Blog - Grasping Vocation

Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 3

Sunday, April 11, 2010

You have heard: Everyday Non-Religious Work is Secular (Read Part 2)

But Scripture Makes Clear: God's World is Not Split into Sacred and Secular Zones.

Seeing the world in sacred/secular terms creates half-hearted and double-minded workers. This comes from defective vision comparable to diplopia—double vision. In some cases of diplopia, patients can restore single vision by shutting one eye. The sacred/secular tradition, with its double list of occupations, presses Christians to close an eye to one side or the other.

The division began not in the New Testament but in the thinking of ancient philosophers such as Plato who divided the world into two zones—the material and the ideal. But God still owns and cares about his whole creation. “Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). And, “For everything God created is good” (I Tim. 4:1).

If non-religious work is “secular” (unspiritual, worldly, profane, and so on), why did Jesus work as a carpenter several times as many years as he spent on the road as teacher/preacher/healer? If non-religious work is “secular,” why did Paul earn his way by making tents? And why did he do it to set an example for Christian disciples to follow? When tax collectors and soldiers asked John the Baptist how they should live for God, he never counseled them to quit their jobs and get into “something higher.”

In the first century, slaves did all kinds of what our religious tradition calls “secular work.” They cultivated and harvested crops for food. They tunneled in mines and produced goods in factories. City governments put them to work as engineers to design roads, waterways, and public buildings. To believers engaged in such everyday work, Paul said: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Col. 3:23). If their work was secular and so second-best, how could they have done it wholeheartedly?

A biblical worldview takes a single-eyed view of all legitimate occupations. Any work can be done in a manner than either affirms or denies the reality of God's rule (kingdom). For example, a carpenter may work in a way that lets others observe how life unfolds when someone lives under the rule of God. Obeying those in authority. Encouraging co-workers. Living as an example of godly character even when it hurts. On the other hand, a pastor may work in ways that make it difficult for people to see or enter God's kingdom. Lording it over those in the church. Teaching unbiblical doctrine. Playing favorites among church members.

So as you report to work, trust God for single vision—biblical vision. Ask him to show you where he would have you use the gifts and abilities he has given you, whether that means working as a plumber, pastor, carpenter, or chaplain.

How can you, in your work, serve God wholeheartedly as you demonstrate what life is like under his rule?

Comments (3)

Carolyn McIntosh (4/12/2010 8:00:44 PM)
Got it!! Thanks for sending it and we look forward to seeing more of you writings!! Also looking forward to reading your new book when it comes out!!
Christian Overman (4/12/2010 8:58:19 AM)
Great stuff, Larry!
Michael Tummillo (4/16/2010 10:19:39 AM)
I LOVED THAT article!

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