the gospel, the relevance to our work and the need for this good news to enter into our work becomes increasingly evident.
Describe what the 45 Core Doctrine articles are in this Bible.
Rev. David H. Kim: One reason why people find applying the Bible to work so difficult is that the world of Scriptures seems so distant from our modern world today. Many established realities we encounter daily, like non-profit and for-profit corporations, did not exist in the ancient world. The fast paced nature of our technologically-driven world seems to create issues that would appear to be foreign to ancient civilization.
The NIV Faith and Work Bible highlights doctrines because the theology contained in these doctrines help bridge the cultural gap between the ancient world of Scripture and our world today. Despite how much has changed over the past two millennia, the theology contained in these doctrines are quite relevant to any context, especially that of the modern workplace.
Unfortunately, when these classic doctrines are often taught, they’re not applied to work place situations and so the relevance of these rich doctrines to our work are scarcely developed. This Bible helps the reader start with Scriptures and then moves to show how the theology embedded in these Bible passages are highly relevant to our work context.
What is the 31-day journey in this Bible?
Rev. David H. Kim: I encounter many Christians who’ve been raised in the church but never realized that there’s a cohesive storyline from Genesis to Revelation.
Many Christians understand the Bible to be a collection of stories without an overarching narrative. As Tim Keller has said, one of the unique aspects of the Bible is that it is primarily a story illustrated by teaching and not primarily teaching illustrated by story.
This 31-day journey was designed to help the reader begin to see the grand narrative that highlights that the gospel centers on what God has done for us in history rather than what we have to do to become right with God. When we understand this redemptive narrative, we begin to deepen in our knowledge and appreciation for the gospel and its unique revelation of God’s grace to renew a broken world.
Does this Bible only pertain to the career professional person?
Rev. David H. Kim: No. The NIV Faith and Work Bible was designed to appeal to a wide variety of professions from white collar to blue collar, non-profit to for-profit, and private as well as public companies.
The stories that we highlight throughout this Bible are real life stories of individuals throughout the United States, and we intentionally drew from a diverse demographics range. They’re not formulaic stories as they reflect the harsh reality of how broken many industries are. These stories are my favorite feature of this Bible and make very concrete how these doctrines are relevant to real life.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Rev. David H. Kim: Bible Gateway has fundamentally changed the way people have access to the Scriptures. If there’s an Internet signal, people will always have access to God’s Word and for that I’m profoundly grateful for the technology and people who’ve made this access to life-giving words possible.
Bio: Rev. David H. Kim, oversees all the ministries of the Center for Faith & Work (@RedeemerCFW) as executive director and is the pastor of faith and work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Prior to this role, David served as the director of the Gotham Fellowship, developing and teaching its intensive curriculum while providing spiritual direction. Before joining CFW in 2007, David was a chaplain at Princeton University, where he also served as the founder and executive director of Manna Christian Fellowship for over 12 years.
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