Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Writing As Work

The other day I was involved in an online discussion about work. Specifically, we were discussing whether or not Christians who write should publish with secular publishers, or should they write only for Christian publishing houses.

When I first started writing for publication I struggled with that question myself. It took quite a bit of time in prayer & contemplation to be sure I understood clearly what God was telling me.

I don't presume to tell you what God's answer to that question is for YOU. But I know what He showed me. I know how He resolved that struggle for me. My thoughts may help you to get peace about it either way you view the issue.

I think many Christians have a distorted view of work in general. We tend to think it is something we have to do to stay alive. We think it was part of God's punishment for Adam & Eve. We think it can't be something we love and enjoy. Many Christians think it is somehow sinful to find fulfillment in work. That's what hobbies are for! I think that is because many Christians have a dichotomous view of work. They think that there is secular work, and God's work, and they never intersect.

That idea stems from the misconception that life is dichotomous-that we have our sacred lives (God's part) & our everyday lives (our part). That idea is totally false. It is incorrect. For a Christian all of life is sacred. My life - ALL of it - belongs to Christ and ALL of it is for His glory and pleasure. That includes whatever kind of work I do to provide for my family.

Whatever my work might be, I need to do it unto the Lord. I need to offer it up to Him as a sacrifice, a gift to Him. And I need to be sure it doesn't violate His Word. But, am I less of a Christian because I work in a grocery store or a factory or for a legal firm instead of a church or para-church organization?

Am I less of a Christian if my works are published by a "secular" house rather than a "Christian" house?

Marlo Schalesky at The High Calling has a wonderful post on the sacredness of work.

In the beginning when God created this universe and human kind He also created work! Before they ever sinned God instructed Adam & Eve to work - to tend the garden where He placed them. It was their joy to work alongside God in the garden He shared with them.

After their initial sin they (and their posterity) were banished from that paradise. True, work became more difficult & less productive after God pronounced their punishment. But God didn't curse their work. He instituted work. IMHO almost all work has the potential of glorifying God when we use the gifts & talents He gives to us for good, wholesome, positive, constructive work & service to others. As long as that work doesn't violate God's Word & God's laws it can honor Him. I believe God has called all of us to work. It is part of living a purposeful life.

Look at Daniel in the Bible. For some 70 years Daniel served as couselor to heathen kings. He lived in a godless society & worked in a palace surrounded by all sorts of debauchery. Did Daniel's work please God? What about Joseph in Pharoah's service? And Nehemiah? What do you suppose was in that cup he tasted, then handed to the king?

I believe that the products of my hands and my mind should, and can, honor & glorify God. I also believe that my work ethic should honor God regardless of the specific type of work I do or the specific market at which it is directed. The way I approach my work; the way I treat my superiors, co-workers, & clientele should all reflect the sacredness of my life. Those things should reflect my relationship with Christ through integrity, honesty, diligence, respect, commitment.

In my Sunday school class we recently completed some lessons on transformation, life change. One of the topics of discussion in our study by Chip Ingram (The Miracle of Life Change) was work, specifically our work ethic as Christians. He used the word "diligence" repeatedly in the study. He defines it as working hard & refusing to take shortcuts. [see Colossians 2:23-24]

Isn't that one of the keys to success as a writer? Doing the hard work of improving our craft, targeting publishers, & marketing our materials not only increase our chances of success, but honor God as well. It's only when we refuse to take short cuts that the stories, articles, & books we produce really shine. When they shine, they illuminate the God who created us, saves us, & gives us the opportunity to do honorable, purposeful work.

Whatever I write should reflect my Christian world view. Whatever I pen & publish should reflect my personal & intimate relationship with Christ. And HOW I write & publish should reflect those things, too. The quality of my work, and my relationships with publishers, fellow writers, & readers all reflect my relationship with God.

Regardless of the name in the banner or at the bottom of the title page.


WordWrangler said...

Seriously...this is deep stuff, my friend. I appreciate you sharing this b/c it helps me understand where I stand, too. I used to think I would never submit to anyone except for a Christian publisher...I don't feel that way anymore. There are certain secular publishers that I just won't sub to b/c their books are deliberately directing children away from Jesus rather than toward him (Llewellyn, for example).There are pleny of other publishers out there (Christian and secular alike) that I will sub to! :)

Thanks for this post. It's great!

Susan said...

Thanks for visiting my blog through TWV2. I appreciate your encouraging words. I also appreciate your insights regarding the writing world. And you're so right about blogging being addictive!
This is really all so new to me, but it is exciting, too. I look forward to what God will do in the year to come!

Susan said...

Dear Jean,
Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your encouraging words.
You are right about blogging being addictive. I limit myself to posting 3-4 times per week, but I can find myself blog-hopping and getting lost in a time warp!
I look forward to visiting your blogs often. Thanks!

Jean said...

Thank you, to my old friend, WW, and my new friend, Susan, for stopping by.

WW, you know I'm praying the Lord will put your mss on exactly the right desks at exactly His right time.

Susan, I hope you'll become one of my FOLLOWERS and drop in from time to time.


Amy Tate said...

One of my favorite books is Ecclesiastes. In Ecc 5:18-20 it says, Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life that God has given him - for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift from God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Thank God for the gift of penmanship. Thanks for the great post, Jean!

Jean said...

Thank you, Amy!

I'll see you over at W2I Yahoo!


God's Not Finished With Us Yet... said...

I'm glad you got a 'kick' out of my '10 Rules for dating my daughter' post. LOL. (Agh! I fogot where I first wrote to you...) Anway, I'm a little slow at times....LOL....would you mind if I became a follower of your blog? I'd love for us to know one another more. It's always a blessing for me to learn and befriend new Christ followers.

Marcia said...

That idea stems from the misconception that life is dichotomous-that we have our sacred lives (God's part) & our everyday lives (our part). That idea is totally false. It is incorrect. For a Christian all of life is sacred. My life - ALL of it - belongs to Christ and ALL of it is for His glory and pleasure.

This is so true. I've always believed it, and was so disappointed that most of the church seemed blind to it. But the church at large seems to be awakening to it. Praise God!