Bridging the Divide between Secular and Sacred Work
When entering the conversation of Secular vs Sacred work, we generally mean work that is “done for God” and work that is “done for money.” This is the separation that Jesus set up for us, saying that man can only serve one master. He did not, however, say that those who serve God cannot make a profit. Nor did He say that only those who make a living working inside a religious organization “serve God” and that everyone else has chosen to “serve money.” Still, that was the underlying connotation of my life growing up in the Church, and the story I have heard from most of my contemporaries.
It was for that reason that I finished an undergraduate business honors degree and went on to become a youth pastor, because I felt called to serve God, and believed the only way I could do that was by working inside of a church.
There are many avenues that we can take to have this conversation, but I want to begin by talking about Kingdoms. We don’t speak of Kingdoms much these days, but Jesus did when He came to earth. That was one of the main ways that He described what was happening in His unique time in history; the Kingdom of God was coming near. He prayed that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it was in heaven. He spoke of us as belonging to God’s Kingdom, and said that we would see it reach every part of this world. When faced with a difficult political and economic decision to support Caesar (the earthly ruler), Jesus said to give Caesar that which was his due, and to also give God that which was His due (Matthew 22:15-22).
When faced with a question asking Him to choose one Kingdom or another, Jesus opted for a third option. He refused the dichotomy of “earthly” and “heavenly” kingdoms, where people might try to pit God against a human leader. Instead, He recognized the legitimate claim of Caesar upon the earth and simultaneously called into remembrance God’s claim upon the earth.
Instead, He recognized the legitimate claim of Caesar upon the earth and simultaneously called into remembrance God’s claim upon the earth.
Those who had grown up understanding Scripture would know that God’s claim covers the entire earth and all that is in it. So, Caesar might have been building a very real, and legitimate kingdom, but it still fell within the claims of God and His Kingdom. In one concise sentence, Jesus reminded us that God indeed owns it all, and there is no space on this earth that He does not belong.
When applied to our current reality, we can often make the same dichotomy between work; that which is owned by people in this world and that which is owned by God. We set companies and organizations up against God as if they were His equal, much as people in Jesus’ day might set up the Roman Empire as His equal. In reality, however, no matter how large the organization or government, they are not God’s equal, and the kingdoms that they represent fit well within His kingdom. This means that our job is in God’s Kingdom regardless of which organization we work for, and so our work can and should be “sacred.”