The complaint usually goes like this; “When you keep challenging us to give up our careers and secular work, you’re subtly implying that our work is not as valuable as gospel work and that makes us feel like second class citizens in the church. You should see that all good work is part of God’s good intention for the world. It helps people have food, housing, health, education. These are just as valuable as gospel work.”
When faced with this, you could defend the claim that gospel work is more valuable than secular work (which it is) – but I think this is falling into a trap.
The whole question/challenge carries with it an “identity misunderstanding”. Your identity is not defined by your career. It never was and never will be. Your identity is defined by God’s declaration about you at the cross. If you feel like a second class citizen when I attack your career as less valuable than gospel work… why?? Is your identity caught up in your career or life-decisions? Don’t let it be!
There are two things to discuss, 1) Your identity in Christ that is perfect and unalterable, 2) Your work that can be more or less valuable in light of God’s plans and purposes for the universe.
So… the mother who wakes at 3am again to look after her kids because God values families does good. The terminally-ill patient who lies in a hospital bed and prays for the people she knows and the staff who serve her, she does an enormous good. Both activities are much more valuable than testing the accounting software for a finance company who underwrites the insurance policies of other companies who do some aspect of manufacturing (like what I used to do).
So, you ARE valuable in Christ, and therefore, give up your ambitions and DO the most valuable thing with your life you reasonably can… which is as much gospel work as you can.
On Monday I had the pleasure of getting able to attend the Nexus conference. Some reflections…
- Pete Orr did a careful and considered job of showing that “the work of the Lord” that is “not in vain” in 1Cor 15 is not just general Christian living… rather Paul’s thinking of the work of evangelism and maturing Christians. This helps set up the perspective that gospel work is a special work that all Christians are called to.
- Archie argued that the shape/DNA/essence of reformed evangelicalism is that we’re on about conversionism. The next generation won’t just turn up… they need to be converted with the gospel. And they need to be converted into people who are on about converting others with the gospel.
It was the type of talk that I hope people will think back to in 20 years time and say, “that helped me realise what we’re on about”.
More to come tomorrow.
Do you have something that you absolutely have to do? “I have to have a coffee every morning!”, “I have to go to the gym 3 times a week!”, “I have to be at work 40hrs a week!”, “I have to see that new movie this week!”, “I have to sleep 8hrs a night!”…
Those are all your spoken-minimums. They are the things that you have agreed with yourself that you have to do; “at least”, “at the very minimum”.
But your minimums are also your priorities. They are your highest importance. The sentence may as well go like this… “I at least have to do X because it is of highest priority.” The trouble is, most people have different spoken minimums compared to their spoken priorities.
So why not start with what you think are your real priorities… “God”, “Church”, “Family”, “Forgiving others”, etc… and then work out your minimums… “I have to pray every day!”, “I need to be at church!”, “I need to be at home with my kids 20hrs a week.”, “I need to devote at least one night a week to my wife.”
Don’t be defined by your felt-minimums, define your minimums from your priorities.