Blog - Grasping Vocation

Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 15

Friday, July 02, 2010




A flight attendant said, “The Great Commission is what we're called to. It is the number-one reason that God put us here. We need a job just to make our house payments and pay the bills.” In Your Work Matters to God, Doug Sherman and William Hendricks use this quotation to illustrate what they call the “Mainstream Model” of Christian thinking. In this view, the primary reason for working is to evangelize. The “just” in the quotation downgrades earning to a bothersome necessity.

Some religious traditions make it seem as if God tolerates earning an income but would much prefer that all of us would “live by faith.” An example from the Internet: “Going fulltime in the ministry is often called living by faith. . . . Trusting and leaning on the Lord to supply your needs, depending on him instead of a paycheck it is quite a different lifestyle. You know just the fact that there is no overtime to lean on in a crunch is a little scary. It really is trusting in the Lord.”

Hidden message: If you get your income from a paycheck, you're not really living by faith, not fully trusting the Lord. Unstated reality: Those who “live by faith” in this way usually derive their income from the paychecks of working people generous enough to share what they've earned.

In his book, Business as a Calling, Michael Novak says church leaders sometimes send out the message that, “The making of money is taken to be a sign of ‘materialism'.” You may have picked up similar signals. But does Scripture equate making money with materialism?

God, in the Old Covenant, treated wages as something honorable. Concerning the hired worker, God's orders were, “Pay him his wages each day before sunset” (Deut. 24:15). Proverbs 10:16 says, “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment” (Prov. 10:16). For righteous people, then, wages are a good thing. Jesus himself said, “…the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7).

Abraham, the father of faith, must have been a very good businessman. The Bible describes him as, “very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold” (Gen. 13:2). Isaac “had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him” (Gen. 26:14). Paul earned money to support himself by making tents (Acts 20:23). Making and having money, then, does not automatically make you materialistic.

Consider what the Bible teaches about the uses of money:

· To meet your own personal need for support. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (I Thess. 4:11-12).

· To care for the needs of your family. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Tim 5:8).

· To have enough to share with those in need. “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:16).

· To share with our Christian teachers and gospel workers. “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Gal. 6:6; see also III Jn. 5-8).

Can money be dangerous? Yes. So can hammers, horses, and hot plates. Any of them can be properly used—or misused. The Bible warns us that wanting to get rich sets us up for a tumble into a snare. And it calls loving money “the root of all kinds of evil.” But with sound teaching and right hearts,  believers can live by faith even as they earn their incomes and use the money in God-approved ways.

Dallas Willard sums it up like this: “If taught well, . . . Christians within important secular environments will then be on the job to see to it that what needs to be done with the goods of this world is done as it needs to be done” (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 218).

What has God been teaching you about using your capacity to earn for him and his kingdom?

Comments (3)

Virginia Hubbard (7/3/2010 6:09:12 PM)
This blog reminded me of a time our children possibly felt, but did not know. We had faithfully given our tithe and sometimes more, until illness, first mine and then my husband’s took over and there was absolutely NO income...nothing for tithe...nothing for food and clothing. Food was difficult to provide with both of us so sick and we still had to take care of our children, send them to school, and go to church, (as often as able). Then came the time where we found ourselves having to decide between food and tithe. We were both torn but after much, much prayer, we concluded that the Lord had given us our family to care for first, and for almost a year, we had no income to give. It was a year of agony for us, because we had been "taught" to believe that we were not giving the Lord his portion. We finally had perfect peace that our family had to come first in our money supply. It was a real awakening in our lives that the Lord continued to provide food and shelter during these difficult days, and this all without OUR money. I believe that it was during this period that we concluded that all of OUR money belonged to the Lord and he had allowed these circumstances for a purpose. I am so grateful to have had the experience of having to trust completely on the Lord for His supply.

Dave Hataj (7/6/2010 5:37:27 AM)
Well Done, Larry!
I can't tell you how many times I've been given the subtle but powerful message that running my business is inferior to those who are "really" serving God. I recently read another Christian book about radical disciplieship in which the author was "living by faith" by not getting a paying job as he did inner city ministry. He ripped on Christian business people as being caught up in the world but then mentioned sending out fundraising leters to these same people. I think of the blue collar people I employ who would be out of a job if we weren't making a profit. Isn't giving a person a job and income a form of radical discipleship? Or maybe it is more holy for all of us to stand in line at a soup kitchen.
Larry Peabody (7/6/2010 9:33:04 AM)
Dave, your experience confirms that the "subtle but powerful message" about making money is alive and well among Christians today. Have you read Dallas Willard's chapter, "Is Poverty Spiritual?" in his book, THE SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLINES? It contains some straight and biblical thinking about this subject. Good to hear from you!

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