By Os Hillman, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever considered that Jesus modeled work-life ministry? It is easy to forget that Jesus spent more than 50 percent of His adult life in a carpentry shop. He was more known for being a carpenter than He was for being the Son of God.
Perhaps that is why so many people had difficulty reconciling Jesus, the carpenter, with Jesus the Son of God who did miracles in the workplace. Jesus didn’t separate the work he did with his hands or head from the work he did with his heart.
His job was his ministry. And your job is, too. Here are 3 reasons we can see our work life as integral to our faith life:
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1. Our best example, Jesus, integrated workplaces and jobs with his life’s mission.
Consider the following amazing facts:
The New Testament records that Jesus appeared publicly 132 times—122 were in the marketplace.
- Jesus told 52 parables—45 had a workplace context.
- Acts recorded 40 divine interventions—39 were in the marketplace.
- Jesus spent His adult life as a carpenter until the age of thirty when He began a public preaching ministry in the workplace.
- Jesus called 12 workplace individuals—not clergy—to build His Church.
- Work is worship. The Hebrew word avodah is the root word for both work and worship.
- Work in its different forms is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible—more than all the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined.
- “54 percent of Jesus’ reported teaching ministry arose out of issues posed by others in the scope of daily life experience.” –Lewis and Lewis, LICC
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2. Your entire life is an important response to God’s call.
Yes, Jesus was a workplace minister who combined both a priestly call with a workplace call. In the mind of Jesus, there was no sacred/secular divide. He did not consider His work life to be less important than His spiritual life. Both were entwined in everyday life. The Hebrews understood this. There was not a separation of the faith life from the work-life.
Oswald Chambers, the well-known author of My Utmost for His Highest, said: “The spiritual manifests itself in a life which knows no division into sacred and secular.”
If you were to conduct a survey on an average city street and ask if religion belonged in the workplace, chances are high that most answers would be no, and that would be correct. Religion doesn’t, but Jesus does. Most people today, even many Christians, see no relevance between God and work in today’s fast-paced society.
Why is this? It goes back to the early years before the Protestant Reformation. Consider the following history from Os Guinness’s book, The Call, of this segmented worldview:
The truth of calling means that for followers of Christ, “everyone, everywhere, and in everything” lives the whole of life as a response to God’s call. Yet, this holistic character of calling has often been distorted to become a form of dualism that elevates the spiritual at the expense of the secular.
Ponder for example, the fallacy of the contemporary Protestant term “full-time Christian service”—as if those not working for churches or Christian organizations are only part-time in the service of Christ.
For another thing, Protestant confusion about calling has led to a “Protestant distortion” that is even worse. This is a form of dualism in a secular direction that not only elevates the secular at the expense of the spiritual, but also cuts it off from the spiritual altogether.
It is understandable why we are where we are today. Throughout centuries, we have been trained to believe that the two worlds of spiritual and secular are to be separated.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17 NIV)
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3. Every job can be “full-time Christian work” – no career is more or less holy.
Throughout the church, a view of those in “full-time” Christian work versus those who work “secular” jobs has created a definite class distinction. There seems to be little evidence of this distinction in the Bible.
Yet, we often hear testimonies from those who left “regular” jobs to go into the mission field, or some other “full-time” Christian work.
A surprisingly large number of pastors subscribe to my TGIF (Today God Is First) Internet devotional that I write for men and women in the workplace that goes to 160,000 people a day. One day I received a very simple note from a pastor that said: “How can a businessman have such wisdom?”
This question spoke volumes to me.
Basically, it seemed to imply that clergy are the only ones in tune with the spiritual matters of life—workplace believers focus on the “secular” life.
Consider that all the disciples came from the workplace. The apostles and the five-fold offices came through everyday workplace believers, not paid clergy.
God is helping many of us begin to understand our true calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus, but with different roles to play in the body of Christ—and no role is less “holy” than another. I realize this could challenge some church leaders because there is an implied “higher calling” premise when one responds to a call of vocational ministry.
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4. Your role in the workplace is part of God’s divine strategy, not a hierarchy.
There is an unspoken spiritual hierarchy in our society that seems to place spiritual calling and value based on vocational position. It goes something like this:
4. church worker
5. vocational ministry worker
6. stay-at-home mom
9. ad agency executive (scum of the earth!)
God has never said that one profession has more spiritual value than another. We all have different roles and callings.
Just as Jesus had a work to do before His Father, we each are called to a specific work for which we will be judged and rewarded. We should not consider this as a lessening of the call of vocational ministry but to realize the strategic role that pastors and leaders can fulfill as equippers of workplace believers who have the potential to transform families, workplaces, cities, and nations.
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5. Pastors can affirm that every believer is a minister, not just a supporter.
Church leaders have a tremendous opportunity to impact society through working people. There is no other institution where leaders in the 6 culture mountains of business, government, arts and entertainment, media, family, and education convene weekly. Pastors have a tremendous opportunity to equip leaders in these areas of influence to impact the culture in their communities.
The consequence of failing to affirm that every believer is a minister is that followers of Jesus in the workplace are made to feel like second-class spiritual citizens and they exist purely to support the ministry of their local church through their giving. In essence, they feel prostituted.
However, when a pastor affirms the call of their members in the workplace, their spiritual self-esteem grows, and they become more active in their faith. They will use their influence for Kingdom initiatives in their workplace, city and local church.
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6. In Christ, work that doesn’t violate Scripture is worship.
When I received Christ in 1974, I was a professional golfer.
God gradually led me away from golf and into business. In 1980, I considered moving into “full-time” Christian work by attending a short-term Bible school to determine if I wanted to be a pastor.
I served briefly as an assistant pastor at a church only to have the position removed. It was never God’s intention for me to be a pastor. Implied guilt, rather than a genuine call of God, led me to consider “vocational ministry.” I believed I might not be giving my all to God if I wasn’t in “full-time Christian ministry.”
I have learned since then that work truly is worship to God. If you are in a secular job that doesn’t violate Scripture, your vocation is just as important to God as full-time missionary work in India.
God calls each of us to a vocation. He desires to use us for His Kingdom in that vocation.
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7. God cares about everyday jobs and everyday needs.
In the Word in Life Study Bible, Pete Hammond provides some good insights into God’s view of this great divide—secular versus sacred work. God values our work even when the product has no eternal value.
Christians often measure the significance of a job by its perceived value from the eternal perspective. Will the work last; will it “really count” for eternity? The implication is that God approves of work for eternity, but places little value on work for the here and now.
By this measure, the work of ministers and missionaries has eternal value because it deals with people’s spiritual, eternal needs.
By contrast, the work of a salesman, teller, or typist has only limited value, because it meets only earthly needs. In other words, this kind of work doesn’t really “count” in God’s eyes. But this way of thinking overlooks several important truths.
- God Himself has created a world that is time-bound and temporary (2 Peter 3:10-11). Yet He values His work, declaring it to be “very good,” by its very nature (Gen. 1:31; Acts 14:17).
- God promises rewards to people in everyday jobs, based on their attitude and conduct (Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:23-31, Col. 4:1).
- God cares about the everyday needs of people as well as their spiritual needs. He cares whether people have food, clothing, and shelter.
- God cares about people who will enter eternity. To the extent that a job serves the needs of people, God values it, because He values people.
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8. Skillful work is a ministry unto the Lord.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men (Prov. 22:29 NIV).
The Lord has called each of us to be excellent in what we do. Those whom God used in the Kingdom as workplace ministers were skilled and exemplified excellence in their fields. Not only were these men skilled, they were filled with God’s Spirit.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds ofcrafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (Ex. 31:1-5).
Consider Huram, the master craftsman of bronze to whom Solomon entrusted much of the temple designs. He was a true master craftsman (see 1 Kings 7:14).
Consider Joseph, whose skill as an administrator was known throughout Egypt and the world. Consider Daniel, who served his king with great skill and integrity.
The list could go on—David (soldier and king), Nehemiah (government worker), Aquila and Priscilla (tentmakers). Most of these were in the “secular” world of work providing a needed service.
It is important for church leaders to help break down this wall of separation. Your people need to know they have a workplace calling that is as important as your calling to a vocational ministry. They need to be affirmed and valued as ministers in their spheres of influence. They need to feel they are not “second-class citizens.”
It is time to affirm the workers in every congregation as men and women on a mission from God, in their workplaces where they spend 60 to 70 percent of their time.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24
Os Hillman is the author of Faith at Work: What every pastor and church leader should know, Change Agent and TGIF Today God Is First. Continue the conversation with Os at TodayGodIsFirst.com with his free daily devotional for men and women in the workplace.
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