Friday, June 3, 2016

Taking Your Soul to Work

Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace by R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, Eerdmans, 2010, 200 pages. ISBN 978-0-8028-6559-5

R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, authors of Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace, draw from the Bible and the Christian spiritual tradition and from their own experiences in the marketplace to argue that the workplace is an arena for spiritual development. Eugene Peterson in the foreword asserts, "one of the most offensive and soul-damaging phrases in the Christian community is 'full-time Christian work.' Every time it is used it drives a wedge of misunderstanding between the way we pray and the way we work, between the way we worship and the way we make a living" (viii). All Christians are in full-time Christian work. There is a false separation between sacred and secular. As Stevens and Ung suggests we are to take our soul to work.

Taking Your Soul to Work is divided into three parts. In the first part the authors identify the struggles of work and how the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, gluttony, anger, sloth, envy, restlessness, and boredom) can "entangle" us in our work. The second part shows how God has given us the fruit of the Spirit (joy, goodness, love, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, patience, and peace) to transform us while we work. The last part discusses outcomes from the Spirit-empowered life (continous prayer, persistent gratitude, beautiful purity, joyful relinquishment, surrendered contentment, life-given rhythems, neighbor-love, vocational confidence, and heavenly-mindedness). There is a chapter for each of these characteristics and each chapter includes a dialog between the authors and ends with tips to apply the truth.

R. Paul Stevens is professor emeritus of marketplace theology and spirituality at Regent College in Vancouver and adjunct professor both at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle and at Biblical Graduate School of Theology in Singapore. Alvin Ung is a Fellow at Khazanah National, the national investment agency of Malaysia. He has taught seminary classes and led workshops for CEOs in Asia and North America on the integration of faith and work.

The authors hopes the readers will learn the following from the book:

  • How to handle the frustrations, challenges, and ambiguities that you face every workday.
  • How your work can be a source of spiritual growth rather than a hindrance.
  • How your work can draw you toward God.
  • How to keep God in mind while working, even if the work is all-consuming.
  • How to discover God's will for you in the workplace.
  • How God is most present to you in times of struggle, pain, and even failure.
  • How work provides a context in which you may overcome your hidden compulsions and discover new strengths in your character.
Stevens and Ung in their book Taking Your Soul to Work do a great job in showing how our faith can be applied to our work. In addition, they show how our work can shape us spiritually. The authors write in a conversational style which is easy to understand and the chapters are short enough to read in five to ten minutes. This is the second time I have read the book and I enjoyed it as much in the second reading as I did in the first reading. I plan on reading it again in the future. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to apply their Christian faith to their workplace.

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