Blog - Grasping Vocation
Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 2Monday, April 05, 2010
YOU HAVE HEARD: EVERYDAY NON-RELIGIOUS WORK IS SECULAR (Read Part 1)
Notice how this religious tradition gets handed on as a pastor counsels a Christian businessman.
Pastor: “Tom, have you ever considered really giving your life to God—working full time for the Lord?”
Tom: “I feel that what I'm doing now is a form of full-time work for the Lord.”
Pastor: “Tom, there's no doubt that God has used you in amazing ways; but the work you're in is secular. I think God is calling you to consider becoming involved in something higher.”
Wanting “something higher,” Tom went to work as a mission board administrator. Two years later, suffering from a number of physical ailments, Tom visited his physician, Dr. Walt Larimore. Diagnosis: anxiety and depression. Dr. Larrimore asked him: “Do you think you're doing what God wants you to do?” With tears, Tom said, "Walt, I think God had me right where he wanted me— in my business in California. Do you think there's a difference between sacred work and secular work?" (Adapted from Going Public with Your Faith, by Walt Larimore and William Carr Peel.)
In essence, Tom was asking his doctor, did God make two worlds? One sacred, the other secular? To define “secular,” dictionaries use such synonyms as earthly, lay, non-spiritual, profane, and worldly. The antonyms include: divine, holy, religious, sacred, and spiritual. “Secular” usually locks arms with some other term—secular life, secular humanism, secular web (an atheistic website). Unfortunately, it also joins up with terms of employment: secular job, secular work, secular company, and so on.
In the January 12, 2010, issue of Breakpoint, Jim Tonkowich noted that an evangelical college, “believes that some vocations are more sacred than others and enthusiastically communicates that fallacy to its unsuspecting students.” Students hear the tradition from others as well. One blogger reported, “Just before my graduation, well-meaning people had encouraged me to shun the mediocrity of secular work.”
Sincere believers want to please God in every part of their lives. They cringe from throwing their best hours away in work that is mediocre, worldly, inferior, profane, and non-spiritual. Thanks to this everyday-work-is-secular tradition, countless Christ-followers cannot do their work “wholeheartedly” and “for the Lord” as Paul instructed Christian slaves to do. One Internet blogger put it this way: “I have been feeling like I should be doing something, but I just don't know what exactly that is. I don't know if I'm to leave my job and go into full-time missions.” Our human traditions can still nullify God's Word.
In the next blog we'll explore the Scriptural view of our work. In the meantime, please use the comment space below to share how this sacred/secular tradition has affected you.