Category Archives: Faith and Work

How to Share Your Faith at Work

As a Christian, you are a fully credentialed ambassador of the empire of Jesus, High King of the universe. God has entrusted to you the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus reconciles rebels to God. That's as true from 9-5 Monday through Friday as it is for any other hour of your life. When you go to church, you're an ambassador for the King. When you hang out with friends, you're an ambassador for the King. When you go to work, meet with a client, participate in a meeting, work on a project, drive a nail, create a blueprint, welcome a customer, or write a white paper, you're still an ambassador for the King.

Evangelism isn't the primary purpose for our work. Scripture reveals to us all kinds of purposes and motivations for our work. However, we shouldn't kid ourselves. One of the purposes is evangelism. We're ambassadors for our King always, including the time we're at our jobs.

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So how can we faithfully share the gospel with people at work? Here are five suggestions.

1. Just do good work as a Christian.

When you get a chance to speak the gospel to one of your coworkers, make sure you've already been backing it up by being a good worker yourself. Build a reputation as a person who works with purpose, creativity, kindness, and encouragement. Then, when you get to share the gospel, people will see how you reflect the character of your King.

Practically, you can hold up your vocational challenges to the light of the gospel and ponder how you can approach them "as working for the Lord" (Col. 3:23). Would Jesus have you cut corners on that project? Would he have you defraud that client by doing that job on the cheap? Would he have you rip into your employees when they make mistakes, even stupid ones? Would he have you mope through the day in a spirit of resentment and anger? No. He'd have you confront your challenges with faith that, ultimately, they're all coming from his hand. Amid it all, he'd have you "shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life" (Phil. 2:16). Then the gospel you speak will be confirmed in the eyes of those watching you.

2. Learn to put God on the table.

Yes, just throw him out there! Let people know in natural, easygoing, confident ways that you're a Christian. Why do so many believers try to keep their Christianity a secret? We all want someone to approach us and ask about Christianity (since that saves us the awkward experience of having to start that conversation ourselves), but often we go out of our way not to give them any opportunity to do so.

When someone asks what you did over the weekend, tell them you went to church. Mention the Bible study you attend on Tuesday nights. Don't just mumble, "I'm sorry I can't come to your birthday party; I'm busy." Say, "I can't come because I'm scheduled to work at my church's clothes closet this weekend." You don't have to be obnoxious or irresponsible about it. Just make sure you identify yourself publicly with Jesus. Let people know somehow you're a Christian and don't mentally censor your Christianity out of your interactions and conversations. You'll be amazed at how often people will take the opportunity to press in on the little piece of information you've just offered. People are often more interested in spiritual things than you think. They just need a bit of permission from you to feel free to talk about it.

3. Build relationships beyond the office.

Strive to break through the personal/professional boundaries that can form between you and your coworkers. Of course, you shouldn't let your relationships become inappropriate in any way. However, if you're going to share the gospel with someone, you'll eventually have to talk to them about something other than the job.

Really, it's not too difficult to do. Grab a cup of coffee after work. Ask questions that go beyond the shallow chitchat that often marks offices. Give some information about yourself that encourages the other person to open up as well. Talk about your family. Be honest about some of the struggles in your life or talk about some of your hopes for the future. In time, by your questions, your openness, and your interest in their life, you'll communicate you care far more deeply about them than just the talents they contribute to the company. You care about them for them. They'll be much more likely to listen to you discuss the gospel if they know they're not just another cog in your professional machine.

4. Use the witness of the church.

As you build relationships with people, look for ways to involve other believers from your church as well. One of the greatest witnesses to the gospel on the planet is the love Christians have for one another (John 13:34-35). If you and some friends from church are going to be hanging out together, invite one of your coworkers to come along. The conversation doesn't have to be explicitly spiritual. Sometimes interactions between a group of normal, interesting, fun, intelligent Christians will change a person's entire perspective about Christianity. Also invite coworkers to your church's worship services. Let them see what it's like for a group of Christians to gather and take their faith seriously. Many have never seen anything like that, and experiencing it can raise all kinds of good questions in their minds. Jesus called his followers to gather together into churches for a reason. Your church family can be an enormous evangelistic resource. Let them be coworkers with you as you hold firmly to the word of life in your workplace.

5. Have a "mission field" mindset about your work.

Have you considered one of the reasons God may have deployed you to your job is so you can break into a particular subculture with gospel grace? Throughout our society there are countless groups of people who share much in common simply because they work in the same field. They speak the same jargon; they struggle with the same issues; they ask many of the same questions. And sadly, in many of those subcultures the truth of the gospel is a rarity. For example, I imagine I (Sebastian) am one of only a tiny number of Christians working in the creative internet space today. That means I have the privilege of helping to break into that subculture with the good news. What specific group has the King deployed you to work among each day? Architects? Teachers? Auto salespeople? Thinking about the mission that way helps us not get discouraged by the thought of the millions who need salvation. Rather, we're energized by the thought that our King has deployed us to a specific network of friends and relationships into which we can speak truths seldom heard.

You could also consider taking your job to another part of the world, even places where it may be difficult for career missionaries to go. The globalization of the business world is one of the most important developments in the history of missions. Companies are expanding internationally and looking for professionals, experts, and entrepreneurs to open up new markets where none has existed. Why not consider being an engineer in Shanghai? Why not do your business in Dubai, Istanbul, or Moscow, where millions of persons from hundreds of nationalities live and work each day? These places need a strong gospel witness. Career missionaries already in these cities will be deeply encouraged by other Christians moving there and putting their hands to the plow.

Editors' note: This excerpt is adapted from Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger's new book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Lives (Zondervan) [interview | free study guide | website | Twitter].

Building Laborers on Campus

Every Square Inch Cropped

Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are conducted and condensed by Bethany L. Jenkins, director of TGC's Every Square Inch.

MattFranciscoMatt Francisco is the campus director of Campus Outreach (CO) at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where he works to build Christ-like leaders through evangelism and discipleship. He grew up in Marietta, Georgia, and graduated from Samford, where he met his wife, Erin. They have a daughter, Sarah, and a child on the way in December.

How did you come to do this work?

When I was a student at Samford, I saw several of my friends who were uninterested in spiritual things come to faith in Christ through the work of CO. At the same time, I was trying to grow and share my own faith in my fraternity, but I was disheartened by the lack of fruit I saw. I started to get involved with CO in part to grow in evangelism, and eventually I came on staff because I saw how much I personally needed to grow as a godly man and as a leader. Also, I was excited by their mission to equip laborers for the lost world---for ministry and the marketplace.

Why did you decide to work with college students?

College is a pivotal time. In many ways, students' time in college sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives. During college, students are making important decisions, discovering who they are, and asking big questions about purpose, meaning, reality, and significance. It is also a time when community is usually engaging and accessible. A relationship that might take two years to develop in a marketplace or neighborhood might only take two weeks on a college campus.

What are your fears for college students today?

My fear is that, in general, students don't know how to be still before the Lord, wrestle with Scripture, and struggle with God in prayer because they're addicted to amusement and cannot disengage from technology. I'm also troubled that, when most students talk about figuring out God's will, they really mean wanting some sort of sign---total inner peace, writing in the sky---instead of becoming a person who knows, pursues, and reflects God. I fear they'll drift through life and be unable to say that they "ran the race" to win, simply because they didn't take the time to consider what it would mean to do so.

How do you speak into and heal this brokenness?

These students---like the rest of us---want to be a part of something greater than themselves. They want to know the why of their lives so that they can endure almost any how. So at Campus Outreach, we talk about God's grand, beautiful, and glorious plan of redemption. In relationship, we wrestle through how our individual lives---academics, relationships, extracurriculars, careers---are a part of that grander narrative. In my work, I've been more focused on helping students understand eschatology than I anticipated because it's a big part of the why. I want these students to catch God's heart of reconciliation until they're overwhelmed.

You are successful at your job if . . . what?

CO's mission statement is, "Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World." As I work toward this goal, I pray that my students would be bold, broken-hearted servants wherever they go and whatever they do---bold in confessing their sin and sharing the gospel, and broken for the world. I'm successful if they graduate knowing that their joy is found in seeking God's glory and in loving others as Christ has loved them. Whether they're working as accountants, pastors, or nurses, I long for them to embody passages like Jeremiah 29, Philippians 2, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel---passages that show deep humility and bold cultural engagement.

College Senior Project: An Economist, a Peacemaker, and an Engineer

Every Square Inch Cropped

In May, as many students prepare for graduation, we are featuring reflections written by college seniors from universities across the United States. Today, we have three students from three different schools (UVA, Columbia, Penn State) going into three different fields (economics, international relations, architectural engineering). Join us to celebrate their achievement and pray for their "every good endeavor."

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Studying Economics in Light of Shalom

caronlinecrossCaroline Cross is a graduating senior at the University of Virginia. Her major is economics. While in college, Caroline's favorite class was Principles of Macroeconomics, which explored some of the public policy implications of economic theory. Upon graduating, she is moving to the Washington, D.C., area to participate in a fellows program at McLean Presbyterian Church. She will intern with the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics during her time as a Capital Fellow.

Vision of Vocation

As a high school student, I tended to view my work as an extension of myself. In a vague sense, I knew that my papers and tests were ways to worship God, but my work was strictly between God and me---that is, I had little consideration for how my calling could affect others or how it fit into the narrative of Scripture. In short, I had no imagination for a holistic Christian vision of vocation.

Last year, however, I took a class at The Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville. Taught by the center's director, Bill Wilder, the class progressed through the Old Testament with a "Skyline Drive" view, as Bill affectionately called it. For me, the most influential part of the class was one particular refrain: Christians are priests and kings. I learned that God calls his people to image him as Lord by ruling over the world and reflecting his character to it in our roles as intermediaries. Bit by bit, my vision of my vocation expanded. Fundamentally, I was beginning to see that my work was not about my success or failure. Vocational stewardship offered me an opportunity to see my work as participation in God's story for the whole world.

Along with taking the class, I served as an intern for the center. Not only did I have the opportunity to see my work in a wider theological context, I also had the chance to live out this compelling vision. My supervisor, Shelly, who serves as the director of administration and development, encouraged me to take my internship seriously. She gave me books (Amy Sherman's Kingdom Calling and Steve Garber's Visions of Vocation) to help me work out what my vocational calling as an intern and as a student looks like now as well as dream about how my vocation would take shape in the future.

Economics and Shalom

Looking forward to next year, I'm thankful for the opportunity to take part in the Capital Fellows Program at McLean Presbyterian Church, which is located just outside of Washington, D.C. I anticipate that this upcoming year of work and study will deepen my sense of specific vocational calling even further.

Having spent the last four years studying economics, I eventually plan to return to business school. As an industry, business appeals to me because I can use economic tools to help bring about shalom. In Kingdom Calling, Sherman quotes Cornelius Plantinga Jr., who defines shalom as "the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight . . . We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or cease-fire among enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight."

For me, reading Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's When Helping Hurts fleshed out a gospel-centered view of economics, particularly as it relates to poverty alleviation. Corbett and Fikkert's work gave me a glimpse of what it might look like for me to apply what I was learning in the classroom to bring about shalom in the world. While in D.C., I look forward to exploring the ways that my background in economics might enable to me to play the role of a priest and king who, in a small way, brings about redemption and healing in the world for the glory of God and the joy of all people.

That Little Extra

In a few weeks, I will walk down the marble steps of the Rotunda, cross the emerald green Lawn, and officially graduate from the University of Virginia. Even as this austere moment beckons me, though, I am reminded of my days in elementary school.

I vividly recall a poster that hung above the window in my third grade classroom pushing us to excel: "The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." Not necessarily bad advice, but as I anticipate post-college life, I am incredibly grateful that Christ does not call me to be successful, brilliant, or extraordinary. He simply calls me to be faithful, to die to self, and to be made new in him. His grace is and has been sufficient for all areas of my life, and I look forward to experiencing even more of that abundant grace as I venture into the life to which he has called me.

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Called to Be a Peacemaker

danielgarciaDaniel García is a graduating senior at Columbia University in New York City. He was born in Orlando, Florida, and is of Mexican heritage. While in college, he pursued a BA in political science-international relations, and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations and at the Mayor's Office for International Affairs. Upon graduation, he plans to stay in New York and work as a paralegal at a commercial litigation law firm.

Ensuing Years

"Something terrible has happened in New York City," the principal of my elementary school announced through the grainy intercom on September 11, 2001. Although it was 13 years ago, that day is seared into my memory---the unfamiliar expression of angst on my teacher's face, the parents picking up their children in haste, the sun shining in the clear blue sky.

What affected me was not so much the trauma of that particular day, but my experiences in the ensuing years. The American public---including my own family---scrambled to identify those responsible. The media talked about Iraq, the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims. It introduced us to a robed man called Osama bin Laden, who spoke in a foreign language and whose sinister quality seemed more important than his fleeting words. I sensed how the words Arab, Muslim, and terrorist became synonymous and how any person with origins in the area between North Africa and Southeast Asia became one and the same.

I could feel how so many in my community---at school and at church---were turning this glob of labels and people into "The Other." One day in fifth grade, when I was on the school bus, a veiled woman boarded and called one of my fellow classmates to her. As he blushed with his head down, she held back tears of desperation. With the fury of a protective mother, she demanded that we leave her son, Osama, alone and told us with a heavy Egyptian accent, "My son is not a terrorist. We are not terrorists."

My Diverse Community

In middle school and high school, I became friends with people from many different backgrounds. My best friends at school included a Muslim Indian American, a Presbyterian American, and a Catholic Venezuelan. At my church, I had a large extended family of aunts, uncles, and grandparents in Christ from all over Latin America. From them I learned about God's infinite love for humanity and the beauty of community.

Looking back on my pre-college experiences, I feel incredibly blessed to have grown up in the midst of such diversity. Thanks to the values that my parents instilled in me and to my exposure to different cultures and religions, I developed an affection for all types of people and an ability to find common ground with anyone---to become a Greek to the Greeks, a Jew to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20).

For that reason, the more fear and hate toward Muslims, Arabs, and Arab-looking people grew, the more I became confused and frustrated. What did Indians have to do with 9/11? What did my Muslim friends have to do with a network of evil individuals? How could I reconcile the media caricature of Muslims with my experiences with my friends?

Searching for Answers

My desire to understand and help resolve the complex web of conflicts related to 9/11 has influenced my college experience and my future career plans. I took five semesters of Arabic and several classes on the culture and politics of the Middle East---at Columbia and at Sciences Po Paris. I chose to major in political science because, as I struggled with what course of study would best prepare me to resolve these conflicts and puzzles, I realized that I wanted to explore regional, inter-state conflict resolution. Through a research paper, I considered regional integration as a possible remedy to the challenges faced by the Middle East. This, in turn, led me to learn about the success of European integration, a subject that I have been exploring for more than a year now to see whether there is anything we can apply from that context to other contexts.

As I move forward, I am eager to gain technical and professional skills. After two years working as a paralegal, I hope to return to school to earn a joint JD/MBA in international affairs. In the long term, I want to work at the State Department to promote policies that strengthen regional intergovernmental unions.

Imagining Redemption

But what does all of this have to do with my faith? A few key biblical passages are at the core of my professional goals: "For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:14); "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those who are perishing. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice" (Proverbs 31:8-9); and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9).

Although I believe humanity will always fall short of constructing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, I do not believe that means that we should stop trying. After all, Jesus taught us to ask him for it: "Our Father . . . May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). One way this happens is through proclaiming the gospel of peace. Paul says that Christ himself is "our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14). To the Galatians, he writes that, when it comes to gaining access to God, there is no material distinction between us---"for you are all one in Christ" (3:28).

Although God is glorified in our "multiformity," he calls all kinds of people together to be one in Christ. This is the gospel of peace. And I feel that God has called me to be a peacemaker, contributing the construction of the most peaceful and prosperous world possible.

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Building Systems as an Architectural Engineer

As told to Bethany L. Jenkins

fayepoonFaye Poon is a graduating senior from Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Although she was born and raised in Hong Kong, she moved with her family to a small town outside of Boston when she was 15. In college, she participated in a college ministry called Elements, in the Penn State student chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and a recreational dance troop. Upon graduation, she is heading to Boston to work at an architectural engineering firm.

Functional Things

I was raised going to church, but---as a kid---I didn't really like it. The children's ministry was great, but the main emphasis was always doing expressly spiritual things like reading the Bible. These were good things, of course, but I wanted to know and understand more. I wanted to know what God said about some of my favorite subjects---science, math, and art.

When my family and I moved from Hong Kong to Massachusetts, we started attending a Chinese American church that had a great Friday night youth group. There I met my friend Rachel. As we did church Bible studies together, we came to understand that God created things for a purpose. Since I wanted to join him in creating things with functionality and since I loved buildings, I decided during my senior year of high school that I wanted to be an architect. Unfortunately, though, I wasn't good at architecture. (She laughs.)

I entered college without a declared major. Engineering wasn't even on my radar. (She laughs again.) However, one of my freshman advisers noticed that I was good at math and encouraged me to consider architectural engineering---an industry that seeks to make buildings suitable for living and use.

Everything Matters

Around this time I went to the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh and attended a session with one of the architects of PNC Park. How he talked about his work as a means to create community and bless the environment was a turning point for me. God opened my eyes to see that humble human beings could be called to steward creation for God's glory and the common good of all people.

As I began to see all industries---architectural engineering, education, civil service---as potential means to glorify God and love others, I began to realize that I needed to learn more about God and his Word. For no matter what he was calling me to do, my work needed to be informed by my faith. Just because he wasn't calling me to full-time vocational ministry did not mean that I could slack off in seeking him.

Although I didn't leave Jubilee with a clear sense of my particular vocational calling, I returned to school reinvigorated in my studies. I continued to pursue architectural engineering and, through an internship, put names and faces to the industry. As I saw first-hand how my colleagues were using the raw materials of creation to build functional and useful things for people, I began to find real joy in my work.

I also saw, however, the brokenness of the industry. As with any industry, there's the possibility of corruption or unethical business practices. In architectural engineering, in particular, there's also the temptation to take advantage of our clients. Since our work is specialized and necessary, we can manipulate the trust that our clients place in us and advise them that they need certain things even if we know those things may not be the best for them. We can do it subtly by changing their desires with new information. It's not illegal, but it's not necessarily ethical either.

Thankfully, in our industry, client-driven awards incentivize good and honest business dealings. For me, of course, I'm also driven by a desire to work with integrity "as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:23-24), not treating clients or colleagues as transaction costs or tools, but as human beings made in God's image. I want to treat people with as much dignity as possible.

Life After College

After I graduate, I'm moving to Boston to work at one of the top engineering firms. It combines the environment of a think tank with the world of application, being innovative with current research and assessing the needs of our clients.

In my work, I'll mainly be looking at the reliability of building systems, which is probably the biggest concern for architectural engineers. Reliability is why we run so many calculations---to ensure that nothing will fall apart and that the system will require little maintenance. Making sure that systems are safe and reliable, of course, is a wonderful way to love and serve my neighbor.
In addition to reliability, we also care about efficiency; we want to create building systems that waste as little energy as possible. Not only is this efficiency good for the end user because it saves money in energy bills, it is also good for the environment. The industry is moving toward net-zero energy buildings, which are buildings that get half their energy from a conventional power grid and half their energy from renewable resources. To me, being a humble and faithful steward of God's creation is an important way to integrate my faith and my work.

What Does 1 + 1 = 2 Mean? -- Why Christianity Matters for Math (and Everything Else)

[Note: This is the sixth article in an occasional series on apologetics and worldview analysis.]

Over the past few decades evangelicals have expressed a renewed interest in the concept of vocation. No longer is it uncommon to hear call to "think Christianly" about our work or, for academics, their fields of study. Some people (like me) go a step further and claim that we're merely fooling ourselves if we believe that we can approach our vocations at the deepest levels of engagement with a sense of religious neutrality. "Thinking Christianly" about our work is not something we add on as an afterthought; it radically changes the nature of our work.

111Not surprisingly, this view is often met with skepticism. Even those who agree with my general point do not see, for example, how there could be a particularly Christian view to subjects like mathematics.

While I certainly understand their hesitation, I do in fact believe there is a Christian view of mathematics. Indeed, I believe that there is a distinctly Christian view of everything.

The reason this idea seems so foreign (if not downright absurd) is that most of our theories about the world have only a minimal pragmatic affect on how we actually live our lives. Both my neighbor and I, for example, may get sunburned even if we hold radically different beliefs about the sun. The fact that I think the sun is a ball of nuclear plasma while he believes that it is pulled across the sky in a chariot driven by the Greek god Helios doesn't change the fact that we both have to use sunscreen. It is only when we move beneath the surface concepts ("The sun is hot.") to deeper levels of explanation ("What is the essential nature of entities like the sun?") that our religious beliefs come into play.

Even the concept that 1 + 1 = 2 -- a formula which almost all people agree with on a surface level -- has different meanings based on what theories are proposed as answers. These theories, claims philosopher Roy Clouser, show that going more deeply into the concept of 1 + 1 = 2 reveals important differences in the ways it is understood, and that these differences are due to the divinity beliefs they presuppose.

But before we can see why this is true, let's review the claims made in my previous article about what constitutes a religious belief.

A belief is a religious belief, says Clouser, provided that (1) It is a belief in something(s) or other as divine, or (2) It is a belief concerning how humans come to stand in relation to the divine. The divine, in this definition, is whatever is "just there." He contends that self-existence is the defining characteristic of divinity, so that the control of theories by a belief about what is self-existent is the same as control by a divinity belief and thus amounts to religious control of all theories.

Whether we refer to it as being self-existent, uncaused, radically independent, etc., it is the point beyond which nothing else can be reduced. Unless we posit an infinite regress of dependent existences, we must ultimately arrive at an entity that fits the criteria for the divine.

Different traditions, religions, and belief systems may disagree about what or who has divine status, or whether such an ontological concept should be considered a "religious belief." But what they all agree upon is that something has such a status. A theist, for instance, will say that the divine is God while a materialist will claim that matter is what fills the category of divine. Therefore, if we examine our concepts in enough detail, we discover that at a deeper level we're not agreeing on what the object is that we're talking about. Our explanations and theories about things will vary depending on what is presupposed as the ultimate explainer. And the ultimate explainer can only be the reality that has divine status.

Returning to our example, we find that the meaning of 1 + 1 = 2 is dependent on how we answer certain questions, such as: What do "1" or "2" or "+" or "=" stand for? What are those things? Are they abstract or must they have a physical existence? And how do we know that 1 + 1 = 2 is true? How do we attain that knowledge?

Let's look at the answers proposed by four philosophers throughout history:

Leibnitz's view -- When Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, an inventor of the calculus, was asked by one of his students, "Why is one and one always two, and how do we know this?" Leibnitz replied, "One and one equals two is an eternal, immutable truth that would be so whether or not there were things to count or people to count them." Numbers, numerical relationships, and mathematical laws (such as the law of addition) exist in this abstract realm and are independent of any physical existence. In Leibnitz's view, numbers are real things that exist in a dimension outside of the physical realm and would exist even if no human existed to recognize them.

Russell's view -- Bertrand Russell took a position diametrically opposed to Leibnitz. Russell believed it was absurd to think that there is another dimension with all the numbers in it and claimed that math was essentially nothing more than a short cut way of writing logic. In Russell's view, logical classes and logical laws -- rather than numbers and numerical relationships -- are the real things that exist in a dimension outside of the physical realm.

Mill's view -- John Stuart Mill took a third position that denied the extra-dimensional existence of numbers and logic. Mill believed that all that we can know to exist are our own sensations -- what we can see, taste, hear, and smell. And while we may take for granted that the objects we see, taste, hear, and smell exist independently of us, we cannot know even this. Mill claims that 1 and 2 and + stand for sensations, not abstract numbers or logical classes. Because they are merely sensations, 1 + 1 has the potential to equal 5, 345, or even 1,596. Such outcomes may be unlikely but, according to Mill, they are not impossible.

Dewey's view -- The American philosopher John Dewey took another radical position, implying that the signs 1 + 1 = 2 do not really stand for anything but are merely useful tools that we invent to do certain types of work. Asking whether 1 + 1 = 2 is true would be as nonsensical as asking if a hammer is true. Tools are neither true nor false; they simply do some jobs and not others. What exists is the physical world and humans (biological entities) that are capable of inventing and using such mathematical tools.

For each of these four philosophers what was considered to be divine ("just there") had a significant impact on how they answered the questions about the nature of the simple equation. For Leibnitz it was mathematical abstractions; for Russell it was logic; for Mill is was sensations; and for Dewey it was the physical/biological world. On the surface we might be able to claim that all four men understood the equation in the same way. But as we moved deeper we found their religious beliefs radically altered the conceptual understanding of 1 + 1 = 2.

What all of the explanations have in common, what all non-theistic views share, is a tendency to produce theories that are reductionist -- the theory claims to have found the part of the world that everything else is either identical with or depends on. This is why the Christian view on math, science, and everything else must ultimately differ from theories predicated on other religious beliefs. We may appear to agree on the surface, but dig a little deeper and we find that what we believe about God changes everything.

 

Other Posts in This Series:

What is a Religious Belief?

When Atheists Are Angry at God

Do Tummy Aches Disprove God?

Naming Your Turtles

Should You Trust the Monkey Mind?

College Senior Project: An Accountant, a Nutritionist, and a Football Coach

Every Square Inch Cropped

In May, as many students prepare for graduation, we are featuring reflections written by college seniors from universities across the United States. Today, we have three students from two different schools---Samford University and Grove City College---going into three different fields: accounting, nutrition, and football. Join us to celebrate their achievement and to pray for their "every good endeavor."

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Making the Face of Christ Familiar

Kelsie Baer headshotKelsie Baer is a graduating senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where she studies accounting. She was born in Delaware and raised in Monroe, Louisiana. After graduation, Kelsie plans to stay in Birmingham to get her master's degree and then pursue a career in public accounting.

Sitting at a Desk

"Is this a waste of time?"

"I feel useless---what if this is not what I'm supposed to do for the rest of my life?"

"Is it even possible to glorify God sitting at a desk job?"

These questions were never far from my mind during a recent two-month internship at an accounting firm. For years, I have dreamed of going overseas as a missionary. During the last four years of college, I have been exposed to the reality of unreached people groups---and that the heart of God throughout the Bible is to bring the nations to himself. So now, you might ask, why on earth have I accepted a job at an accounting firm located in the buckle of the Bible Belt?

Interning at an Accounting Firm

I started college as a business major, figuring that it was as good a pick as any for someone who wanted to go overseas. Since I liked math and people, it seemed like a fine choice. As I progressed into my upper-level classes, though, I was shocked to realize that I actually enjoyed business. I've always been curious about business, the economy, and the stock market. But my classes opened up a new world to me, and I absolutely loved it.

Accounting especially caught my attention and, more surprisingly, I was good at it. I understood it and enjoyed it. And then confusion hit. I was being discipled, discipling others, learning the fullness of joy that comes in the presence of God, and I wanted to do that kind of work for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I loved my major and was eager to see what a job at an accounting firm might be like.

So I accepted an internship offer and worked about 50 hours a week during the busy season this past year, which is when all the questions began. There was never any doubt in my mind that, if I had to work, I wanted to work at this accounting firm. The work was interesting, and I loved my coworkers. For the first month, though, I constantly went back and forth about whether I should work with a company or go on staff with a vocational ministry. More than anything else, I desired to glorify God with my life. Was this really the place I could do that?

Every Area of Life

For everyone who has wondered the same things I have, let me say this clearly: the gospel transforms every area of your life. I am indebted to all the pastors, theologians, campus ministers, friends, and practitioners who have helped me understand more deeply the implications of this statement. Because the gospel transforms every area of life, I have the freedom to follow a career path and bring great glory to God with everything I do.

My vision for life hasn't changed. I still want to play an active role in seeing the gospel go forth to all nations. But now, experiences have greatly expanded my idea of what a "missionary" can be. Work is not a waste of time---it is a network of relationships, a place to glorify God with the gifts he has given, and a way to provide for those who are on support for vocational ministry purposes.

Steps of Faith

Praise God---I am slowly learning that, at 22 years old, it's okay to not have my whole life planned. Unless the Lord has other plans, I will spend the next year studying for the CPA and finishing a master's degree in accounting, after which I will work full-time in Birmingham. I am planning to go on an overseas rotation with the firm and would love to spend several years with coworkers from unreached people groups.

But today, I'm walking into a job, begging God to be faithful in keeping my eyes on him. I want to be faithful in ministry at my workplace, faithful with the money I make, and faithful to go wherever and whenever he says. When I finally see his face in heaven, I want it to be familiar---because instead of planning out my life or living in anxiety about the future, I've been looking at his face in complete trust and surrender. And I trust that he has led me to this accounting firm and that he will continue to prepare the way that he wants me to go.

Your prayers are much appreciated for me and all those like me who are about to graduate and begin learning how to follow Christ in the real world!

* * * * *

Finding Satisfaction in Places of Pain and Risk

Emily Lloyd headshotEmily Lloyd is a graduating senior at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, where she studies biology. Growing up in a Coast Guard family, she's moved every two years but calls Kodiak, Alaska, home. While in college, Emily led inner city outreaches to Rhode Island, Project Okello, and worked as a teacher's assistant. Upon graduation, Emily will be a Boston Fellow with plans to attend graduate school and eventually work as an international nutritionist. Emily is a baker, percussionist, early morning aficionado, and crazy about her golden retrievers.

Nowhere I'd Rather Be

As I lay on my plywood mattress and listened to the goats bleating from the next rooftop, their voices combining with the Muslim call to prayer droning through our neighborhood on loudspeakers, my thoughts strayed to the hardest things. Had I accidentally given diarrhea to the young gypsy girl when I recommended too much oil in her sambar and rice? What was I supposed to do about the anger I felt toward my alcoholic neighbor who---for his own selfish purposes---kept his son from school? Could I trust a loving God who allowed so much pain? Who was I---an inexperienced college senior---to take on malnutrition in India and imagine that I could stand against systemic poverty and the Hindu and Muslim juggernauts?

It was at that moment when, more piercing than the noisiest goat, a shocking truth struck me---there was nowhere I'd rather be. This place of greatest pain and greatest risk was my greatest satisfaction, and nothing could wrench this call from me. How did I get here?

From Affection to Calling

As a freshman at Grove City College, I chose biology because I loved the subject. The eukaryotic cell---more complex than an East Coast metropolis---was a wonderland that I was eager to explore. The treadmill diehards at the gym became works of art, ligaments rippling with power and grace. On any given afternoon, you'd find me in the library pivoting my forearm to visualize the tendons and bones just beneath my skin with my "x-ray" vision. Clearly, biology was where I belonged.

Affection became calling when I learned about God's redemptive work---creation, fall, redemption, and restoration---and our role with him in it. He calls us to be his hands and his feet, to restore what is broken, to heal and bring wholeness by ministering to souls and healing bodies---as Jesus did (e.g., Mark 2:1-12; 5:21-43).

For me, the call to use biology to love the world to life compelled me daily in college. I became a better student with a higher goal than a respectable GPA or a successful career. The extent to which I applied myself mattered---in extracurricular activities, in relationships, and in academics. It mattered because I was determined never to waste an opportunity to be an agent of reconciliation to those around me and to prepare for a career doing the same.

I took electives like organic chemistry and statistics to meet graduate school prerequisites, said "yes" to every speaking engagement that crossed my path (and a hearty "no" to my shy self), wrote papers on poverty and HIV/AIDS, hosted a college panel on nutrition, and taught students about their roles in addressing brokenness during short-term missions trips. I embraced the vulnerability of servant leadership, dared to hope big, and loved the jagged people despite the likelihood of winding up bloody. Routine meal dates and weekly meetings were elevated into opportunities for one eternal soul connecting with another, and I was elated to help restore wholeness to those around me.

Glorious Collision

In time, a glorious collision occurred---my passion for biology, compassion for people in need, insatiable wanderlust, curiosity of foreign cultures, desire to glorify God with all the parts of my life---that now leads me to pursue a career as an international nutritionist. I want to love God and others by healing bodies through nutrition. With this goal in mind, I parsed the last year into three parts---an internship in Thailand, a semester in Italy, and a volunteer opportunity as a community nutritionist in India.

In Chennai, India, I worked with a sister in Christ ministering to gypsy and tribal peoples. We taught them nutrition and sanitation, focusing especially on child and maternal health. While there, I also came to know intimately the gore of suffering. The hopeless pain I saw shredded my heart, and I doubted whether God, with whom I was quite angry, could stitch it back together. Frankly, I preferred he keep his distance.

Even my stubbornness, however, was no match for a Lover who stops at nothing. While I was infuriated with the formal theological God, the Jesus whose eyes were puffy and red from crying over the brokenness of this world (e.g., John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44) refused to leave me alone. As my accusations died down to worn-out sobs, Christ whispered to me that he does not crush the bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). He didn't tell me why the gypsy women are abused or their children starving, but he did remind me that he loves them more than I can fathom and that their pain hurts him, too. He didn't make my efforts in India very effective, but he did make it clear that he is in the business of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). He entered into the greatest suffering to bring justice, and I surrendered with quietness at his love and for letting me be part of both his cross and his triumph.

Walking Toward Suffering

Since India, I'm more determined than ever to use nutrition to bring about shalom wholeness in the way God purposes---that is, to bring "peace with God, peace with self, peace with others, and peace with creation," as Amy Sherman says in Kingdom Calling. Loving people as I walk towards their suffering terrifies me, but God is enough for today, enough for tomorrow, enough for Indian gypsies, and enough for this cracked pot putting her small faith in Christ. He is enough.

In light of this, I plan on working for a few years in Boston and then attending graduate school for nutrition and public health before returning overseas as a nutritionist. I'm eager for the future, knowing that the deluge of suffering is no match for the faithfulness and goodness of God.

Those goats in India were annoying. Ever an American, I craved chirping robins and chorusing crickets outside my window. I'll admit it: some days I fell far short of appreciating God's good creation in the goats. But I'll listen without ever tiring to one thing: Christ is reconciling all things to himself, and he wants to use someone as hopelessly inept as me to be part of making everything good. That truth will never grow old.

* * * * *

From College Quarterback to High School Quarterback Coach

Ben ONeill headshot

Ben Neill is a graduating senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. In college, Ben studied sports administration and business. He was a permanent team captain on the football team, led a student ministry called RANDOM, and was involved in Campus Outreach and the student athletic advisory committee. He loves to do anything outdoors and now works with D1 Sports and QB Country.

Affection for Football

In John 14:5, Thomas asks Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" I have asked God this same question at many times and in many ways: Where are you going? Where are you leading me? What do I do next?

In 2009, as my high school football career was drawing to a close, I was asking this question. I loved football and didn't want it to end. After my team's last game, I bawled my eyes out over our loss. An 18-year-old boy, who thought he was a man, crying over a game . . .

But it wasn't just a game for me. Sports were how I connected with people. Football was how I loved and served others. And with the end of high school, my days with the pigskin were coming to an end---or so I thought.

Where are you going?

During those last days of high school, when I was visiting colleges and listening to my friends talk about where they were going, I felt a strange peace about attending Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. It wasn't, though, because Samford was my first choice. In fact, in some ways, it was my last. But I wanted to play football, and I knew that Samford offered the best opportunity for me to get on the field.

God may have used my love for football to get me to Samford, but he shaped my heart to love him more than football after I arrived. By freshman year, I was sitting in a Bible study with the football team and---although I didn't know it at the time---this would be the place where I would meet the man who would disciple me and the place where I would do ministry for the next four years. In his typical style, the Lord used a seemingly unlikely situation for his glory and my joy.

Where are you leading me?

Throughout my life, sports have given me ways into the lives of others. In the South, especially in the rivaled state of Alabama, there's an unbelievable infatuation with football. I played four years of college football and had a blast, but my best memories are not of winning games or playing well. My greatest memories are of seeing my life and the lives of my teammates changed by the gospel.

Football is great, but nothing compares to knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection---moving from death to life, from stone to flesh. There is no touchdown, game, or championship that compares to the victory in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:4-11). There is no fumble, interception, or loss that can separate from the love of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18, 35-39).

What do I do next?

Approaching graduation, I'm faced again with the question: Lord, what do I do next? I weigh my options---either stick with what I have done well for 13 years in football or explore the newly found joy of doing ministry without football "in the way"? The late theologian Howard Thurman once advised, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." What makes me come alive? Jesus has given me life, and God has given me a heart of flesh. Sharing that life with others is the obvious answer. This should be my vocation, right?

On the contrary.

I decided not to go into full-time vocational ministry because I am confident that God's passion for people is displayed in all sorts of work, including football. So I am going to stay around the game of football as a quarterback coach in Birmingham, Alabama. I pray that the Lord's name---like the fire in Jeremiah's bones (20:9)---will not remain silent in my life. I hope to be a small voice in the Lord's calling of young men to himself in the same way God used football to place me around godly men who have helped bring me closer to him.

Since God used football to change my own heart, I see how it is an incredibly strategic medium to change the hearts of others, too. Intangibles that come along with this game set the stage for the glory of God to be revealed through his faithful servants. Opportunities to show grace, servanthood, commitment, and sacrifice are abundant. Levels of trust that are created in lifelong bonds pave the way for ministry amongst peers. The sheer amount of time spent together is ideal for teammates growing in Christ together. The potential is astounding.

I'm sure that I will ask God these questions throughout my life: Where are you going? Where are you leading me? What do I do next? For now, though, he is calling me to share with young football players the answer that Jesus gave Thomas when he asked where he was going: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). And my prayer for them is the same prayer that I pray for myself--- that we might come alive in him and, in turn, love the world to life in him, too.

Integrating Faith and Work in a Church Plant

Every Square Inch Cropped

Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are conducted and condensed by Bethany L. Jenkins, director of TGC's Every Square Inch.

bryan lairBryan Lair is the lead pastor at Trinity City Church, a church plant that launched three-and-a-half years ago in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Northwestern in Saint Paul with a BA in biblical studies, and he holds an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter.

Why did you start a church in Minneapolis-St. Paul?

Even though I grew up in the farmlands of southern Minnesota, I came to love cities and campus ministry when I worked in the Chicago area during and after seminary. So when my family moved to St. Paul, we wanted to plant a church in the city and for the city. The church sits between each downtown and in the midst of several colleges and universities. Even as a recently planted church, we're about to send out a team to start another church near the University of Minnesota.

How does this setting shape the culture of your church?

In addition to having a lot of young professionals, we also have many college students. About a third of our congregation is made up of college students from a variety of schools across the metro area---the University of Saint Thomas, Macalester College, and others. Both of these groups want to work for the common good, not just a paycheck. They want to connect their vocation to the grander narrative of the gospel.

TGC's Theological Vision for Ministry actually inspired our church's approach of faith and work. We believe God calls us to be stewards who integrate our faith with our work, that is, to work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability, and to develop business environments that can bring a measure of healing to God's creation.

In practice, how do you embed this teaching into the ethos of your church?

Right now, since we're still somewhat small, we're organic about it. From the pulpit, I try to cast the vision of a holistic gospel. We also try to integrate its importance within discipleship and mentorship relationships. Since our community groups talk about working out the gospel in our daily lives, issues of occupation, calling, and vocation naturally come up, because work is a major part of what we do everyday.

How is this perspective shaping those in your congregation?

I'll give you an example. We work closely with a college ministry that has an ESL program for international students. We recently baptized a student from a country in the Middle East. He has lost friends and added tension with family members back home. After he graduates, he plans to return home and work in the marketplace. Since he may not be in an environment where he can share his faith openly with his colleagues, especially not at first, he longs for a robust theology of work. We're working with our partner ministry to provide that framework for him. From international students to young professionals, this vision of vocation gives new hope by showing them their field of work is part of God's mission in the world.

What is your vision for the future?

As we grow, I'm sensing the need to do something more formal for our congregation. College students, in particular, have told me that they are looking for something they can put on their résumé---like a fellows or internship program---to equip them for stewardship and leadership in the marketplace. We're reaching out to other ministries in our city, such as MacLaurinCSF, to collaborate on some efforts. Also, our church recently launched its first "vocational internship." We worked with a writing major who used her God-given talents to launch a blog and write the history of our church as part of a journalism school project. We'll continue to build on these ideas in the future.

Preparing Graduates to Connect Their Faith with Their Future Career and More

The transition from college to life after college is challenging. In May, as graduating seniors approach the end of their university careers, they want to find coherence between their academic training and the realities of post-college life. They need both perspective and resources as they look for answers to questions they may not even know they should be asking:

  • How should I manage money when I have a mountain of debt . . . or when I earn more than I've ever had?
  • How will I find friends and a life-giving local church if I move to an unfamiliar place and I know no one?
  • How can I live faithfully in the workplace?
  • How do I make decisions when I'm dealing with the pressure to please my parents, professors, peers, or even myself?
  • How do I put Christ at the center of every area of my life?

Everything Matters

"Everything Matters" was the theme of this year's Jubilee Conference---a three-day experience hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach that brings together more than 2,500 college students to learn about how all things---including their academic pursuits and fields of study---matter to God.

Instead of deeming certain professions more pleasing to God, Jubilee helps students figure out what it means to live as people of faith in all fields---science, art, music, law, medicine, and so on. Because it all matters---"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1). Christ is Lord of all things, and he is reconciling all things to himself, including the work of our hands (Colossians 1:15-20). As our students pray, "May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10), it is crucial that they grasp a vision of their vocation that involves connecting their faith to their future career and more.

Packing Their Post-College Bags

Erica Rietz headshotFor nearly a decade, a team of co-laborers and I have walked alongside dozens of college students as they have entered senior year, experienced the range of emotions and decisions unique to this time, and embarked on their journey into life after college. Through a program called Senior EXIT, we help to prepare these students for the next phase of life.

Some students are tempted to reduce the transition to a simple checklist of a few items necessary for graduation (résumé, job offer, diploma), but we help them consider the many ways that preparedness goes beyond this list. Through full-day retreats and shorter workshops, we address the most important topics and issues they will face after graduation---finances, finding a church, relationships, family, decision-making, work, worldview, and so on. We seek to "pack their bags" with the tools and perspectives they will need---things they can pull out along the way to help navigate and normalize the journey.

We also work to connect them with "mentors by major"---introducing them to people of faith in their field of study who can help them to anticipate the opportunities and potential pitfalls in their work. Mostly, though, we simply spend time with them at Senior EXIT touch points---serving as sounding boards and encouraging presences in a potentially stressful time.

Connecting Career to Christ's Kingdom

As our students prepare for life after college, we often encounter two perspectives. On the one hand, some students opt out of full-time vocational ministry because they have debt, fear fundraising, or want a big paycheck. On the other hand, some students believe that professional ministry work is the best or only way to honor God; they are not sure how work in the marketplace matters.

We hope to show both of these groups how their particular fields of study matter to God---that work is inherently good and spiritual. We want them to understand that all callings matter because they are means by which God expresses his goodness, care, and love to his creation. With this view, they can live faithfully in every field as they wrestle with its goodness and its brokenness.

Finish Line with Somewhere to Go

Some have dubbed these graduates "The Screwed Generation" (because of the economy, lack of jobs, loan debt, federal deficit, dying middle class, post 9/11 nation, and so on), but Senior EXIT offers a different perspective. We encourage them that, as Christ-followers, they live for a greater reality (Colossians 2:17)---one in which hope is not found in a job offer, an economic upturn, or personal wealth, but in the fact that the God of the universe sustains and carries them (Isaiah 46:3-4). We encourage them to choose hope, even in difficult times. For hope always leads and is "an anchor for our soul" (Hebrews 6:19). We assure them that even seasons of unemployment or waiting for a job offer or living with parents matters---that God does not waste even these stretches.

More than anything, we pray they will know that God is GOD---a constant and known in every dynamic and uncertain time. And they are HIS; the whole of their lives matters to him, the one who pursues and provides for them, even---and especially---in life right after college.

* * * * *

Every Square Inch editor's Note: In May, as many students prepare for graduation, we will be featuring interviews of practitioners who work with college students as well as reflections written by college seniors from universities across the country---Penn State, Samford, Grove City, Princeton, Columbia, and more. We invite you to celebrate with us as we pray for their "every good endeavor." - BLJ

The Only 'Always' in Health Care

Every doctor has angry patients. But it's especially difficult when they are angry at you. I know others have been dissatisfied with my care, but no one was more direct than a woman who told me that she was discharging me as her doctor. She would seek care elsewhere, she said, because despite my efforts to treat her, she still had pain. As I wondered what I could have done differently, I knew that she deserved more than I was able to give her. A major obstacle in this case was that she was uninsured-many medications were too costly to prescribe, and I could not refer her for a surgery that almost surely would have helped her.

caduceus

Injustice in health care is a question I ponder regularly in caring for those who are mostly poor. But it has forced me to ask another question: "What can we reasonably expect healthcare to do for us?" Even if I were able to obtain every available service for my patient, I could not guarantee her freedom from pain. I could not promise her satisfaction. In my experience, even with the best of hopes and intentions, and despite modern preconceptions to the contrary, I have found that our needs and expectations for care of the body always exceed what is possible. If this is true, is there is anything we can reliably hope for in health care? And what might it look like to live faithfully in the resistant gap between what we have and what we hope for?

Ideal vs. Reality

When sick and in fear of what will happen, ideal health care would be available where you are, given when you need it, by caregivers who know what you need, because they both know their craft and know you. They would choose your care based on value, not cost, and continue to care for you until it is no longer needed. In short, we would have found a care we can trust, because it is competent, unaffected by limitation of resources, and delivered personally in response to our unique needs. That is a Blue Cross/Blue Shield (pardon the branding) guarantee that anyone would accept. (Please notice that promise of a good outcome is not included.)

The reality, as we know, is quite different. For most of the world, it is not even close. At the time I lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) the country spent little more than $1 per year for a person's health care. With limited public health to ensure clean water, little access to primary care, and few doctors and nurses to care for the population, then, and still today, children younger than 5 die daily of preventable illnesses while many others succumb to diseases that would easily respond if treatment were available.

In the resource-rich environment of North America, we have the ability to spend more on health care than any other nation—yet the majority still lack many elements of our ideal model. Most of our health care is unattached from and unaware of the community where we live. It is often given by people who do not know us, and rarely do they stay through the course of our illness. Concern over who is paying enters into health care decisions with increasing visibility, as co-pays and deductibles increase for the patient, and health insurers demand greater performance for pay from providers. Yet most patients still come to the encounter with strong expectations for good outcomes irrespective of the condition. The whole situation fosters an environment more like a contract for delivered goods than a covenant of care based on trust and relationship.

Who Will Give Us What We Need?

I can think of one time when ideal health care happened. There was a man attacked and beaten up at the side of the road. He was stripped of his clothing and left nearly unconscious. One traveler, among several who passed by, was deeply moved when he saw him. After approaching the man, he began to treat him with the health care resources he had available. He brought the man to a facility for rest and further treatment. After arranging for his care, he promised to return, offering to reimburse the "provider" for any further costs.

Philospher and theologian Arthur McGill, in his exposition of this well-known passage in Luke 10:25-37, explained that the Good Samaritan's response to the injured man—what each of us would desire if ever in such need—represents a quality of care beyond reasonable limits. Besides binding the wounds, he pours on oil and wine, precious commodities of this man's world, akin to the most expensive dressings we would now use on open wounds. He takes the man to the inn, but since the man cannot walk, he sits him on his animal, while he most likely walks alongside. At the inn, he cares for him all night as the need requires. And in the morning he offers the unthinkable: "Whatever more you spend, I will repay." In the midst of all this care, as McGill wisely perceived, we see the single-mindedness of the Samaritan—all his actions are focused unconditionally on the needs of the injured man.

By bringing up this story, I am not suggesting that the health care systems we create can ever give this care. But the parable shows that our hope for such care comes from deep within us. It is not surprising why our failure to create what we really need is so frightening to us, or that our health care debates produce more heat than light. We crash upon the rocks of our dilemma—the chasm between our deepest needs and the reality of our limited world. Reduced to our expectations that this world can give us this care, we end up unfulfilled and angry; even worse, we become demanding, to the point of caring little for others as we fight for our right to the health care we want. In this zero-sum world dominated by fear, taking and holding rather than receiving and giving, we are destined to fail having any "always" that we can depend on in health care.

'Always' in Health Care

I do believe we should expect more from the health care of our day. But it can never be what the messages of our culture tell us we should have. Countering the noisy cacophony of demand and promise that surrounds the modern medical agenda is the quiet wisdom of nine simple words of old: "to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always."

There was a time in the Golden Age of Medicine, as advances in technology in the 20th century were completely altering the landscape of disease, when we wondered if we could cure always. The dominance of chronic diseases in the 21st century has burst that bubble. Our more recent efforts at pain control, admirably led by the hospice and palliative care movement, at times has acted as if we can always relieve. This premise must also fall before the inevitability of pain and suffering and, despite diligent efforts that should never be abandoned, the impossibility of alleviating all pain. Beyond these good pursuits, one "always" still remains—to comfort.

In the limitations of this world, there is little we can guarantee. Yet we can always ask, "Who is my neighbor?"—not as the lawyer asks in the parable, but as hopeful inquirers at the end of the story who have seen what the neighbor did. Is there anyone I can depend upon no matter what the circumstances? Arthur McGill taught:

Who will take care of me in my need in this way? Not my landlord, not my banker. Not my policeman. Not my doctor. I have to pay them for care. I have to earn their care. Where can I find a Good Samaritan? . . . The answer is clear. Who in the New Testament is present as the one who loves us without stint? Who gives up for us, not only his time and effort and money, but who also gives up his life for us? . . . The Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ. He is our neighbor.

To know there is an unlimited source of care in Jesus Christ gives me hope for health care today. Not only that I can depend on his care for me. But that each one of us, if we accept his care for our deepest needs, will no longer demand this perfect care from the systems we create. Better able to ask for less, perhaps we might be empowered to give more.

Here lies that common paradox—the love we need becomes the love we give, able to love because he first loved us. Beyond the good of the most professional and competent health care available both now and ever, the hope for a "comfort always" in health care will only happen if all of us who need it can also give it.

And so the parable of the Good Samaritan concludes. Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, is the one we imitate in our love, the one who will repay us for all the care we expend on behalf of others when he comes in clouds of glory. The comfort we seek becomes the comfort we give, making possible the one "always" in health care.

Seeking True Beauty as a Spokesmodel

Every Square Inch Cropped

Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are conducted and condensed by Bethany L. Jenkins, director of TGC's Every Square Inch.

Trinity Laurel is a fashion model in Los Angeles. She has worked for Ralph Lauren, Koral Los Angeles, Kimberly Ovitz, and appeared in Beachbody Exercise DVDs and on QVC with supermodel personal trainer Leandro Carvalho. She also has represented brands like Bentley Motors, Nike, Bloomberg, Herbal Essences, AirBerlin, Google, and Time Warner Cable in North America and has traveled to England, Jamaica, Italy, and the Middle East for work and humanitarian projects.

Trinity TOP photoHow do you describe your work?

I describe myself as self-employed because, even though I have modeling agencies, I am responsible to manage my own career. If I don't hustle and network, I don't eat! My work, though, is modeling. I do commercial print, fitness and fashion, but mostly I do two types of modeling—fit modeling and spokesmodeling. With fit modeling, the work isn't glamorous. I try on samples and help designers make improvements and corrections needed to get the best fit for the consumer. Spokesmodeling, on the other hand, gives me a lot of interaction with consumers, because I get to represent brands and travel with them to promote their products to potential clients.

When you come to New York City next week, what will your spokesmodeling job look like?

I work as a spokesmodel for a high-end automobile manufacturer. They train models and actresses just as much—if not more—as their regular dealers on their products. We travel to all of the North American shows and serve as the first faces of the brand that the customers see. Since it's a luxury brand, we have a small clientele. But we get to meet with potential customers, bring in leads, and connect people with the dealership. I like this role because there's more to the position than external beauty. Our clients expect us to know about the product, too.

Is thatexpecting more than external beautyrare in the industry?

Unfortunately, it can be. My biggest challenge is making sure that I don't connect my physical appearance and financial reward with my personal worth. It's easy to think that my value is tied directly to my look because—quite literally—I am paid to look and act a certain way, while maintaining very specific measurements. Thankfully, I've never struggled with my body image or an eating disorder, but I have wrestled with rejection and shame when my paycheck has fluctuated based on my physical appearance or when I've lost a client because my size or measurements have changed. It can be crippling and, at times, depressing.

Trinity BOTTOM photoHow do you deal with such profound struggles of identity and value?

Going through these issues alone is a breeding ground for despair. So I look to community, where lies can be exposed and compassion can flourish. Thankfully, I have a strong community of like-minded believers in Models for Christ (MFC). It meets a unique struggle that those in the fashion industry face—isolation. We travel so much and often to far-off places. So MFC tries to connect people all over the world with local churches wherever they happen to be and put them in small groups for encouragement and exhortation in the Lord.

How has your idea of beauty changed over the years?

The fashion industry is fickle, and focusing solely on the worship of outward beauty can kill the heart and take away the wonder that beauty was meant to create. There have been times when the brokenness of the industry has left me disillusioned, and I've struggled with hating beauty itself. But God continues to show me that there is a purity to the creative process that can point to him. C. S. Lewis says, "We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it." So I fight to find beauty in the unchanging qualities in which God delights—humility, truth, kindness, self-giving, joy.

A Bubba With a Passion for the Gospel and Golf

The Story: On Sunday Bubba Watson, one of the most untraditional golfers on the PGA Tour, was the winner of the 2014 Masters Tournament. But golf isn't Watson's top priority. What he considers most important can be gleaned from the description on his Twitter account, @bubbawatson ("Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer.") and his website, BubbaWatson.com ("Loves Jesus and loves sharing his faith").

watson_610_masters14_d4_scott_jacketThe Background: In an interview with Trevor Freeze of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Watson tells how he uses his Twitter account—along with his PGA platform—to share about his faith in Christ.

"For me, it's just showing the Light," said Watson. "There's people who want to put down Christians. I try to tell them Jesus loves you. It's just a way to be strong in my faith."

After his first Master's win in 2012 Watson's Tweeted: "The most important thing in my life? Answer after I golf 18 holes with @JustinRose99. #Godisgood." Later that day he posted on his account, "Most important things in my life- 1. God 2. Wife 3. Family 4. Helping others 5. Golf"

"Lecrae said it the best," Watson said of the Christian rapper he listens to on his iPod. "He doesn't want to be a celebrity. He doesn't want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him."

Why It Matters: Christians have always been involved in professional sports, so why is the faith of superstars like Watson suddenly worthy of the public's attention? Because athletes like Watson show that it's still possible for athletes to be open and unapologetic about their willingness to share the Gospel. Also, Watson may be one of the best in his sport but he understands the importance of  keeping his priorities in order, winsomely admitting that their life's callings are secondary to serving the Creator who has called them. To a culture that is both obsessed and disillusioned with fame and fortune, this centered perspective provides a refreshingly countercultural witness.