Our culture usually assigns value to professions based on the status the job comes with, the average pay, or the amount of education that is needed to attain it. My belief is that many Christians assign a higher value to ministry or non-profit work by using a similar mindset. The thinking is “my organization has a higher purpose and therefore my work has more meaning.” But this is not God’s view of work. We see from the example of Adam in the Garden of Eden that his job description, given by God, included manual work (gardening) and creative mental work (naming the animals). We also see that in Jesus’ example. He worked as a carpenter (manual) and also as a teacher (mental). You could say that Jesus had a secular job before he had an “official” ministry job, though in reality he had been ministering to people since his childhood. Work is a major part of God’s plan for man. However, the dignity and value of the job is not determined by the type of work being done, but rather on the attitude and heart of the one doing the work. For Christians, our work is a calling—regardless of our profession. The calling is to “do all for the Glory of God.” Obviously, that can take many forms: sharing our faith, standing up for truth, fighting for justice for those who are being denied it, etc. The best way to sum it up is that we are to work for the common good. His plan is that we bring order, healing, and redemption in all realms of the working world, not just in places where churches and non-profits reach. How we can accomplish this is something I believe God wants us to fight to find out for ourselves in our particular context. One thing we do know is that we don’t necessarily need to leave the job we have when we become a Christian. The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 7:17 that a man should “lead the life that the Lord has assigned him.” Obviously, this means many people will remain in secular work.
You might say, “Our economic system is corrupt, and I don’t want to work in a corrupt system.” To that I say, yes, the secular working world is often corrupt, but we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that greed and dishonesty are quarantined in the secular occupations. The problem with our economic system is not the system itself, but rather the sin in the hearts of the people who operate in that system. That sin is not confined to a particular type of work, but is a part of life in a fallen world. My question is how will secular workplaces be redeemed for God’s glory if Christian’s avoid working there?
Will it be difficult? Absolutely. There are days when I feel like I failed miserably. But how many of us shy away from marriage because everyone tells us it’s difficult? Judging by the number of weddings each year, I would say not as many of us do. While it’s true that marriage can be a struggle, it is also true that it is one of God’s greatest tools for our sanctification. Work is much the same. The struggle is part of the plan. It’s not supposed to be easy. Our Lord knows what we need in order to be conformed to the image of His son. We don’t need a life free of struggle or risk, but rather a life that sharpens us and causes us to depend on God’s grace each day to live counter to our culture. My hope is that Christians of all ages would not shy away from any type of work that God calls them to, but rather be grateful for the ability to do that work well and allow the Lord to use it for their good and for His glory.