Typically, I don’t wear dress slacks, shoes, and a coat to work. That’s one of the benefits of working with younger generations in a church setting. I can usually dress comfortably–meaning I can wear flip flops pretty much everywhere, anytime. But, that is changing. I live in the South now where they tend to dress it up a little more, and I’m not working in a church. So, today was different. I went to a lunch meeting that required me to dress a little better.
It made me feel somewhat professional, and it made me think about what my life would be like if I had to put on a coat and tie everyday for work. Getting ready in the morning would certainly take more time and effort, but it might be worth it for the sense of professionalism and productivity. My wife already does this. She gets all businesswoman-like and heads out the door ready to conquer the world. I drop her off in my shorts and t-shirt and head back to our place completely relaxed.
Some people who work from home make it a point to get dressed up so it feels more like going into work. I understand this. Over the last month, I’ve been working from home, and it really can be tough to get in work mode when you wear your workout clothes for most of the day.
All of this made me think about the idea of God calling us to specific career choices.
The thought of working for a corporation, dressing like a businessman, and earning an impressive salary is often what people think make them successful. This is usually why getting grades and going to college and even getting a master’s degree is stressed so heavily and frequently. I even struggle with this inclination as someone who doesn’t work for a corporation, dress up everyday, or earn an impressive salary. But if you have a “sacred” job, then these things somehow become less important or peripheral.
It seems the idea of sacred/secular division stems from this issue. People see sacred careers as ones that aren’t as much about money as they are about religion. Missionaries, church leaders, some doctors, Mother Teresa-types, and parachurch workers have sacred careers. People tend to see jobs where the bottom line is more about money as secular careers. Businesspeople, teachers, lawyers, engineers, and pilots have secular careers.
But the sacred/secular distinction needs to be ripped to shreds because it stinks. It is not only misleading, but it creates a spiritual hierarchy dependent on one’s career choice. If God made you good with numbers and physics, and you become an engineer, then most people won’t think you are as spiritual as your pastor. If God made you an athlete capable of playing your sport to make a living, most people will not think you are as spiritual as a missionary to Africa. And it is those who attend church regularly who are the worst at this kind of thinking.
This is a problem. The God-given calling to be an engineer, educator, businessperson, athlete, or lawyer is just as high a calling as the one to be a church leader or a missionary.
God created work in the Garden, before the fall of humanity. He intended for humanity to work. It is good to work. It is good to create and cultivate. When we work, we do so in the image of the God who worked to make us and the world. But, He made each of us unique; therefore, each of us uniquely reflects some part of His image in our work. I am not a super-athlete (though I like to think so on the basketball court); I am not an artist; I am not good with numbers or science. But some people are good at these things, and when they do them with a sense of God’s calling, their job and career choice is sacred. Further, they do their work around people who are usually in higher need of knowing about who God is than those who work in the “sacred” jobs. When seen this way, the secular jobs are actually more “sacred” than the sacred job. This is why the division needs to go away, and this is why people need to understand that their career choice should be seen as a calling–to a specific group of people at a specific time in a specific role.
The sacred/secular divide is not about what kind of career choice you make; it is about your motivation and execution of that career. Every job is sacred when it is pursued and performed for the benefit of God’s glory. Every job is secular when it is pursued and performed for your own glory.
Writing as someone who has pursued a calling to work within the Church, it is a conviction of mine to communicate that every single job worked by a Jesus-follower is sacred job. Every career choice is a decision to enter into an opportunity to reveal more of God’s image to a specific group of people. The career can only be labeled secular when it becomes about the one doing the work instead of the one who ordained the work.