By Alan Bliss, Bethel Seminary San Diego
Upon entering this colloquy reflecting on faith at work or God’s role in the 100,000 hours people will spend working over the course of their lives, this seminarian finds himself entering the journey wanting to shed light on some vital formative questions. What is a theology of work? What is faith at work? Is vocation and calling the same thing? Is all work, every job, every task, and/or every station in life a calling? Or vocation? If so then how can there be any “bad work” or “sinful work?” More specifically are certain jobs and work in this society, such as prostitution, drug dealers, or pornographers, not under that same umbrella as God’s other ordained methods of work?
How does one get beyond the frustrating struggle of dealing with finding a line in moral work versus immoral work? Could there be such a thing as an immoral calling or an immoral vocation? What can be used for a dividing line in order to decide? Or is work amoral and without the need for a dividing line?
Perhaps there is no need to create a dividing line or a divine measuring stick. Even though all work is God honoring and work is part of His design for His children, it need not to be measured by which form of work most glorifies God, or what kind of work is moral and which is immoral. No matter how glorious or righteous one may think they are through our works, all fall short.
A pastor used to run the ropes course at a Christian youth camp in Washington State. He would tell this story as an illustration often when trying to metaphorically illustrate the need for Christ. When the kids would climb up to the top of the ropes course he would ask who is the biggest jumper? Some kids could long jump 4 feet, others 6 feet, and some others 10 to 12 feet. But it didn’t really matter how far or how much better one of them was than the other, as they were going to have to span an entire canyon, and without the aid of the ropes there was no hope.
This study of work, vocations, and God-ordained callings to industries and occupations begets thinking in this similar way. Perhaps all work is God honoring in some way, and referencing the previous illustration, perhaps even work held in the least esteem by culture’s standards could measure some linear feet on the long jump.
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