As Christians in academia we probably have a pretty good idea of what we want to do: what experiments we want to conduct, what papers or books we want to write, and what ideas we want to critique. We spend quite a lot of time thinking about and planning these things. But how much time do we spend thinking about who we are doing it all for? If your experience is anything like mine, the answer is probably “very little”.
We have mentioned before on this blog the academic temptation working for ourselves and not for God. Here is a passage from D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation that makes the same point in relation to Christian service more broadly:
The Christian’s whole desire, at its best and highest, is that Jesus Christ be praised. It is always a wretched bastardization of our goals when we want to win glory for ourselves instead of for him. When we arrange flowers in the church, or serve as an usher, or preach a sermon; when we visit the sick, or run a youth group, or attend prayer meeting—when we do any of these things, and more, with the secret desire that we might be praised for our godliness and service, we have corrupted the salvation we enjoy. Its purpose is to reconcile us to God, for God must be the center of our lives, the ground and the goal of our existence. Indeed, Christ himself, the agent of God in creation, is the one of whom Paul elsewhere declares that all things were made by him and for him (Col. 1:16). Lying at the heart of all sin is the desire to be the center, to be like God. So if we take on Christian service, and think of such service as the vehicle that will make us central, we have paganized Christian service; we have domesticated Christian living and set it to servitude in a pagan cause.
Who are you working for?