Have you ever heard someone say that the only kind of work fully approved by God is “full-time Christian work,” you know, like pastor or missionary? The corollary to this idea is that your “secular” work matters, but it only matters as you give to the church, or to others who are doing full-time Christian work. On our college tours last year with Elisabeth, we heard this idea loud and clear at a Christian college she decided not to attend. Basically, the administrator who was holding forth spoke of how some of their students would make their lives count by supporting others who were doing the “real work” in the world. Whenever you hear a Christian speak like this, you know that person has missed one of the most important teachings of the Reformation: the doctrine of vocation, which Gene Edward Veith defines…
“When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And he does. The way he gives us our daily bread is through the vocations of farmers, millers, and bakers. We might add truck drivers, factory workers, bankers, warehouse attendants, and the lady at the checkout counter. Virtually every step of our whole economic system contributes to that piece of toast you had for breakfast. And when you thanked God for the food that he provided, you were right to do so.”
In the same way, God protects us not by placing angels with flaming swords outside our homes, but with men and women who have the vocation of police. And though He can miraculously heal us, usually He does so with doctors and nurses, people who have a medical vocation. And how does He nurture us? Not by magically infusing knowledge into our heads and making us feel loved, but with people who answer His call to be parents…so being a mommy or a daddy is a vocation too, and vastly important in the eyes of God. In other words, there is no such thing as “secular” work. All work is God’s work. And oh, how we need to keep this in mind.
Shredding at Saputo
This summer, for instance, Elisabeth labored in the “shred” department at Saputo Cheese in Alto. It was third shift, from 11 p.m. – 7 a.m., and hard work. I would often drop her off, and a few times, before she headed into the factory, I would remind her that she was a part of making food (pizzas!) to feed the world, and that therefore her work was noble and important. She was in fact, part of the way that God was answering the prayers of His children, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In this way, her work was no less important than my work of studying God’s word and preparing a message for His people. Both the cheese, and the sermon, are necessary for the sustenance of life. So now we understand why Paul wrote to the Colossians…
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
So, today, if you are discouraged about your work as an accountant, or prison guard or landscaper, remember who you are serving. If wiping runny noses is wearing you out and getting you down, keep in mind not only that you are serving your unappreciative child, but that you are raising the next generation for Jesus…and therefore everything you do matters deeply to God.