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From the Fall 2008 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Work: A Holy Calling

by Jerram Barrs
Professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture and Resident Scholar of the Francis Schaeffer Institute, Covenant Theological Seminary


hatever job you do, it is a holy calling, a sacred calling, a responsibility given to you by God to serve Him there. Too often we think of our work, if we are not working specifically for the church, as being secular, second-class, having nothing to do with true spirituality, and little to do with being a faithful Christian. You can think of all the incorrect expressions we use to mark this division between the sacred and the secular: We speak of people who are in “full-time ministry” as if only they are “full-time Christians.”
  We have a heritage in many churches which devalues ordinary work and sees it having little importance in the Kingdom of God. Why is that? Partly because there has been a retreat by Christians from the general culture: “The world is so worldly,” we say, “so what really matters to God is what we do in the church.” We can tend to fill up our lives with lots of meetings so we will feel more spiritual, as if it is those meetings that are spiritual. This is a very serious misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches.
   Perhaps another reason for our low opinion of our work is that we think that only evangelism, only preaching the Gospel, only teaching the Word is of real importance in the Kingdom of God—everything else is secondary. And I am sure you have heard sermons and Bible studies in which you have basically been made to feel that if you were really dedicated to God, you would immediately apply to a mission board or register at a seminary and start training for the ministry. But that simply is not biblical. God does not call all people to proclaim His Word; I am one of those He has called to do that. But he has equally called people to be in other work and to honor Him, whatever their occupation.

The Value of Work

  What is it that gives our work value to God? Is it simply that when we work we earn money so that we can give a tithe to support the ministry of the Word? Is that alone what gives our work value? No. It is true that we are called to support the ministry of the Word; Scripture says so quite clearly. But that is not what ultimately gives our work value.
   Is it that in our work-places we have the opportunity to be sort of mini-missionaries, to share the Gospel with the people we work alongside? Is that what gives our work value? NO. While we do pray that God will give opportunities to share His truth because people need to hear it, that is not what primarily gives our work our value.

Work: A Holy Calling

  Is it simply that we have to work to earn money to support ourselves so that we can get on with the “real work” of being active in our churches? That what we do in our workplaces is not important, but what we do when we serve in the church—when we teach Sunday school, or when we lead a Bible study—is really important? Is that what gives our work value? That is not true either.
  What is it, then, that gives our work value? It is simply that God Himself declares it to be important, that God desires our service in the whole of our lives, and that we are to present everything to Him in order to serve Him. Paul says this so strongly in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men...” “Whatever you do,” Paul tells us that it is the Lord Christ we are serving. God has declared our work to have value. It doesn’t need some other means outside itself. God’s word gives it value.

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