Blog - Grasping Vocation

Sacred vs. Secular Work: Loss to Individuals

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The last two posts reported on how doctoral and masters students responded to the question: "What effect does the sacred/secular divide have on how Christians often perceive the dignity of work?” The word "loss” sums up their responses—loss not only to the gathered/scattered church and to the Kingdom of God, but also to individual believers.

In the students’ words, the unbiblical separation of "sacred” from "secular” work:

". . . creates in Christians an attitude of laziness or passivity.”

". . . can turn these believers off from the church because the feelings of condemnation can become so overwhelming that it causes withdrawal and resentment.”

". . . denigrates them to the point of guilt.”

". . . can be judgmental, causing anxiety and depression among Christians, this is especially so for work that is deemed not sacred in the eyes of other Christians.”

". . . pushes people to anxiety and depression.”

" . . . gives rise to a defeatist mentality about life, a lack of self-respect, depression, and for many the misconception that God is not pleased with them.”

". . . often leads people to a place of purposelessness that causes the ‘work’ God wants us all to be a part of to be overlooked.”

Causes believers "to feel like they are step-children when it comes to how God uses his children (with those in ministry being favored).”

Robs some Christians of "their joy, their health and their harmony with God and man because they are not properly placed.”

These responses describe what many of these students have observed. Some, however, reported not only on what they have seen but also on what they have personally experienced:

"I . . . considered giving up my business; such were my feelings of unworthiness. It affected my self-esteem, my productivity, spilled over to my family and even built in me an unfair resentment towards God.”

"For much of my life I too felt divided in how to live out my calling in the workplace/marketplace and witness the joy of the Lord at the same time.”

"In my case, God called me out of the ‘sacred work’ into marketplace ‘secular’ work. Even though I was learning and understanding the concept of work from God’s perspective, I had to deal with many people approaching me and asking me why I have left ministry. In many occasions God had to remind me of His call and purpose for my life and how that was connected to the marketplace. I had to deal with the feeling of inferiority.”

Jesus came to bring us life "to the full” (Jn. 10:10). He said the truth would set us free (Jn. 8:32). Fullness and freedom—both hinge on our believing the  truth. But if in a certain area we have been led to believe something other than truth (such as the sacred/secular cleavage), to that extent both our fullness of life and our freedom suffer loss.

 The fiction that church-related work is sacred and the rest secular sometimes gets taught. More often it gets "caught,” like the flu. In either case, it calls for a steady stream of corrective teaching based on what Scripture reveals about our everyday work. How can we encourage more "stop-loss teaching”?

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