Friday, June 25, 2010


I read or heard somewhere that the goal of Christians is to use their jobs as platforms for ministry. The indication was that good Christians either "witness constantly" or find some other way to bludgeon co-workers over the head with their faith, as if they are not being good Christians unless everyone they work with knows they are Christians, whatever that means.

This irked me.

When I was reading Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc., one of the early chapters mentioned asking what older generations think about younger generational obsessing about wanting to know where God wanted them to work so they wouldn't choose wrong and thus be living out of God's will for the rest of their lives. Long sentence (fun book). Anyway, older generations don't understand this obsession at all; work is what you do to stay alive, earn your keep, support your family, etc. It's not necessarily a spiritual life-calling. People who sit around doing nothing and saying they're waiting for God's will while living rent-free in the basement of their parents' houses are being lazy and kind of dumb.

Is this demand that others see work as ministry even biblical, or is it just more pop-culture Christianity baggage? I have enough to feel guilty about; I really don't need well-meaning legalists pouring on more because I'm not proselytizing in the workplace. Am I just being crabby because I've been leaning anti-"evangelicalism" lately?

Well, let's look at the Bible. Sure, some people in the New Testament were into full time ministry. They were supported by the charity and sacrifice of the average joes working 9-5 (or sunup-sundown or however things were back then). In the gospels, if I'm remembering right, Jesus didn't tell people to change jobs when they believed; He just told them to be faithful.

I think Paul swung that way, too. He told people to be diligent and work hard as unto the Lord and be fair and just and treat others well, etc. I guess when I read the New Testament, I get the impression that they didn't believe that "full-time ministry" was a "higher calling" or anything. We're all part of the team, and we all work to support ourselves and our families and each other, and we all contribute our gifts in the kingdom, is the sort of feeling I get from it.  How do you read it?

I remember this one time when Paul was visiting a church full of people who apparently thought he was just lazy since he was preaching and teaching and being an apostle all the time, so he made sure to work while he was visiting them (he was a tentmaker, as I recall). He didn't seem to consider that work beneath him. Work is work. You do it to the best of your abilities. It's not all hyper-spiritualized. That's the kind of impression I get from him.

So do you think work has to be a ministry? Is that what God requires of us?


  1. I kind of like the old testament better for examples of integrating your work and spiritual life. Granted, our Christianity is more like the new testament in that we aren't "God's people" as a nation the way the Israelites were. But there are all kinds of people doing normal jobs- herding sheep, governing, soldiering, what have you, and being blessed by God because they glorified him in the process. New testament Christianity is very revolutionary, with a lot of heroes and miracles and training of disciples, and less everyday living it out, or so it seems to me.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Hmm, I see what you mean. New Testament excitement was most of what was "reported." The NT is shorter and has a very different focus (in terms of narrative) than the Old Testament. So where do you suppose this predilection to make "evangelism" the only thing that matters in the "modern" Christian life?