by Wayne Kirkland, co-author of Where’s God on Monday?
In the Christian world there’s a perception that we could be doing more for God if only we could free ourselves from the distractions of “the world”. The thinking goes something like this:
I have a simple faith. I distinguish between ‘spiritual’ and ‘secular’.
By spiritual I mean anything related to God, anything that’s holy. This is really the most important sphere of life.
By secular I’m referring to the everyday things that have little or nothing to do with God. These are much less important and significant than the spiritual.
You can see this clearly in the area of work. “Secular” employment is work “out there in the world”. Its main purpose is to allow you to earn some money so you can get on with real life, and of course it provides opportunities to witness to your non-Christian workmates. Mind you, some forms of secular employment do have what you could call a spiritual value – I’m thinking of the serving ones, like medicine and teaching.
But the ideal form of employment is unquestionably “full-time Christian work”. That’s where you have the opportunity to devote all of your time and energy to the Lord’s work, unencumbered by the demands of secular employment. It clearly rates as a much more spiritual occupation than a “normal job”.
Becoming a full-time Christian worker is my personal dream. This is because it’s the ultimate way of serving God. In fact, I long for the day when I’m no longer distracted from real service for God by having to work for a secular firm. My real dream is to give all my time and energy to ministry.
What is ministry? Well, it’s anything that deals with the spiritual task. Leading worship on Sunday mornings is ministry. So is teaching Sunday school, leading a home group, preaching, going on an outreach, praying for someone, or being a missionary.
To be “in ministry” is to be taken up with the spiritual task of building God’s kingdom. Of course, once you have experienced being in ministry, it’s difficult to return to secular employment with any degree of passion. Nothing is more significant than doing ministry. Which is why fulltime Christian workers are highly esteemed in the church – and rightly so. After all they have sacrificed much (particularly those on the mission field), they’re at the forefront of God’s work in this world, and they’re making a bigger difference for God than you can in secular employment.
Ultimately, secular work doesn’t really count for much. Things of the world will all pass away. Sure I do my best at my daily job, but what we do for the Lord is what really counts. Our secular employment is simply a means to an end.
Is that right? Is certain work more “spiritual” in content? Should it be valued more highly? Many of us certainly live as though it is, but … is it biblical?
Examining the spiritual/secular split biblically
What light can the Scriptures shed on the way we view various tasks and jobs?
This strange habit we have of splitting life into spiritual and secular boxes just doesn’t appear in the story of God’s creation of work. In fact, as we’ve already noted, God begins by doing some very “earthy” work himself – creating the universe! God acts as designer, builder, gardener…
Then God takes the bold step of giving to us humans a role in this universe-work of his, by commissioning Adam and Eve to be stewards of his creation. Does that sound like a second-rate call? Did Adam really think, “Oh, no – I really wanted a more significant role, God. Not a farmer! I mean, isn’t there some spiritual task I could do? A priest maybe…?”
The Creation account allows no room for a spiritual/secular split. In fact, the writer consistently states “And it was (very) good,” as if to emphasize that God’s original intention for his creation was the ideal. Yes, it’s tainted and corrupted now – but that is the result of the Fall.
If we are to see the true significance of all work we do, we simply must deal with the dualism that dominates our view of the Christian life. It’s not biblical – and so it is counterproductive to our aim of seeing God at work in this world of his.
It is only as we learn to work with God, learning to see that what we do is connected with what God is doing, that we will close the false gap between secular and spiritual.
Where’s God on Monday introduces readers to a basic theology of work. Written in fourteen engaging chapters, this book teaches us what the Bible says about work and how to work out our faith every day of the week. Each chapter includes questions and exercises for small group or individual reflection, blending theological reflection with practical application.
If you’d like more information about this book, visit our website, this excerpt from the book, or this blog series written by Wayne Kirkland (posts: Idle, Idol, or Worship; Are You Engaged—In Your Work?; Sabbaticals Can Be for Everyone; and Are You Working?).