From the time we are mere children we face the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The desire and ability to work are deeply ingrained within us, but perhaps they are subjects we do not often pause to consider in a Scriptural perspective. Work Excellence is a light treatment of the subject(112 pages), but one that is valuable. It is conversational in tone and each chapter concludes with questions for reflection and a brief prayer. The book is written by Chuck Garriott, who for over twenty years was pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oklahoma City and whose ministry has taken him around the world. He examines this essential aspect of our lives – one that is discussed in detail throughout the Scripture, and provides a biblical perspective on work excellence.
There were many times in reading this book that I was forced to pause and to consider how I work. “Every day you need the Savior to work in your life in such a manner that you will outwardly and inwardly please your boss. The ability to follow the Scriptures with any degree of discipline will come from depending on Christ. We have no ability on our own to obey an earthly master with respect, fear and sincerity of heart, even though we may appear to outwardly. If on my own I can please God in this area, then of what value is Christ?” (page 27). Do I depend on Christ to help me please my boss (which in my case are clients), or do I attempt to do this on my own? Do I rely on Christ in the workplace as much as in church settings, or have I made a false deliniation between work and spiritual matters?
The author is careful to show that work is not a result of the fall, for man was created to care for the earth. One of man’s chief purposes, according to God’s design, was to work. Yet when man fell, work was made imperfect, just like everything else in all of Creation. “When you come home from work tired, worn out and ready to quit, or when you find that weeks have taken over your garden, you are being reminded of God’s judgment and wrath. For those who do not believe, it is an unheeded warning of what is to come” (page 47). And of course, for those who do believe, it gives us more reason to trust in the promise that having been redeemed, we will one day return to a state where work is enjoyable and holy. “The pain and discomfort are temporal. This is the great message of the gospel. If there is no stabbing pain in childbirth or no thistle injury, then there is no gospel. The gospel has no meaning without recognition of the pain from sin that ignites the anger of God. Our hope is in Christ alone, not in the absence of pain” (page 51). What a wonderful promise this is, and what hope and encouragement this can bring at the end of a difficult day.
Another area of the book that gave me pause for thought was in the section where Garriott warns about work becoming idolatry. “Christ calls us to repent from lives so committed to work and all that it produces, that we have turned work into a god. If we work for anything other than God’s glory, we worship the creation rather than the Creator” (page 78). I had to ask myself whether, when I work, I do from a desire to put food on the table and to do what I know is my duty, or whether I work as an expression of worship towards God.
The author’s conclusion, and mine, having read the book, is that “There is no true excellence in work if the gospel is absent. The gospel not only brings us to a saving relationship with the Lord, but also transforms our lives, including our work and careers” (page 112). Our work needs to be more than a responsibility or an obsession – work needs to be an outpouring of our love for and obedience towards our Savior. I am delighted to give this book my recommendation.