“Secular” Vocation as a Calling

*Posted by Joe Wooddell

In recent years theres been a movement in Christian theology, philosophy, and ethics, which I find extremely beneficial. It has to do with things like faith, work, economics, the best ways to help the poor, what it means to be a good steward of Gods creation, and viewing ones vocation as a ministry or calling from God. Groups like the Acton Institute, the Kern Family Foundation, the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, and Southwestern Seminarys Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement all touch on these issues. Books like Wayne Grudems Business for the Glory of God, Jay Richardss Money, Greed, and God, Robert Siricos Defending the Free Market, and Michael Novaks Business as a Calling do much of the same.

There should be no secular/sacred divide. We can do all things (all things, that is, which are not inherently sinful) to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Ministry need not indeed should not be regarded simply as teaching children on Sunday morning or helping at the Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving. Moreover, we should not think of our church staff as the only ones in ministry. Those who serve on the church staff are vocational ministers. That is, they earn their living from the gospel, which is fine (see 1 Cor. 9:14). But if you are a believer and you own a small flooring business, a machine shop, a chiropractic practice, or a frozen yogurt store, the sixty plus hours of work you put in each week can and should be your primary ministry, your calling. (Of course, it should go without saying that family should come first. One might be successful in business but be a horrible dad or husband. This ought not to be the case for believers.)

Teach Sunday School if the Lord leads you to do it; help out at the clothes closet (so long as such a venue is not doing more harm than good, undercutting local business and actually keeping the community poorer than it otherwise would be); and go on domestic and international mission trips. These all can be legitimate ministries, but your primary ministry is your vocation. If you are a believer and president or CEO of a Fortune 500 company (no, theres no contradiction here!), figure out ways to be a blessing to your employees and to the community. Be honest, ethical, and virtuous in your dealings with vendors, suppliers, workers, etc., and strive to make a profit! God graciously gives us the power to create wealth (Deut. 8:18). Store the wealth (banks will then lend it, hopefully to people who can one day repay it, thus creating even more prosperity in the community); invest it in other profitable companies (thus helping them to create jobs and bring people up from poverty); put it back into research and development for your company (ultimately creating a better product at a lower price); purchase luxury or everyday items (thus helping people who create those products); give large portions of it to legitimate charities, ministry organizations or schools (like Criswell College!), or to people who need a temporary hand-up; make micro-finance loans to honest and capable entrepreneurs in third world countries (thus helping poor communities around the world); and of course tithe to your local church.

These are just some of the ways faith, work, and economics go together. If youre a pastor or serve on a church staff, encourage parishioners to understand these principles. Dont make them feel guilty or like theyre second-rate Christians because they are in business. Remind them that business and profit are not inherently sinful, that its not money thats the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), and remind them that they are reaching people with the gospel (or at least they should be) whom you as a vocational minister probably will never be able to reach. Remind them how grateful you are for their ministry and their calling in this regard. None of the above is to endorse a prosperity or health/wealth gospel. It is simply to say that business, entrepreneurship, and all sorts of what we have traditionally understood as secular vocations can and should be done to the glory of God as a ministry and as a calling.

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