by Rev. Ben Pascal
This article was originally published in PCJH’s Fall 2022 Pinnacle, “Living Our Faith”
The first time a group of people called me “Pastor Ben” was before I had ever finished seminary and it was years before I was ever ordained in the Presbyterian Church. In fact, the first time a group of people called me “Pastor Ben” was while I was working as a project manager at The Dwelling Company, a real estate development firm in Seattle, WA. One Christmas, after a few years working at the company, the staff gave me a Bible with “Pastor Ben” inscribed on the front cover. I was speechless. They saw me as their pastor.
You see, the owner of The Dwelling Company was a Christian man who hired me to learn how to do real estate development and also to help him minister to his employees. After a few months at the company getting to know my co-workers, I started inviting them to a coffee shop across the street on Wednesday mornings before work. We called it “Inspirational Wednesdays” and we had conversations about God, the meaning of life, purpose, grace, forgiveness, and love. We encouraged one another in life and in faith. Almost the entire office staff came to these coffee meetings, even though many were not Christians. We created deeper relationships with one another and people came away feeling inspired.
In addition to Inspirational Wednesdays, our company got involved with housing related service projects locally and internationally. It was at The Dwelling Company that I first learned about Agros International. For every house we sold through the real estate firm, we would donate a certain amount to Agros, which helps people build homes in Central America and even more so, it helps the rural poor break the cycle of poverty in a very wholistic way. We started taking employees down to Guatemala on service trips to help them see the vision of what we were involved in. It was life changing for me and others.
Locally our company partnered with Union Gospel Mission in Seattle and every month our staff team would make meals for the homeless and also participate in their “Search and Rescue” mission where we would go out on the city streets late on a Friday night and deliver food and supplies to people who chose not to stay the night at the mission. We went to some pretty dark corners of Seattle that I never knew existed, met some wonderful yet broken people, and had some interesting conversations. It made a huge impact on all involved.
There are many ways of living out our faith through our work. This was one way. It wasn’t perfect but it impacted people and it showed me the numerous opportunities we have to live out our faith in Christ no matter our vocation.
Our jobs matter to God. We are called to be faithful to Christ in our vocational work. Work was created good! In the very beginning God gave humanity the responsibility to care for the earth and everything in it. To work the Garden together. In Genesis 1:27-28 it says, “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” We are called to be co-laborers with God as we seek to care for the earth and provide goods and services to meet the needs of our world. We can find meaning in our work through a sense of purpose in making our community and world a better place; treating our co-workers, customers, and creation with dignity and respect; and practicing Sabbath rest for the sake of others and ourselves.
Work also suffers from the Fall and our sinfulness. God said to Adam in Genesis 3:17b-19 after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” The Fall made work toilsome and a burden. In Ecclesiastes 2:17, King Solomon said, “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” While there is a fallen nature to our work and labor today, as Christians, we don’t have to be stuck there nor should we knowingly keep others stuck in the fallen nature of work. Work that is fallen is separated from God. It has no Kingdom purpose, it does no good, it consists of broken and oppressive relationships, it knows no rest.
The good news is that work is redeemed in Christ and we can find joy in our jobs! Jesus said, “Behold I am making all things new!” ~ Revelation 21:5 Through his finished work on the cross and the miracle of the resurrection, all of creation is redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and we have hope for new life through the power of Christ conquering death and rising again! When we start living for Christ and seeing the greater purpose in our work, there is meaning and joy. Work is redeemed. We never have to moan about going to work or resent our jobs when our work is connected to Christ’s greater work in the world.
I love the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. This is the story of a master and three servants. The master gives each servant a certain number of talents (or bags of gold). The first two servants invest what the master originally gave them and they return double the amount. The third servant buries the gift and does not multiply it because he has a negative view of the master and is scared to do anything with what was given to him. The first two servants are faithful in what was given to them. You could say they were faithful in the time, talent and treasure entrusted to them. You could say they were faithful in how they used their resources. You could say they were faithful in their life’s work. In the NRSV the master tells the servants who were faithful in using and multiplying the gifts the master had given them to “enter into the joy of your master.” When we faithfully work for Christ within our vocations, using our time, talent and treasure for the Kingdom, we will inevitably “enter into the joy of our Master.” We will find joy at work. We will find greater purpose, deeper relationships, and purer rest in our work. We won’t be dreaming of retirement because what we are doing now brings us, and others, meaning and joy!
This is all easier said than done. Perhaps you don’t think it is possible. I am here to say it is possible. I found joy at work at The Dwelling Company despite the fact it was not my ultimate calling. I have found joy working at PCJH, which is my calling. This Pinnacle edition is full of stories of other PCJH members finding joy and meaning through their work in various vocational fields. I hope their stories bring you hope, encouragement and inspiration to consider how you can find meaning and joy in your work, through Christ our Lord.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~ Ephesians 2:10