Magnificence at Work: Living Faith in Business
Magnificence at Work: Living Faith in Business begins with the profound suggestion that work is a paramount consideration and an integral facet of faith—especially from a Christian perspective: “work has always been the locus of God’s calling. It would be surprising if it were not, for work matters profoundly as a creative act, as a contribution to sustenance and community, and as a mark of human dignity and personal identity” (11). John Dalla Costa draws inferences as well as direct quotes from biblical perspectives that Jesus utilized the platform of “entrepreneurial commerce” in the gospel of Luke (20). He suggests that we knew the occupation of the disciples before we even knew their names as Jesus walked into their midst while they “were repairing and cleaning nets;” he points out as well that Christ was in their midst while they worked, and “he is in our midst while we are at work” (21). This is a very powerful reminder that while we work, Jesus and his teachings are with us also. It is evident the author is making the assertion that one cannot simply be a Christian in one facet of life but relinquish one’s faith while working. As an answer to this modern day reality, the author calls for spiritual growth and three stages of soul work.
These stages correspond to three sections of the book: preparing to see anew, awakening to wisdom, and integrity from doing. To see anew, the author unfolds the ideas of presence, becoming, and wrestling which call for a new appreciation for real integrity, a new time for meaningful work, and a new realization of soul needs. Awakening to wisdom gives attention to understanding grace and beauty. All of the forgoing preparation and understanding makes possible the application of magnificence at work, which involves perspective, proportion and practice.
This book continues with consistent and well-written reminders that we should make work a spiritual practice as we go through the motions of our everyday lives. It suggests also that one should not separate Christian ethics from the common actions with one’s colleagues in commerce. The author illustrates these points continually through the exercise of magnificence. Although this may be an elusive construct, it is in essence operationally defined on many levels throughout the text. An underlying premise of this book appears to advocate that one operationally defines the construct of magnificence through constant, deliberate thought as well as dialogue during the business of one’s daily occupation. The practice of the presence of God gives the fulfillment that people at work need: “Only divine presence satisfies this transcendent craving; only God has the effusiveness to fulfill human excessiveness”(37). This idea is reminiscent of Brother Lawrence’s classical call for practicing the presence of God “in all things.”
The book continues with several illustrations of current and past business executives as well as their possible theories and models of behavior. Dalla Costa draws comparisons and contrasts with Biblical teachings as well as direct illustrations of the teachings (and actions) of Jesus. One insightful quote from the text suggests that:
Magnificence is not an alternative to results. It is the practice of managerial rigor and innovation applied towards success with attentiveness and commitment to what is also good and right. It is the call to create worth, with its attendant risks, challenges, skills and rewards, while also respecting the criteria of worthiness, with its moral, human and aesthetic dimensions (56).
Dalla Costa calls the reader to “awaken to wisdom” by unpacking ideas of grace and beauty in a similar manner to the previous sections, offering comparable biblical and practical perspectives. One of the paramount considerations regarding grace is [that it represents] “needs becoming ideals” (116). Beauty suggests “freedom in the balance” (143). These two concepts are then investigated in depth through a commingling of biblical analogy with practical inferences.
The later chapters of the book examine more practical applications in which magnificence finds expression within everyday life at work. Perspective enables one to recognize the magnificence, “[y]et in industry after industry, magnificence is lacking because conventional assumptions lead to conventional strategies that produce conventional mediocrity” (181). Dalla Costa makes the point that priestly management derived from soul work calls for a realization that God is relevant and necessary for ordering our daily lives in a balance of proportion regarding fairness, risk, and security. The concluding chapter offers a section titled “FAQ’s,” which is an acronym for “frequently avoided questions” that often transpire in the workplace (266). These FAQ’s offer a clever yet revealing set of illustrations for living faith at work more abundantly.
This is an interesting and accessible exploration of the notion of achieving magnificence in work. Dalla Costa provides a bridge from the spiritual world to the work world through real soul work, identifying contexts within which the reader can examine his or her relationship and understanding of biblical teachings as well as implement these beliefs while engaging in business at a variety of levels. With its clearly explicated ideas, the book can act as a catalyst for initiating thought and dialogue regarding biblical faith, beliefs, and spiritual actions in whatever ethos we may call business.