Book Recommendations: Business and Vocation
To have a vocation is to be called by God to a specific field of work. He blesses each of us with gifts and talents which we put to work serving Him and serving each other. We spend much of our time at U.V.a developing our gifts and seeking our future vocation even as we live out our current one. God’s call is not limited to full-time ministry. The vast majority of Christian U.Va. students will not enter into full-time ministry upon graduation but instead will serve the kingdom of God in other areas. Many of us will enter the marketplace. The term “the marketplace,” I think, often serves as a euphemism to cover up aspects of work in the for-profit sector with which Christians are uneasy. In the ivory tower of higher education, it is easy to turn a cynical eye towards the business world. Businesses headlines often showcase deception, fraud, and unethical practices. Sometimes they feature worldly rewards such as high executive compensation and golden parachutes. All of this occurs in a secular culture, and many times Church culture, that draws a distinct line between work and faith. How we work Monday through Friday often seems distant from our Sunday mornings. How do the praises we sing and the exhortations we hear relate to our work? Our faith raises this question and many others. In light of our faith, what type of work should we do? What values does the marketplace promote? Do we accept them? Can we really maintain Christian values in our workplace? How does God view our work? Does our work have any spiritual meaning? What are the implications of success?
These are a few of the questions that have struck me as I prepare to enter into the marketplace. Fortunately, I have found wise counsel in many places. The following three books have each touched on different aspects of work in the business world and have encouraged me as I prepare for this transition.
Doing God’s Business: Meaning and Motivation in the Marketplace by R. Paul Stevens
This book primarily tackles the questions of what work we should do, and how, from a practical perspective, we should do it. Professor Stevens navigates between the practical and difficult realities of business and the scriptural demands of Christian faith. The book incorporates theological and ethical reflection without being a textbook and challenges its readers to reflect on concrete dilemmas of faith and business. The structure of the book lends itself to being read as a devotional. Each chapter is around twenty pages and concludes with engaging questions. This book is ideal for anyone seeking sound, concrete and scriptural advice about being a Christian in the workplace.
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller & Katherine Asdorf
Written by a man with extensive business experience, this book develops a scriptural account of how Christians should understand their work in light of God’s work of creation. Keller and Asdorf develop the theme of Christian work from its origins in the Old Testament and show the importance that Christian thinkers have consistently placed on vocations outside of the clergy. The book provides a framework for understanding how we should approach business, and our culture of work more generally, from a scriptural and Kingdom-focused perspective. In the second part of the book, Keller and Asdorf discuss ways in which we are tempted to work wrongly. This part offers guidance on how we can faithfully understand the ways God uses our work in our lives and I found it particularly helpful for wrestling with my cynicism.
Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today’s Society by Craig M. Gay
How should we as Christians relate to and understand money? Professor Gay addresses the temptation to understand values exclusively through the lens of economics and business. Although the book is a bit more philosophical in nature, it touches on the vitally important question of the reward of success in the marketplace: money. How should we think about how “profit-maximizing firms” and “the bottom-line” relate to the structure and values of our society? The first two chapters of this short book lead the reader through the benefits and the risks that capitalism and money, and their associated values, involve for our society. He concludes with a chapter discussing the relationship that Christians should have with money. He suggests that we should practice faithful stewardship in the marketplace. Faithful stewardship of gifts and talents, he has helped me realize, allows us to turn our blessings toward others for the sake of fellowship.
Stephen Paul, CLAS '15