Given the huge amount of waking hours we spent at work, it seems rather strange that "secular work" occupies such a vague place amongst Christians. A graphic designer friend of mine was once told by well-meaning folks that he should not be involved in three types of jobs:
- an artist (due to widespread worldly temptation)
- a politician (because it's 'dirty')
- or a lawyer (to avoid the lure of wealth)
Sometimes it seems like there is a caste system of spiritual work with missionaries and pastors at the top, followed by people-helping professionals (like doctors, teachers, nurses) and, in descending order, "barely-religious" jobs (such as lawyers, politicians and jazz musicians) close to the bottom!
If we are not a "full time worker" in church, does that make us only "part-time" Christians?Even if the example is a bit dramatic, we often talk about work being valuable only as a platform that opens up opportunities to share the gospel. Indeed witness should take place naturally in the context of relationships in offices, factories and cafeteria. However, our labor itself has intrinsic God-honoring significance and dignity.
Simply put, it is a mental map that guides how we live and understand the world. It answers fundamental questions of life:
- Where did we come from?
- Who am I?
- What went wrong with the world?
- Why are we here?
- What can we do about evil?
- Where are we going?
But this is not just an academic, intellectual game. It is rooted in the Great Commandment (Matt 22:38) to love the Lord with our whole being - body, emotion, mind.Like every aspect of character transformation, the renewal of our minds can be painful and hard work. But it is also an act of devotion and service to the Lord of all life.In her book "Total Truth", Nancy Pearcey offered us a practical toolbox so we could make sense of "work" through the lens of Creation, Fall and Redemption.Creation:
At the very beginning, God Himself rolled up His sleeves and worked creatively to get the universe up and running. (Genesis 1:1) Then He graciously gave Adam and Eve their first job description as His partners in eco-management - ruling, caring and stewarding the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). As Marvin Wrong wrote, "Without a human cultivator, every field and garden degenerates into wilderness. In other words, it's only Eden if you have a gardener. Without one, what you have is the Amazon". Work itself is designed as part of God's good gift of creation, not a curse.Fall: But due to sin, work is not always fulfilling or rewarding (Genesis 3:18). It is often characterized by abuses like overwork, shirk, bribery, office politics and exploitation of others. In this fallen world, we often struggle to maintain our ethical convictions and personal integrity in the face of evil.
That's why we are "in but not of the world".With God's grace and other Christ-disciples, we could embrace a congruent, integrated and holistic "faith that works" (James 2:22). Don't settle for a fragmented existence torn between the secular and sacred "worlds".