Blog - Grasping Vocation

Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 2

Monday, April 05, 2010


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.

Comments (4)

FredGault (4/5/2010 4:25:27 PM)
Larry, Thanks for taking the time to share at the Living Water Men's retreat. I have been thinking about this alot this past year. be blessed.....Fred
Larry Peabody (4/5/2010 7:50:37 PM)
Fred, I very much enjoyed the men's retreat. May God make you fruitful in all your work.
Greg (4/8/2010 10:17:38 PM)
Thank you for sharing this information with us Larry. It is my hope and desire that people will strive to be “kingdom influencers” wherever they may be. God can use people who are committed to serving Him. I pray that God causes our lights to shine in a fashion that people see Jesus in us. God Bless.
Jack Lovern (5/30/2010 10:05:39 PM)
Hi Larry,

I’ve enjoyed reading the blogs. We’ve talked many times about these issues and I thought I would participate here as well.

For the “secular” workplace to become holy, believers must strive for a high quality product while demonstrating Christian love for customers and co-workers. Those two principles apply - whether one is an assembly line worker, a manager, or an owner. The Christian owner or manager who views himself as a servant to his employees and his customers - accountable to Christ for his motives, words and actions – can be certain he is performing the “good works” of Ephesians 2:10. And Paul was obviously speaking of the “secular” workplace when he wrote in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”. The most humble common laborer who follows Christ, and works “as unto the Lord” can be confident he is where God wants him, that his work is highly valued, and Christ’s response will someday be, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I’ve worked in lumber yards, warehouses and mills, and in restaurants, offices and hospitals – and I’ve attended a number of churches over the years. Christ is everywhere and, on occasion, I’ve seen his Word more highly honored in the so-called “secular” workplace than by those in church leadership.

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