Blog - Grasping Vocation

Don't Try to Work from a Canoe

Friday, March 18, 2011

The other day a friend sent a link to a blog that began with the comical story of two couples canoeing on a lake. The first couple pull their boat to the dock and step out. The other couple park their craft alongside the first. The man in the second canoe steps one foot into the first, intending to use it as a  bridge to the dock. But his action pushes his own canoe away—with his other foot still in it. As he does the splits, arms thrashing, he plummets headfirst into the water.

The writer likened this spread-eagled man to double-minded Christians. The Bible warns against double-mindedness. Such a condition makes us "unstable” (James 1:8). But the article went on to compare the two canoes to two kingdoms. "We have two kingdoms,” the blogger said, "our spiritual kingdom and our material kingdom.” Further, "If we attempt to live with one foot in our spiritual canoe and the other one in our material canoe, we will find ourselves double-minded….” And the proposed solution? "…to transfer everything we have into one canoe—our spiritual canoe.”

That false worldview traces back to ancient Gnosticism. It’s a worldview that actually creates double-mindedness among Christians in the work world. It’s a worldview that teaches us to shun material things (matter and physical stuff) as unsuited to godliness. It leads many believers in so-called "secular” work to see little or no value in their work because it deals with the "material kingdom.” How much better, such a worldview insists, to work in "full-time Christian service” where you invest your hours and effort in the "spiritual kingdom.”

Yes, the Bible recognizes two kingdoms. But it does not draw the dividing line between the material and the spiritual. If material, physical things don’t make the grade, why did God—after creating so much matter—call it all "very good”? Why did he create us with material bodies made of physical dust? Why did he send his Son among us in a body made of the same stuff as ours? God made both material things and spiritual beings. His kingdom rule extends over both realms.

The Bible draws the dividing line between light and darkness. Colossians 1:12 and 13 instruct us to thank God the Father, "who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion [authority, rule] of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves….” When God calls us to himself in Christ, he does not call us out of a material kingdom into a spiritual kingdom. Rather, he calls us "out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Pet. 2:9).

The canoe comedy could easily have been prevented. How? By lashing the two canoes together. That would have turned them into a much more stable vessel—a catamaran. The challenge for us Christians today is not to ‘transfer everything we have into one canoe—our spiritual canoe,” as the blogger advises. Instead, we need to offer our material-spiritual beings to God as one "catamaran.” God made and values both the physical and spiritual parts of our double-hulled vessel. Seeking God’s kingdom (of light) and righteousness first means letting God pilot the whole boat.

Offering our material bodies to God, Paul says, amounts to a spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1). Let’s not separate what God has joined together. You don’t have to work from a single tippy canoe. Work from your catamaran.

Comments (4)

Christian Overman (3/18/2011 2:39:37 PM)
Well said, Larry!
Steven Cook (3/18/2011 2:57:45 PM)
Luther's teaching on the Doctrine of Vocation is also a helpful reminder that our calling to vocation (secular employment) is also part of God's plan and that we shouldn't be one creature on Sundays and another the rest of the week (making us double minded and living double lives).
Dr. Steve Raulerson (3/18/2011 4:29:42 PM)
Larry, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at the "falling between the canoes" image. My Dad was a man of great prowess as a fisherman, a pastime we tried to pursue as much as possible, though often my ministries took me out of comfortable (or impossible!) distance. I was taken back to a memorable trip when my Dad ended with one foot in the boat, the other on the dock not realizing I had already cast off bow and stern lines! I watched as the gap inexorably widened and the inevitable came to I pulled him into the boat, I tried hard not to laugh too hard or to say anything at all, really. After a period of some minutes spent wringing clothes and hat out, Dad looked me squarely in the eye and said, with a look of bemusement, "I guess I temporarily lost my mind"...which sent us both into paroxysms of laughter. The subtext is that I was there to pull him back in the boat... a lapse of attentiveness of a lifetime of stepping in and out of boats. Praise God that he is there for us when we are inattentive temporarily and need help getting back in the boat...Peter sinking in the waves. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, like St. Francis admonishment to preach always and to use words if necessary. Dad and I didn't speak much of that trip, silence is truly golden and rich when you have the image in your heart...a truly teachable moment.
John M Curry (3/22/2011 1:36:58 AM)
This is why I prefer a powerboat! I appreciate what you are saying about keeping a balance and lashing them together. We do live in the world so it's hard to separate from it while we are alive. I recently saw a website that I used to think was a good thing but now I think that the job I have NOW is better than any 'Christian' job that I could get, thanks for opening my eyes.

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