Blog - Grasping Vocation

Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 20

Friday, August 06, 2010


Just over four months ago, I began posting these blogs on "Religious Ruts in Your Workplace.” Before we leave that theme for other workplace topics, let's briefly review what we've covered. These articles have identified seven religious traditions that affect our daily work. As I listed them for an overall look, a fresh insight emerged.

Here are the seven workplace-related traditions covered in these blogs:

Not one of these survives the Scripture test. As I gathered these into one list, it struck me: these traditions have an effect similar to that of the separating curtain in the tabernacle and temple of the Old Covenant. This "curtain” splits work into full-time and part-time service, divides clergy from laity, and breaks the world into sacred and secular zones.

This dissected world puts pressure on working believers to dodge what God has called us to do. Jesus tells us to go into the entire world—not just the religious zones. But these traditions say no, the best choice is not to work in one of the largest spheres of that world. Paul urges Christian workers to do their work "wholeheartedly.” But these traditions encourage half-hearted (or less) engagement in the world of work. So man-made religious traditions provide spiritual-sounding reasons to disregard the word of God.

In his book, Joy at Work, Dennis Bakke writes, "Christian churches and theologians have perpetuated these ideas [that daily work has no value in itself] by elevating the clergy and spirituality above the laity and the practical work that most people undertake. This is not at all consistent with Judeo-Christian Scriptures.”

Again and again, the New Testament uses "tradition” in a negative way. When it does, it always links the word with human origin or ownership. Your tradition. Tradition of the elders. Tradition of men. Traditions of my fathers. The Greek word for tradition means something passed along in speech or in writing from one to another. Like other hand-me-downs, the traditions of our fathers fit comfortably.

The ideas behind unbiblical religious traditions have the power to take Christians captive, to enslave. Paul's warning to the Colossian believers makes that clear: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (2:8). Captive Christians do not lose their salvation. Instead, shackled by unbiblical ideas, they lose their freedom to carry out the good works God prepared in advance for us to do.

How can we break free from these traditions? Let's become modern-day Bereans. They were the folks who heard what Paul taught, but then "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). Most of these traditions affecting the workplace have nothing to do with what we believe about the Trinity, the Bible, heaven, or hell. They are not so much about our faith as about our practice. If Scripture is our only rule for faith and practice, let's be certain we make it the measure in both areas.

In these blogs, I've covered just seven man-made religious traditions that work together to discourage and disable believers who work in non-religious jobs. More probably exist. If you can think of other traditions that have the same effect, I invite you to describe them comments box below.

Comments (2)

Jim Hardie (8/7/2010 8:59:46 AM)
Hi Larry, good job. I sought to hit on this same problem in my book, The Magnificent Adventure: a search for meaning. I also sought to show ways ordinary believers can be involved in ministry in the work place. I now have a DISCUSSION GUIDE to help people have ministry by inviting others to participate in read and discussing issues in the book. If you would like a copy of the guide, I'll send it to you. It is designed to really help people think. It fits in with things you have been saying. Jim
Larry Peabody (8/9/2010 11:09:20 AM)
Jim, yes, I'd like to see a copy of your discussion guide. Good to hear from you!

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