Take a few minutes this weekend to think about the dignity of work in general, and your work in particular. Your work, whatever it is, is your opportunity to glorify God by serving others. From Jordan Ballor:
The first great commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We are to love God in all we do. This includes that portion of our day which we spend at work. We are, quite simply, to show our love of God in our work.
It is one thing, however, to say that we are to love God in our work. It is quite another to do so. What does loving God in our work really look like?
It is here that the second great commandment comes to the fore: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As the Christian writer Lester DeKoster puts it, at its core “work is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others.” It is in putting ourselves in the service of others that our work also finds meaning. For in making ourselves useful to others, we do for them as we would have them do for us.
And this is, as DeKoster puts it, the great secret connecting work and the two great love commandments. For in making ourselves useful to others, we make ourselves useful to God. This is how we show our love for God: in serving others.
After all, that’s how he shows his love for us. The incarnation is God’s entrance into a life and death of service for human beings. The Apostle Paul makes this connection as he writes, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He says this just before he points to the example of Christ as the one who serves others, “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” This is the good news of Jesus Christ, for our life and death, our rest and our work.
If you’re interested in reading more about how Christianity and the Gospel relate to your work, I recommend Matt Perman’s blog and book (What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done).
David Brooks’s op-ed in the New York Times on “The Mental Virtues” reminds us that “character tests are pervasive even in modern everyday life. It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office”:
Thinking well under a barrage of information may be a different sort of moral challenge than fighting well under a hail of bullets, but it’s a character challenge nonetheless….
[T]he mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.
Montaigne once wrote that “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we can’t be wise with other men’s wisdom.” That’s because wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing how to handle your own limitations.
Citing the book Intellectual Virtues, Brooks lists ways we can work on the virtues needed at the computer keyboard. For example, regarding “firmness,” he says, “You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence.” Here are the six he describes:
I appreciated these words from Paul Matthies on being a single person in ministry. And in the end, his words are true for you in whatever difficulty you find yourself: As you find the best way to glorify God in your situation, remember that a time of need is an opportunity for you to experience God’s grace.
I’m honestly not certain if I have a call to lifelong singleness. Do I have a desire to be married? Yes. However, that desire waxes and wanes. Regardless, I want to be committed to the gospel ministry above all else, right now.
A friend once shared this piece of advice: “Run after Jesus with all you are. Then, one day, you may look up and see a woman beside you running on the same path. But regardless of if that day comes, you gain Christ in the end, whether she comes or not.” I see that as very helpful—pursue Jesus! If He doesn’t give a spouse—you still get Him. And if she comes, yet she passes away—you are still grounded in Him….
[N]o matter what portion we’ve been given, we should ask: “What does it look like to glorify God in this season?” For me, the wrestle begins and ends with that question: How do I bring glory to God in my singleness? I gain confidence when I live within my intended purpose—to bring God glory.
At least eight times in scripture, suffering is said to have a reward—joy. At times, I am conflicted, asking “Why would God give me the desire for something like marriage if He does not plan on granting it immediately…or ever? Why not take the desire away—why make me suffer in this way?” Here I take heart from Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where he rejoices in his sufferings. While the circumstances were different, the principle applies the same. I don’t have to just cope with this desire, but can rejoice in my time of need—because I get to experience the sufficiency of grace.
The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts or strengthens the faith of any given believer, but whether it is faithful to Jesus. The reasons that are given, the rhetoric that expresses these and the life of the apologist and the larger community of faith must, then, demonstrate their truth.
I love that. And we try to cover all three of those areas—knowledge, wisdom, and character—in our Ambassador Model. Dr. Sire's words are a good reminder to review the Ambassador’s Creed if you haven’t done so in a while.
Christopher Hitchens used to insist that atheists were as moral as Christians, challenging, “Name one moral action performed by a believer that could not have been done by a nonbeliever.” But as I said long ago, the claim that “atheists are as moral as Christians” is meaningless if we’re operating under different systems of morality.
This week, Richard Dawkins was a perfect example of this as he set off a firestorm with his tweets about Down syndrome children. Here’s the interaction that set it off:
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
He said even more than that as he continued to defend his original tweet (including the regrettably true statement, “Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending what actually happens to the great majority of Down Syndrome foetuses. They are aborted”), but you get the idea.
Within Dawkins’s moral system, it is actually immoral not to abort a Down syndrome child. In his eventual apology for creating a controversy, he explained why:
If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child's own welfare….
My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.
So you see? Dawkins’s recommendation to “abort it and try again” was perfectly moral within his own system of morality. If nothing else, this incident has brought some clarification:
A system that adds up potential happiness, weighs it against potential suffering, and chooses to “increase the sum of happiness” (at least, according the reckoning of the person doing the adding and the weighing) kills Down syndrome children before they can be born.
A system that upholds the value and dignity of every human being regardless of his or her abilities or characteristics because we’re all made in the image of God protects, cherishes, and loves them.
There is no “just as moral" here; we’re differently moral. And as long as God gives me the ability, I will fight to convince people that the moral system built on our being made in the image of God is the true one.
What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ? How do you become a more skilled ambassador? Our first motion graphics video (more to come!) answers that question for you with the Ambassador Model (knowledge, wisdom, and character). It’s a good introduction to what we do here at Stand to Reason.
We’re having a little giveaway to celebrate this. To enter, go to Facebook, make sure you’ve liked our new Facebook page, and share the video. Then just note in the comments on the Facebook post, that you’ve shared it.
Unfortunately, in the last few years we’ve had more than one opportunity in this nation to ponder this question: Why are we more grieved and outraged when a child is murdered than when an adult is murdered, even though both are valuable human beings? As I’ve watched, listened, and considered, three reasons have come to the forefront:
The child didn't have a chance to live his life.
We feel a special responsibility to protect children because they're dependent on us.
The more innocent the human being, the more deeply we grieve the crime perpetrated against her.
The younger the child gets, the more our horror increases: A high school bus is hit by a drunk driver, and we mourn; elementary school students are murdered by a gunman, and we have national grief; babies at a daycare are targeted by a terrorist, and our shock and anger at the heinousness of it consumes us. The horror increases as the age decreases...until we reach the womb. Then suddenly, all our moral reasoning is flipped on its head.
Once we go back in age beyond that magical point, we use those same three reasons not to condemn abortion, but to justify it:
Instead of opposing abortion because a child has her entire future outside the womb taken from her, we justify it by saying she didn't yet have any "interests" since she wasn't aware of what she'll be missing.
Instead of opposing abortion because of our keenly-felt responsibility to protect the most defenseless of children, we justify it by saying their total dependence on us is parasitical and therefore we have a right to deny our consent for them to depend on us.
Instead of opposing the violent actions of abortion taken against the most innocent of us, we justify it by comparing those unborn children to violent attackers from whom we have a right to defend ourselves.
Do you see the ridiculousness of this? If it's a tragedy when a five-year-old loses the rest of his life, isn't it an even greater tragedy when an unborn baby loses every experience waiting for him outside the womb? A five-year-old has seen much of what life is about, though only for a short time. An aborted baby has had even that short time stolen from him. It's the very fact that an unborn child has not had a chance to become aware of his objectively real interests that makes his death more tragic, not less.
Why are we not consistent on this moral principle of increased horror with decreased age? It makes no sense to arbitrarily flip this principle upside down and use the very points that normally condemn violence against the young to justify it.
The evidence for physicalism—that the mind is the brain—has become nothing less than overwhelming. This evidence exists not only in the highest levels of research—where scientists can now point to, and manipulate, the exact location in our grey matter where essential characteristics lie—but it exists in the everyday lives of millions of people who take psychotropic drugs on a daily basis. These users will tell you drugs such as Prozac, lithium, Paxil and Ritalin don't just give them a slight pick-me-up, they make them an entirely different person…. Only by ignoring 200 years of medical progress can we believe that we simply inhabit our bodies—dropping by on the way to something better. It isn't "I have a brain," it's "I am a brain."
How would you respond to his argument? What is the Christian view of the body, and does the efficacy of psychotropic drugs refute it? What are the implications of the writer’s physicalist view?
Tell us what you think in the comments below, then we’ll hear from Brett on Thursday.
Not Just Any Ol' God by Brett Kunkle: “The cosmological argument points to the beginning of the universe as evidence for God as the Great Beginner and gives us reason to think He is an all-powerful being because He can create a universe ex nihilo (out of nothing)…. Teleological or design arguments give us more information about God…. Not only does a finely tuned universe point to a Fine Tuner, but it also demonstrates care and concern for the flourishing of His creatures…. The moral argument points to God’s good character and His social nature…. If these arguments for God are successful, not only do we have powerful evidence He exists, we also have knowledge about His nature and character. He is a transcendent, necessary, and personal being. He is an intelligent agent using that intelligence to the benefit of His creation. He is a powerful being capable of amazing acts and capable of getting His messages across. He is moral in nature, a Being of incredible goodness.” (Read more)
How Did You Come to That Conclusion? by Alan Shlemon: “The person that makes the claim bears the burden of proof. In other words, if someone offers a point of view, it’s their job to give reasons for it, not your job to defend against it. Too often, though, believers bear the burden of proof when it’s not their responsibility. They try to answer every objection that is mustered against their view. This keeps the Christian in a defensive posture the entire conversation. It also makes sharing your faith a difficult and unpleasant experience. If I felt responsible to respond to every wild objection or story that someone could spin, I’d feel hesitant to share my faith as well. It’s time to stop giving free rides and begin enforcing the burden of proof rule. Whenever someone raises an objection to your faith, ask a simple question: “How did you come to that conclusion?” This question is not a trick. It’s not unfair. You’re simply shifting the burden of proof back where it belongs – on the person who made the claim.” (Read more)
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