Work: Series Introduction 2

We concluded last time by noting that the original idea of the early church seems to have been that of Christians giving glory to God in and through their occupations, doing the same jobs as unbelievers but performing them in a distinctly Christian way. That is the description we read from the mid 2nd century work The Letter to Diognetus.

However, by the 4th century this view of a Christian and his work had been replaced by a two-tiered theory of Christian occupation. According to this second theory, the ordinary daily callings of ordinary Christians were second-class, of relatively little importance, and provided much less of an opportunity to serve the Lord. Ministers, monks, and nuns lived the Christian life on the higher level – they worked to serve the Lord – the rest worked to eat. The result of this view of Christian work was that the general run of Christians stopped caring very much about how they did their work – unimportant as it was in itself – and a genuine dichotomy between the spiritual and the secular was formed in the Christian mind. The work of most Christians belonged to the secular side of life and the idea that Christians should or even could serve the Lord in their occupations – that they should be ministers as farmers or shopkeepers or soldiers – that Christians should work out a distinctively Christian approach to their daily work and, in it, give glory to God; that idea gradually disappeared. The church, in an effort to find a deeper spirituality, turned its back, as it were, on the everyday world.

Indeed Jerome, in the 4th century would go so far as to say, “A merchant can seldom if ever please God,” and Augustine went further to say, “Business is in itself evil,” a necessary evil perhaps, but not the higher calling of a Christian. [Cited in Scott Quatro, Business Practice and Human Resource Management as God’s Creation.]

Read the whole thing…

Scripture: Ephesians 6, 4
Topics: Theology of Work, Work in History
Church: First Presbyterian Church, Tacoma

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Robert Rayburn serves as senior pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tacoma, WA.