Humanizing Work: 2013 CFW Conference Experience

Who doesn’t wish their job was more ‘humanized’? From Ecclesiastes to Lean In, people want not only to understand how to make sense of their work, but also how to make their work more sensible. Humanizing work is a phrase tied neither to a purely secular nor a solely biblical worldview. At the Center for Faith & Work’s annual conference this year, the theme of Humanizing Work was explored from both perspectives.

The opening night featured author and Fast Co. contributor, Mark Crowley, presenting a compelling argument for work to be more humane. Most people today look to their jobs to provide much of their identity and status in the world. As such, managers must show their employees why their work matters and support them in it. For Mark, these and other practical tips are the best way to succeed as a manager in today’s market reality.

Tim Keller then presented a biblical perspective for why humanizing work is critical and laid out points of agreement and of conflict between the two worldviews. Much of the secular root motivation for humanizing work ultimately arises out self-interest. For example, you should treat well those who work for you because you will be seen as a better manager, leading to your promotion and recognition. Or, companies ought to care for their employees in order to grow their earnings more quickly and ultimately create higher value for the owners. While these are not in and of themselves bad ends, they are, ultimately, rooted in self-interest.

However, in looking at humanizing work from a biblical worldview, we see that the motivation for doing so is love through sacrifice. Jesus died for us when we didn’t deserve it; so should we be ready and willing to make sacrifices at work for others—to give up our own interests in order to serve those of others. When we see Christ’s work restoring ours, we are free to take responsibility for the errors of our direct reports while pushing praise down to those below us in an organization. And we shouldn’t do it with our own selfish interest at heart, so that we might be praised as being selfless, but we should do it while being reminded of the one who took on our Ultimate Errors while pushing His much-deserved praise and glory down upon us. The motivations of our hearts matter, and can be transformed by the gospel.

The conference did well in highlighting the agreement between the biblical and secular worldviews on the need for humanizing work, but yet also helped us consider the distinctiveness of the source for humanizing work as rooted in the love of Christ.

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