Better Questions

As part of a recent Denver Institute event, I interviewed Rich about the tensions he experiences between his Christian faith and his job as a commercial real estate appraiser.

Here's how the conversation started out...

BG: Tell us what your work looks like on any given day.

Rich: I provide an opinion of value on commercial properties so buyers and sellers can judge selling points and lenders can determine how much to lend toward those transactions. Ninety-five percent of my job is at the desk behind a computer. It’s a lot of internet-based research.

BG: Describe a tension you experience between the demands of your job and your gospel values.

Rich: It’s a pretty isolated job. The five percent of time I do interact with others is with a buyer, broker, or lender — we’re discussing points of my valuation and aspects of the market. It’s very limited in interaction… part of me wonders if I’m too isolated. As a Christian, how do I share my faith in a way that is meaningful? I might not talk to a broker for six months, and when I do speak with them it may be for five minutes.

BG: Talk about the influence of your church life upon your work life.

Rich: I don’t know that I’ve had any experiences from a Christian setting where someone has shown an interest in what I do and in how I could use that to further the Kingdom. Those are very separate — what you do for a living to pay the bills and then outside of that how you are impacting the Kingdom.

Rich likely stews on questions about his work — questions common to most Christians. Does what I’m doing matter to God? Is there a more significant way I should spend my time? How can I create better work-life balance? I don’t love what I do and I’m always stressed… Is this worth it or should I change jobs?

We’ve all asked those questions. They’re weighty and existential. They’re hard. But they may be the wrong questions.

Those types of questions start at The Fall. That is to say, they begin with the assumption that painful toil, thistles and thorns, and the sweat of our brow frame the narrative of our work (Genesis 3:18-19).

But that means living in a story where Christ isn’t at work redeeming all things (Colossians 1).

Imagine if Rich put just as much preoccupation toward different questions. Redemption questions. What will Christian witness look like without regular relationships? How am I being formed by this much solitary time and screen time? What spiritual disciplines should I practice at work to counteract that?

Those kinds of questions require a Christian to think very differently about whole-life discipleship. It requires people taking their jobs and unpaid work — over half of their waking hours — just as seriously as God does.

But we can’t stop at better individual questions about our work. Christian mission and civic presence require us to ask better questions yet — with each other, for each other, and for the world.

What is the Gospel? How does it include human work? What is good about my company and its industry? What needs to be redeemed about it? How does God’s calling relate to our jobs? When God envisions a flourishing Denver, how does our work contribute to that reality?

We care passionately about gospel-shaped questions. For the sake of the world, we must.

Interested in joining other working professionals in becoming preoccupied with asking and and answering better questions? Consider the 5280 Fellowship beginning this fall. Applications are due April 30. Email to let us know you're interested in learning more.

Featured photo by Bilal Kamoom on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.