Blog - Grasping Vocation
Don't Try to Work from a CanoeFriday, 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.