Working in Today’s World

 


 

Discerning God’s Will for your Job

Guidelines for Your Profession or Occupation 

What Occupation or Profession Should You Choose?

Introduction

How can you discern God’s will for your Job?  What occupation or profession should you choose?  What should you do if you feel uneasy and have concerns about the job that you presently have?  These are questions that should concern each of us.  Since our daily work is such an important part of our life, we need answers and we should be seeking answers.

Does God really speak to this modern issue of employment?  Is He interested in what you do to earn a living?  Indeed, God is very much involved in this and He wants you to seek His will to discern His will.  Christ demands that we put God and His kingdom first in all we do —and this includes our means of livelihood.  How does the will of God impact you on the job?  How has it determined what job to seek and what position to take?

We hope that you will find the following pages very practical on a very relevant topic.  Let us seek God’s will in all things, for only those who do the will of God will inherit His glorious kingdom (Matthew 7:21) and receive eternal life (1 John 2:17).

Working in Today’s World 

How do you look on your job—your daily employment?  Is it important to you or is it a secondary matter?  Does it give you great satisfaction or is it a daily struggle?  Do you feel trapped in your job and do you consider it a “necessary evil”?  Or do you find deep fulfillment in your position and a means of glorifying God?  Let’s examine what the Word of God says about your chosen profession, occupation, or job.

Work in the Beginning

Daily work was not always negative or a necessary but unfortunate reality of life.  In the beginning, God planned that Adam—the first man—would work in the Garden of Eden.  The Creator gave Adam the task of subduing the created order and ruling over every living thing that He had made (Genesis 1:28).  God placed him in the Garden “to cultivate it and keep it” (2:15).  This work surely was exciting, interesting, uplifting, productive, and a delight, as Adam had blessed fellowship with the Lord each day!  We can imagine Adam, the first man, working with a soil that was the ultimate in fertility, surrounded by friendly animals and birds, enjoying perfect temperature and an ideal climate, and having sweet association with His Creator, Almighty God.  Labor was productive as well as enjoyable.  Herbert Lockyer gives some of the positive aspects of Adam’s work in the beginning:

1.    Adam worked according to divine direction (Genesis 2:15).

2.    Adam labored without painful fatigue, which came as the result of the fall (Genesis 3:19).

3.    Adam, by working, accomplished what was useful and necessary, bringing to himself a personal recompense in the fruit he cultivated (Genesis 2:15,16).

4.    Adam combined manual labor with intellectual effort (Genesis 2:20).[1]

But something dreadful entered this blissful scene that would forever change it.  Adam sinned and plunged all creation into distress, ruin, and death.  Work became a painful, laborious struggle with the elements.  It was attended with hardship and negative experiences (2:17-19).  Both Adam and Eve began to live in a curse environment that did not cooperate with his efforts to subdue the earth and rule over it.  We have reaped the results of this first rebellion to this day.

Solomon gives a painful view of earthly labor.  He lamented, “I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:17).  He said, “I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun” (v. 20).  Yet there is a positive side to earthly employment as well.  He wrote, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good.  This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.  For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” (vv. 24-25).  Mental work and physical labor is part of living on earth: “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot” (3:22).

As we continue looking at this subject, we’ll see that God does give His children grace to labor in life and find a degree of satisfaction in carrying out a job responsibly and well.

The Importance of Work

Our employment may very well be the third most important decision and factor in life—after our coming to Christ and our choice of a life partner.  The job is the very place where our life in Christ is lived out in a practical way every day, a place where we interact with outsiders on a regular basis.  It can be a regular source of encouragement and achievement, or it can be a daily burden to carry with the help of God.

If we find work that we enjoy and that uses the talents and abilities we have, our daily work can be a positive part of our life.  Carlyle said, “Blessed is he who has found his work: let him ask no other blessedness for those who serve God, as well as man.”[2]

Our chosen occupation can represent 45 or 50 years of opportunities to grow and bless, or it can be years of struggle, defeat, and futility.  Employment is one of the most important parts of a person’s life on earth.  One’s occupation or profession represents a vast investment of time, energy, and devotion.  The worker will probably devote 40 hours a week, 2,000 hours a year for 45 years, and this amounts to 90,000 hours in a lifetime devoted to one’s job.  During this time, he may earn $1 million or even $3 million!

With this kind of importance (just from the standpoint of time and income, not to mention the intangible aspects), the disciple who is committed to Christ will want to pay particularly close attention to the job he now has or any employment he will ever seek in the future.  A position can either be positive or negative, depending on many different factors which we will examine on the following pages.

Working

General Principles

We know that since God is the creator of life and sustainer of all things, and since He has the authority and wisdom to teach us His will, we must consult with His written Word for any truths that may be gleaned on daily employment.  Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  God can give us the guidance we need to understand daily work and choose our occupations for God’s glory.

First, see the place of labor in God’s will.

Since we live in this fallen world, God calls on us to labor for our living in a responsible and respectable manner.  Paul admonishes, “Make it your ambition to lead a quite life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 1:11-12; cf. Ephesians 4:28).  Even in the Ten Commandments, God issued this instruction: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9).

In the early body of Christ, if anyone refused to work and expected others to support his laziness, Paul gave this solemn warning: “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.  For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).  As the couplet reads: No bees, no honey; No work, no money.[3]   Whether these people were not working because they thought Christ would return immediately or because they were lazy, it seemed that they wanted other Christians to support them.  Paul says that they must be personally active in laboring for their own support.  We might notice that this instruction is for those “not willing to work” and not those who are unable to work. There is a difference.

But the point is that God expects people to be active in their employment. Slothfulness is a sin.  “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).  Solomon also stated: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise. . . . How long will you lie down, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?” (6:6, 9).  Lockyer reminds us of the need to work: “distaste of regular and faithful work is utterly foreign to the Christian ideal. . . . Christians, above all others, should work in such a way as to attest to their genuine Christian integrity. . . . If the occupation is honest, then it is important to realize ‘the dignity of good work.’”[4]

We assume that someone works unless there are extenuating circumstances.  The sailors on the ship asked Jonah, “What is your occupation?” (Jonah 1:8).  This is a basic question that we often ask when we first meet someone.  And it is a matter of serious importance.

Second, the believer is to work with loyalty and sincerity of heart for the satisfaction of the employer.

God wants the Christian to be a “model employee.”  He is to do his work sincerely and honestly, and carry on his tasks with enthusiasm.  The New Testament gives many instructions to slaves in relation to masters (as well as masters in regard to slaves).  While some of this teaching is not directly applicable to the employee-employer relationship, probably much of it is directly applicable.  By the way, we should not think of slavery in the first century to be identical to the slavery found in the western hemisphere in the past centuries.  Often first-century slaves held responsible positions, were given board and room, were given protection, and some were even given pay with the opportunity to gain their freedom.[5]  On the other hand, some slaves were treated very badly and inhumanly.

Notice Paul’s instructions to the slaves: “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:22-24).  Notice other related instructions at Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-20.  From these passages we may offer the following:

      (1)         The worker should obey his manager in all things (i.e., all things that are right in themselves) (Colossians 3:22-23; Ephesians 6:5-7).

      (2)         He should sincerely please the Lord who sees the heart and should not just work to be seen by the boss (Colossians 3:22; Ephesians 6:6).

      (3)         He should work heartily and diligently (Colossians 3:23).

      (4)         God will reward the faithful employee (Ephesians 6:8) and will be punish the unfaithful employee (Colossians 3:25).

      (5)         The employee should please the supervisor and should not be argumentative (Titus 2:9).

      (6)         The employee should never steal any company property (Titus 2:10).

      (7)         The employee should be honest and truthful, a man of integrity, in all of his labors (Titus 2:10).

      (8)         The worker should be respectful to the supervisor even when he is unreasonable or perverse (1 Peter 2:18).

      (9)         He should be willing to endure unjust treatment for the cause of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:19-20).

With today’s emphasis on “worker’s rights,” some of these instructions may be seen as out of place.

Third, the believer is to be Christ-centered in his work.

Although the worker receives wages from an earthly company, he should realize that God is the one who will ultimately reward him.  His ultimate allegiance is to the Lord rather than man.  Paul directed, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to man” (Ephesians 6:7; cf. Colossians 3:23).  “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:24).  “Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8; cf. Colossians 3:24-25).  The believer’s basic focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Although he works for a human manager, his real master is Jesus Christ Himself.

 

Fourth, the Christian should view his work as a means for God to develop Christ-like qualities in his character.

God wants to use our relationships and experiences to mold our character.  Henry Drummond remarked, “A workshop is not a place for making engines so much as a place for making men.”  It is God’s training ground.  God must have used Joseph’s service to Potiphar in Egypt (Genesis 39:1-6) and Moses’ service to Jethro in Midian (Exodus 3:1) to develop their character and prepare them for increased effectiveness in His program.  One can often learn contentment and perseverance in adverse circumstances on the job (cf. Philippians 4:10-13; James 1:2-4).

Positive Suggestions about Your Job

Scripture offers many principles to guide us in life, and this pertains particularly with regard to secular employment.  Each of the following suggestions and points of counsel should be considered as you make a personal quest for spiritual and practical guidance about your occupation or profession.

Make sure that your job meets the Biblical guidelines.  Make sure that your position is one that pleases God and is in harmony with the standards of God’s Word.  The psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  We need God’s light to show us the way in our job-seeking venture.  David expressed the same idea: “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:4-5a).  Let us pray for God’s guidance and blessing in our seeking righteous employment.  Consulting God’s inspired Word is far more important than reading any secular employment “How To” book.  Although the Bible may not directly mention your occupation, you can use the principles of Scripture to determine whether it is pleasing to God or not.

Remember that the job you take or the profession that you enter will have much to do with your life and commitment to Christ.  So many elements of your character will be connected to the profession you pursue.  Lockyer states: “Because a person’s occupation has a profound bearing upon his own life and character, and often upon the lives of others, how necessary it is to know that whether he pushes a pen or a plough, he is in the will of God, laboring as He has appointed.  If you are facing life, and deliberating upon the niche you are to fill, let your prayer be, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to be and to do?’  Leave the choice with Him.”[6]

Choose an occupation that will enable you to use the abilities, interests, capabilities, and training that the Lord has given you.  God expects you to use the abilities and opportunities that He has bestowed on you (cf. Matthew 25:14-30).  Not everyone has the physical capacities, the mental acumen, or the educational background to accomplish everything.  It may be helpful to take an aptitude test or seek occupational counseling to determine your abilities.  Further, it is always to be preferred if one can enter a field in which he really finds a sense of satisfaction, if at all possible.  When one likes what he is doing, the job can be much more appealing and he may actually do a better job.  There is nothing quite like an deep interest and a feeling of competence to motivate one to do the job well.

God gives you certain inherent capabilities.  Not everyone has the mental abilities to learn difficult math or master language arts; and not everyone has the physical makeup to work outdoors all day or climb and do vigorous physical labor.  We must remember that we are “stewards” of the abilities God has given us, and “it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Seek to prepare for your job with adequate education, training, and experience.  When one considers his life work and what occupation or profession he would want to pursue, remember the importance of preparation.  Before we take a trip, we may check the car we want to drive, we will examine a good map, and we will make arrangements for staying at motels or with friends.  Likewise, when one is planning for the future, it is good for a teenager to consider what education and training he will need.  Maybe classroom education is the answer; maybe an apprenticeship should be chosen; maybe self-education has a place.  Aim to be skilled in what you choose.  “Do you see a man skilled in his work?  He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).  While we may question the applicability of this statement to the disciple of Christ, it does emphasize the need to be skilled in our occupational choice.

Learn disciplines that will make you a good employee. Many virtues and disciplines are important in fulfilling a given job.  If you learn these now, it will serve you well in the future when you are seeking employment or seeking to fulfill your responsibilities on a job.  You should learn honesty which is important to any employer.  You should practice submission in employment contexts for you are required to submit to your supervisor and company policies.  You should also learn to go the second mile, or do more than what is required of you.  It is important that you learn to be prompt or arrive on the job in good time.  You must learn to be properly groomed and appropriately clothed.  You should learn to take the initiative on the job and be industrious in your work.

Always maintain a good conscience on your job.  The conscience is important consideration in finding new employment or relating to your present position.  We have the “work of the Law” written in our hearts, and the inner conscience bears witness, with our “thoughts alternately accusing or else defending” us (Romans 2:15).  The conscience tells us whether what we are doing is in harmony with our belief system.  If that belief system is formed by the pure Word of God, the conscience can witness to our spirit that we are living in harmony with that true belief system.  The Christian must make sure that his conscience is well-trained, and then he must never violate his conscience.  This is a precious faculty provided by God for our well-being.  Peter’s conscience told him that he had sinned in denying Jesus (Matthew 27:2).  The Jews on Pentecost heard the message of Christ and they were “pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37) or “wounded in conscience” (margin).  They were willing to repent and come to Christ because they were sensitive to their conscience (vv. 38-41).

As we said, the conscience is very important.  Paul said that he had lived with “a perfectly good conscience before God” (Acts 23:1).  He further testified, “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (24:16; cf. Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12). Scripture says that love derives from “a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:5), and Paul urges Timothy to “fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience” (vv. 18-19).  We are to hold to the mystery of the faith “with a clear conscience” (3:9).  The apostle testified that he served God with “a clear conscience” (2 Timothy 1:3).  At the beginning of our life in Christ, baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21) and, as believers, we are to “keep a good conscience” (v. 16).  The Hebrew writer claimed, “We are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (13:18).  We must always stand before God with purity, holiness, and a good, clear, blameless conscience.

In contrast, Paul writes of the “defiled and unbelieving” of whom it could be said that “both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15).  Those who reject “faith and a good conscience” have “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19).  Some go so far as to be “seared in their own conscience” (4:2).  When the conscience is deadened, one is in a serious and dreadful condition, for his conscience no longer leads him to do the right or keep from the wrong.

When you seek work that is acceptable to God or evaluate a job that we already have, be very sensitive to your conscience.  First, make sure that it is taught and trained well, according to the Word of God, and then never violate it.  Never approve an employment position or a duty in your job that violates any Biblical principle.  Paul writes, “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22).  In fact, Paul says that “he who doubts is condemned” if he does something without the full faith that it is right, and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (v. 23).  The conscience very much relates to duties that may be required of the Christian when he is on the job.  What if the supervisor should require you to do something that you know is wrong or believe is sinful?  You must kindly, humbly, but firmly refuse.  (Perhaps you could suggest an alternative.)  Peter envisions the problems that a slave (or an employee) may have and the suffering that may result.  He says, “This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19-20).  Always maintain a good conscience, a clear conscience, a blameless conscience in preparing for a profession, in seeking a position, or in evaluating your present job.

Seek employment that will adequately support you and your family.  If you are young and just beginning your occupational or professional education and training, this is especially important.  Many have discovered that the job they chose when young just can’t support a family, thus they live with deep regret later.  It may be very difficult to go back to school to prepare for a job later in life.  Think about this long and hard with you are in your teen years and seek counsel or testing that will help you to find something adequate.

Paul writes that Christians should work so as to “not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 4:12).  He also wrote, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  When you are young, take your job-preparation task seriously for later it may be very difficult to change the course of your occupational career.

If you find yourself in a job that can’t adequately support you, be willing to change occupations and jobs.  As we noted above, it is best to decide on a career when young.  But now you may need to change careers to find one better suited to your abilities or one that has fewer problems from a Christian viewpoint.

Seek employment that will give adequate income to help others.  Another important motivation in finding adequate employment is to help others.  Scripture says, “He who steals must steal no loner, but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).  As believers, we should “share with one who has need,” and this can’t be easily done if we don’t have enough income for ourselves.  Paul tells of his own experience:

These hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.  In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34-35; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Titus 3:14).

A. N. Groves wrote, “Labor hard, consume little, give much—and all to Christ.”

If possible, it is better to find an occupation that does not require the entirely of your time, while still meeting your financial needs.  The believer’s time is extremely valuable and he should live and work in light of eternity.  “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16; cf. Hebrews 9;27; John 9:4).  Some jobs require long hours and regular overtime which leaves little excess time for personal spiritual growth, family nurturing, marriage enrichment, sharing the gospel with others, fellowship with other believers, studying of Scripture, or prayer.  Whereas some of our forefathers in the past may have been required to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, we have the marvelous privilege of laboring only about 40 hours (more or less).  You may be able to labor fewer if you have a unique job and this would enable you to devote even more time to “the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58; cf. 16:15; Philippians 2:30).

Remember that as you labor in a responsible manner, you will be an example to other believers.  Paul made reference to this: “You yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you . . . with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).  We are always to be mindful of the example we set before others.  Paul writes, “In speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12; cf. Titus 2:7).  Other believers should be able to look at your job attitude and job performance and recognize that this is what God wants; they, in turn, are encouraged to work in a similar way.  Even unbelievers may look at your work on the job and be inspired to work in a responsible manner.

If possible, find employment that will allow you to speak to your fellow workers about the Lord.  Use your job as an opportunity to reach people for the cause of Christ.  Remember, every person you work with will one day spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell—and nearly all of them will have hell as their eternal destiny. We know that in some contexts, this may not be possible or advisable, but many jobs permit at least some open sharing with other employees, especially on break times.  These fellow workers provide an excellent “mission field” of people who need Christ Jesus.  One should be prepared to defend the faith at all times (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5-6), and preach “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Seek to be very time conscious in your present job.  Bear in mind your stewardship of time in regard to your job.  On the one hand, you should plan to be prompt and on time for the beginning of your shift.  This will be a good example to others and will assure that you are not late.  On the other hand, since there are so many other worthy endeavors in life (nurturing your spouse, training your children, studying your Bible and other books, having fellowship with your brothers and sisters, making house repairs, etc.), we suggest that you don’t spend any more time on the job than is absolutely necessary.  Thus, there is the need for a balance here.  Give your employer a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and be prompt every day.  But don’t spend any more time on the job as necessary because of the other priorities in life.

You may be able to find employment that does not require the entirely of your time.  Although this would be somewhat rare, some few jobs allow several hours of free time which can be profitably used in Bible ready, study, and other profitable pursuits (Ephesians 5:15-16; 2 Timothy 2:15).  One time in the past I had employment that allowed me to study perhaps 75 percent of the working time.  One brother simply watched a machine and could read during his working hours.  Another brother simply was required to be near a telephone to answer calls; otherwise, he could study.  Most regular jobs, of course, do not allow the luxury of such activity.

It would be ideal if you could find a profession or occupation that fills a genuine need.  If possible, choose a job that is not something trivial or useless.  What lasting good comes from being president of Futility Tiddlywinks Company?  Elton Trueblood wrote, “We can never, in the light of Christian convictions, engage in trivial occupations when this involves a waste of powers that could be used in better ways.”  This is an ideal, of course, for many occupations are seemingly “trivial” but may offer other benefits.   But how much better if you can build something helpful, or serve the physical or emotional or spiritual needs of people, or care for those in need.

When you are considering a new job, think through the responsibilities that may be required of you.  Ask yourself whether the duties are generally compatible with Christian principles.  Also consider what duties may possibly arise that you could not do as a Christian.  It would be wise to only consider or take a job that appears to be “safe” for you to take.  For instance, suppose that you went along for two or three weeks on a new job but then a requirement was revealed that you could not do in good conscience.  It would then be difficult both for you and for your employer if you had to immediately quit the job to avoid the wrongful activity.  Not every supervisor would be agreeable to your refusal to do a particular job activity.  So, as much as possible, think through what the job would require.  During the job interview, be willing to ask sufficient questions to determine any wrongful or compromising duties pertaining to the position.

Be prepared to put Jesus first at all times on your job.  If you are already in a job—whether it be your first weeks or after you have been there for many years—and you are required to do something that you cannot do as a Christian, how will you handle this?  It is best to plan ahead for this eventuality or possibility.  Pray that you will have the courage to take a stand for Christ and the determination to resign from a job that requires a sinful activity.  If your job does require a dishonest, compromising, sinful duty, take a stand on God’s word, regardless of the cost.  Jesus declared, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).  He also said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26; cf. Matthew 10:33).  We must never be ashamed or reluctant to choose God’s will over job responsibilities.

You could request an interview with your supervisor and ask if the offensive duty can be removed and perhaps given to someone else.  This can sometimes be arranged, especially if you have a kind and understanding supervisor who values you and the work that you do for the company.  But if the supervisor doesn’t agree to this, prepare to lose your job.  In the words of Peter, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Consider your job as a means of developing your character.  We should always want to improve ourselves in every way and God uses our job as a “workroom” to build character into our life.  Remember, Jesus worked as a carpenter for some thirty years of his life and while He was building things with his hands God the Father must have been preparing him for service.  On the job, we can learn patience, endurance, grace, kindness, generosity, unselfishness, truthfulness, and love.  The Holy Spirit can produce His “fruit” of righteousness on the job (Galatians 5:22-23).

Remember that all that we do must be done in the name of Christ and for the glory of God.  Paul writes, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17a).  He also wrote, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).  We want to work in a way that God receives the praise and glory for our endeavors.  We don’t just work to earn a living, but we work to live a life—a life where God receives the glory.

Negative Suggestions about Your Job

Not only are there positive suggestions to keep in mind, but there are also negative suggestions offered to the believer who is searching for God’s will for employment.  Evaluate your present position or a potential job in light of the following points.

Avoid employment that will involve you in a questionable relationship. Paul warns, “Do not be deceived; ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  Would a job require you to be in bad company?  We also read, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).  Will a particular position require you to be a companion of fools?  God’s Word further counsels us: “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man” (Proverbs 22:24).  Will a given job require this kind of association?

We know that we would need to “go out of the world” if we try to keep away from all unbelievers and sinners (1 Corinthians 5:10).  We must have some contact with sinners for they do need Christ.  But if we recognize that a profession places us in regular, close, compromising contact with unbelievers, we need to consider this association very carefully.  If a particular job we presently have places us too close to sinful people and this drags us down spiritually, it might be wise to look for more acceptable employment–or at least a change of position in the same company.

Some jobs place one in great temptation and require one to be in a very worldly environment and exposed to weighty allurements.  Scripture warns, “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).  We also read, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:9; cf. James 4:4). Just as it was foolish for Lot to move to sinful Sodom (Genesis 13:10-13; 2 Peter 2:6-9), so it would be dangerous to intentionally place ourselves into a situation that would jeopardize our spirituality and our walk with the Lord would be utterly foolish.

Avoid a job that requires you to be closely bound with unbelievers.  Scripture warns, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).  For instance, some jobs require the employees to support a labor union, both financially and personally.  We know that these unions not only bind the believer with unbelievers, but they definitely often encourage a spirit of insubordination to the employer through protests, strikes, various pressure tactics, and even violence.  This clearly violates many Biblical passages (cf. Colossians 3:22-25; Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-20; Romans 12:21).

Labor unions generally encourage the members to violate John’s instructions to be content with wages (cf. Luke 3:14).  On occasion there is a direct opposition to governmental laws and orders (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13).  We are even instructed to be submissive to unkind and disagreeable employers: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” (1 Peter 2:18).  Peter would say to not rebel but to submit.

We understand that a labor union cannot force a person to join its ranks if he is conscientiously opposed to it; but he must clearly prove that this is his sincere conviction.  However, he may be required to contribute financially to a “charitable organization” the amount of dues he would otherwise give to the union. The Christian will want to be very careful where this amount actually goes.  If the believer does avoid joining the union, while retaining his job, he may need to face ostracism by the “union” employees, and as everyone knows, he may need to face forms of ridicule, slander, and even violence (Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23).

Avoid working for a company that produces or sells a compromising product.   It is very common for companies to produce, market, and sell products that are morally and spiritually questionable.  The line of products may include immodest clothing, tobacco or liquor products, worldly entertainment videos, worldly music, TV sets, foolish computer games, worldly home furnishings, extravagant and high price items, junk foods, and much more.  It makes one think of John’s charge that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  Further, Solomon rightly observed, “God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

This shows the need to careful research and inquire into the line of merchandise a company produces or sells, or the kind of service a given company does.  It is far better to take the time and make the prayerful search before taking a job than to have second thoughts after you are employed.  Even then, if you discover wrongful aspects about your employment, is it is better to submit to the Lord’s ways than to close your conscience and continue to do wrong.

Try to avoid employment that would be a hazard to your health. Your body belongs to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:20) and should be treated with respect as a sacrifice to the Lord (Romans 12:1).  Your body should be “nourished and cherished” with honor (cf. Ephesians 5:29).  Some jobs place the worker in a dangerous exposure to accidents or contribute to disease which may develop years after exposure.  Breathing deadly fumes or dust, contact with toxic chemicals, exposure to radioactive materials, and similar activities may result in temporary or permanent bodily harm and should be avoided as much as possible.  Don’t unwisely decide on a harmful job for immediate financial rewards when you know that the long-term effects will be injurious.

Avoid employment that will violate your conscience.  Value your conscience and never violate it!  To engage in any job or activity while questioning its rightness, honesty, lawfulness or legitimacy, is to sin.  Paul warns, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).  Many people in the world can engage in various pursuits with seemingly little qualms of conscience, since their conscience is without knowledge or even seared (1 Timothy 4:2).  But the believer, who has a sensitive conscience and a clear conscience, taught by the Spirit of God in the Word of God (1 Timothy 1:5, 19), will want to avoid all questionable occupations and “every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  Do not run over your conscience for the sake of a desired job or desired income!

Avoid a job that would cause you to compromise your spiritual disciplines and responsibilities.  For instance, if a job should require working on the Lord’s day, forsaking the gathering of the saints, neglecting fellowship of God’s family, and partaking of the Lord’s supper, seek a different position, make arrangements with the employer to work a different shift, or in some way ask for consideration from your boss.  “Not forsaking our own assembling together” (Hebrews 10:24-25; cf. Acts 2:42).  Remember that a compromise of this kind would also be a terrible example to your fellow-believers (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12).

Avoid a covetous attitude when you are self-employed.  Those who have their own business or profession and set their own prices may easily manifest a mercenary attitude.  A salesman may allow greed to determine his selling policies. A tradesman (e.g., carpenter, plumber, electrician, painter, etc.) may take unfair advantage of those in need of his services.  A physician or dentist may charge exorbitant rates, allowing greed to crowd out his compassion for the poor (read the warning of financial arrangements in the medical office).  Paul reminds us that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  One can be spiritually poor even if he continues to prosper financially and materially.

A Special Word to the Sisters

We are living in an age when time-honored institutions and practices are being challenged. One of the areas of great change is that of the role of women in society.  For much of past history, the wife and mother spent her time at home while her husband (the father) earned the livelihood for the family.  During this time, the husband and wife often worked together—whether it be on farm, or in the market, or in the craft shop.

Then, a century ago, some single and widowed women might be found in the school teaching profession, nursing, or child care.  Then came the Second World War (1941-1945) when tens of millions of men left their homes to fight on the battlefield.  The women then entered the workforce, doing jobs that had formerly been the domain of the men, and even began to dress like the men with pants!  For a while after the War, women went back to the home and motherhood, but the desire for a house, a car, and a “chicken in every pot” urged women to once again leave the home for the workplace.  Increased education, relativistic perspectives, and other factors stimulated the desire of women to employment again.  The feminist movement of the 1960s (along with the sexual revolution) also perpetuated the “need” for women to find employment along with men.[7]

When women left the home, children became more independent and rebellious.  Women were exposed to countless sexual pressures on the job, and this led to more infidelity, divorce, remarriage, and adultery.  With increased pay, many families became more obsessed with “things” so that materialism became more of an American god.  Even the vocabulary changed.  Words formerly reflected the fact that men (the male gender) were assumed to be the workers.  Mailmen and postman became “postal workers.”  Policemen became “police officers.”  Firemen became “firefighters.”  Delivery man became “delivery person.” Salesman became “sales person.”  Workman became “worker.”  Women became a leading component of the workforce.

With women in the workforce, it became nearly impossible for one person to support a family.  The wages for women rose while the wages for men seemed to decrease.  Moral and spiritual consequences arose.  Traditionally women were to have an attitude of submission to the man, were to have “chaste and respectful behavior,” and were to have “a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:1-6), but all of this changed.  Instead of women recognizing a rightful subordination, relativistic views of egalitarianism came to prevail.  All of this means that presently women’s position in society has radically changed and most women are working along with men in the workplace, doing nearly every job that had been the domain of men (1 Corinthians 11:3).  Not only was this a revolution that produced masculine-like women, but men came to have feminine-like traits and no longer had their former position of headship.

Biblically, the woman (whether wife, mother, or single) is to be a worker. And some of this work may be done publicly, under properly guarded circumstances.  The “excellent wife” whose “worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10) worked in many different ways, even doing so publicly, and kept busy from early dawn until late at night (vv. 11-31).  Lydia was in sales, although we don’t know if she continued this after her conversion (Acts 16:14-15).  Priscilla may have helped her husband Aquila in his tent-making business (cf. Acts 18:1-3).  If a woman does find herself in a position where she must work, she should do so according to Biblical guidelines.

Generally, women are to “keep house” (1 Timothy 5:14, NASB), “manage their homes” (NIV), or “manage their households” (ESV).  Sisters are to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5, NASB), “busy at home” (NIV), and “working at home” (ESV).  In whatever way we interpret these passages, we must say that a married woman who is a mother must “keep house” and “work at home,” however many other works she may have. Women’s liberation is a misnomer and, in most cases, is an abomination in the sight of the One who created us “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  A woman’s greatest “freedom” will be fulfilling the position and role God has assigned.

There are many exceptions to this general rule.  We know of modest and submissive women who work in a home business, who work in a store, who work in a secretarial position, who work in  lower grade school teaching, who work in childcare, who work in a medical setting, who work in a nursery, who work in food preparation, etc.  Whatever the position, the sister should be utterly careful of the many temptations and pitfalls that may come her way.  It would be wise to avoid close contact with men, especially in private.  It would be wise to avoid late night work.  And any employment choices should only be taken after consulting with the overseers or shepherds of the flock of God for their wise and godly counsel (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

One aspect of a woman’s work that is often overlooked has to do with the authority that many positions require.  We have already made reference to the hierarchy that is to be found between the man and the woman.  Paul writes, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3).  A woman who takes a position that requires her to exercise authority over the man assumes a masculine role rather than a feminine one.  Scripture gives this instruction: “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33-37).  While this may be directly forbidding a woman to have “authority over a man” in a spiritual setting, can it be any more right for her to exercise such authority in any other situation?  Just as a husband is to have headship over a wife and the wife is to submit to her husband (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7), likewise the woman is to have a subordinate position that is frequently violated in the modern workplace.

But what is a Christian woman to do?  It would be the part of wisdom and compassion for the local community of saints to support those who have difficulty making ends meet.  For example, a sister who has been deserted by a husband and has children with her, could be supported by the brothers.  A poor family could likewise receive temporary or regular help, especially until other arrangements can be made.  A sister who is a widow or an unemployed brother may also be objects of aid from the more wealthy believers.  Believers should be known for their loving generosity (cf. John 13:34-35; Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-35; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:6-11; Galatians 2:10).

Because of the state humanistic and secularistic educational system, we strongly advise Christian parents to not send their children to the world to be trained by them.  The Israelites didn’t send their children to the Philistines to be trained by them, and neither should the people of God use the world’s schools to train their children.  Whether it be a private day school sponsored by the local Christians, or whether it be home schooling led by individual families, children deserve a Christian education.  Generally, this has been done by the wives and mothers who stay home and educate their children according to the ways of God.

Brothers and sisters in a given locality might make it their aim to begin their own business and provide a protected environment where sisters who need to work may be employed.  In certain contexts, a mother could take her children with her to the job. They could be around other saints, they could produce or work with honorable activities or products, and they could avoid the many negative factors found in the secular world.  Perhaps a Christian day school could be formed for the children in the assembly.  Perhaps a wealthy brother could handle products that need to be assembled and this could be an acceptable place for sisters to be employed.  Whatever the solution, let brothers and sisters seek God’s will and way in this matter.

The Pervasive Influence of Evil

We now come to a serious and difficult employment issue: questionable jobs, occupations, and professions.   As Christians, we sometimes are astounded at the pervasive influence of evil in the world.  As we noted before, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  The highly industrialized and integrated society in which we live especially presents a challenge for the saint who desires to keep himself free from participation in questionable and evil practices.

In former years it may have been more possible to keep oneself from compromising in the area of employment.  It was simpler to carry on a trade and have an occupation while maintaining the standards of Christ.  But today this is becoming a more and more formidable undertaking.  Our complex society makes it difficult for the sincere believer to find a job that allows him to be free from entanglements and responsibilities that are contrary to the directives of holy Scripture.  Probably the majority of positions require designing, manufacturing, packing, shipping, transporting, stocking, advertising, marketing, selling, servicing, or in some way handling questionable products—from the Christian perspective.

If one has his own business that is honorable, he may be able to avoid certain aspects of wrong.  Peter, John, James, and Andrew were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-21).  Since they owned their own business, they could simply cease working on the Jewish Sabbath day and probably there would be no problem.  Paul and Aquila were tent makers, or possibly leather workers (Acts 18:1-3), and they could simply refrain from selling their wares to Roman soldiers because of their conscience.  Jesus and His father Joseph were carpenters (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), and they could have refused to construct pagan images or woodwork that was questionable.  Today, one who has his own business (maybe he is a carpenter, a woodworker, a plumber, an electrician, a painter, etc.) can also avoid many compromising situations.

However, when we examine many contemporary occupations, jobs, and professions, we can begin to see the pervasive influence of evil in this world.  With these thoughts in mind, consider whether the sincere Christian would find the following jobs and activities objectionable in light of Scriptural principles:

1.    Work as a nurse who must aid in the abortion (murder) of a baby (Deuteronomy 5:17; Romans 13:9).

2.    Work in a bookstore handling pornographic, occult, romance, heretical, and materialistic books and magazines (Acts 19:18-19).

3.    Work as a clerk at the corner convenience store stocking or selling liquor, resulting in drunkenness (Galatians 5:21).

4.    Work on a farm raising tobacco that is used for cigarette production (Romans 12:1).

5.    Work as a welder at the aircraft plant, producing fighter planes for the military to use in warfare (Matthew 26:52).

6.    Work as an English teacher who is required to use and teach literature that is humanistic, worldly, and destructive to spirit and morals (Ephesians 5:2-12; Philippians 4:8).

7.    Work in construction building homes that sell for $1 million to gratify the materialistic lusts of the wealthy (James 5:1-6; Mark 10:21-27).

8.    Work as a trucker who transports questionable products used for sinful purposes.

9.    Work for a fast food establishment that sells junk food that contributes to overweight, diabetes, heart disease and cancer (1 Corinthians 10:31).

10. Work in advertising that produces untruthful copy and which boasts about one’s products (Ephesians 4:25; 2 Timothy 3:2).

11. Work as a secretary that requires one to tell “half-truths” (lies) for the boss (Proverbs 12:22).

12. Work in an electronics store that sells radar detectors that will encourage drivers to break the law by speeding and detect police speeding traps (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-2).

13. Work at a supermarket and be required to stock or sell tobacco products, worldly magazines, junk food, and lottery tickets (Romans 12:1; James 4:4).

14. Work in the textile industry or clothing store that sells immodest clothes and worldly fashions (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 John 2:15-17).

15. Work as a printer or at a copy center that produces literature sponsored by the Masons, the United Fund, the Knights of Columbus, and a fast food place (Ephesians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:22).

16. Work as a repairman who works on television sets (James 1:27; 4:4).

17. Work as a clerk or waitress in a bar or night club (Galatians 5:21; Habakkuk 2:15).

18. Work in the army, navy, marines, air force, or national guard, the duty of which is to use physical force to accomplish desired ends (Romans 12:17-21).

19. Work as a biology teacher who is required to teach students the false and wicked theory of evolution (Genesis 1 and 2; Exodus 20:11; Acts 17:24-31; Matthew 19:4-6).

20. Work as a hair stylist who cuts women’s hair short (1 Corinthians 11:14-15) and promotes worldly hair styles (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).

21. Work as a politician who is involved in nationalistic promotions and worldly endeavors (John 18:36; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 2:15-17).

22. Work as an attorney that handles divorce cases (Matthew 19:6, 9; Romans 7:2-3) and litigation cases (1 Corinthians 6:1-8; Romans 12:19-21).

These examples are presented to cause you to think deeply and sharpen your powers of discernment.  Paul writes so that “you may approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:10), or “distinguish between the thing that differ” (NASB, margin), or “decide what is best” (NET Bible).  Scripture encourages us to be mature people “who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

We urge you to thoughtfully review the previous list of jobs, occupations, and professions and think of other jobs of which you are aware (where your friends, family, and acquaintances may work).  Sometimes we are shallow in our thinking on these matters and seemingly overlook the obvious implications of questionable employment. Paul admonishes, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).  We must “learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (v. 10; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:9).

The Christian must carefully avoid participation in questionable practices with questionable products and services.  Paul warned Timothy to not “share responsibility for the sins of others” (1 Timothy 5:22).  We are not to be “partakers” (NASB) or “partners” (NIV) with those involved in various sinful practices (Ephesians 5:7), and are not to “participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).  (See this principle further at 2 John 11 and 2 Chronicles 19:2.)

Regretfully, many people just dismiss from their mind any questions about the negative or sinful aspects of their jobs in order to avoid problems or to “keep from rocking the boat.”  Or people may gloss over certain sins to avoid giving up a desired job that they find enjoyable or an occupation that they have spent years training for and practicing.  In contrast, the Christian must renounce his self-will and begin to trust in our God of mercy and power whose providence will see him through to the end.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself

As we consider wrongful or sinful employment, ask yourself certain key questions that will help you determine whether a job is altogether honorable and right—or whether a job is questionable, compromising, and outright sinful.

1.    Does the job require any dishonesty (Proverbs 12:22; Ephesians 4:25)?

 

2.    Must you wear worldly and immodest clothing as part of the job requirements (1 Timothy 2:9-10)?

 

3.    Does the job require you to work very closely with members of the opposite gender, especially those who are married people (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Timothy 3:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)?

 

4.    Would the job require you to order, receive, stock, advertise, or sell any merchandise that you know is worldly and sinful (1 John 2:15-17; James 1:27; 4:4)?

 

5.    Does the job promote the gratification of worldly and materialistic lusts of people (1 Timothy 6:9-10; 1 John 2:15-17)?

 

6.    Would the job require you to do some wrong to another person (Romans 13:10)?

 

7.    Would the job keep you from expressing outgoing love for other people (1 Corinthians 16:14)?

 

8.    Would the job cause you to violate the Golden Rule: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31)?

 

9.    Would the job require you to work on the Lord’s day, thereby forsaking the gathering of Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25; cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17ff).

 

10. Would the job provide the income you need to support your family and the work of the Lord (1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

 

11. Would the job require that you work so much that you neglect your spouse and your family (Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-4) and the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; Matthew 6:33).

 

12. Would the job place you in the midst of great temptation to do wrong and sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:13-15)?

 

13. Would the job allow you to be a good example to your fellow-Christians and to outsiders (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7)?

 

14. What would mature and spiritual brothers and sisters say about the job that you are considering (Proverbs 12:15; 15:22)?

 

15. Would the job prevent you from seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), putting Jesus first (Philippians 1:21), or seeking the things above (Colossians 3:1-4).

 

16. Would the job require you to violate your conscience and do something that you are not absolutely sure is right (Romans 14:23)?

 

17. Would the job require you to disobey the Lord in some way or keep you from obeying the Lord in another way, thereby sinning (Isaiah 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:34)?

 

There would be dozens of other questions you could ask yourself before taking a new job or as you evaluate the position that you now have.[8]

 

Occupational Choices in History

 

Biblical Occupations

 

The Bible mentions various crafts or “manual skills requiring special abilities.”[9]  Some of the ones mentioned on the pages of Scripture include:

 

1.    Carpentry (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55).

 

2.    Shepherding (Luke 2:8; Amos 1:1; Exodus 3:1).

 

3.    Pottery making (Jeremiah 18:3; Matthew 27:7).

 

4.    Farming (Matthew 13:3, 24).

 

5.    Tent-making (Acts 18:3).

 

6.    Fishing (Matthew 4:18-22; John 21:3).

 

7.    Tanning (Acts 9:43).

 

8.    Physician (Colossians 4:14).

 

9.    Tutor/Guardian (Galatians 3:24-25;1 Corinthians 4:15).

 

10. Gardener (Genesis 2:15).

 

11. Fuller (Mark 9:3).

 

12. Cook (1 Samuel 8:13; 9:23-24).

 

13. Coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14).

 

14. Builder (Matthew 7:24; 1 Corinthians 3:10).

 

15. Baker (Genesis 40:1-22; 41:10).

 

Many other occupations are available in our day, and some of these are honorable ones that a Christian may enter and practice.  Others, however, are ones that the faithful Christian must avoid.  The principles of God’s Word as well as the direct statements must be our guide in determining God’s will in this matter as in all other matters.

 

Certain other works are mentioned that the Christian should either not consider or turn from (if he presently is so employed).  A few of these come to mind:

 

1.    Harlotry (Revelation 17:5; Luke 7:31).

 

2.    Prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:15-16).

 

3.    Magic (Acts 8:9; 19:18-19).

 

4.    Idolatry (Acts 14:13).

 

5.    Military (cf. Acts 10:1; Romans 12:14-21).

 

6.    Divination, fortune-telling (Acts 16:16-21).

 

7.    Tax-collecting (Luke 5:27).

 

8.    Silversmith for idol making (Acts 19:24-25).

 

9.    Sorcery (Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8).

 

10. Conjurer (Daniel 2:2, 10).

 

11. Astrology (Isaiah 47:13).

 

As we have stated, many principles of Scripture could be applied to different occupations and would cause us to renounce them—such as the work of a jailer (cf. Acts 16:23ff) or soldier (Acts 10:1ff).  Even being a laborer in a vineyard could be either positive or negative (Matthew 20:1-16; 1 Timothy 3:3; 5:23).

The Early Post-Apostolic Church

We cannot infallibly determine God’s will by consulting the writings of the so-called “church fathers” of the second, third, and fourth centuries.  They were seriously wrong about many different matters and, of course, did not write infallible Scripture.  However, it is instructive to examine their writings to see what works and occupations were forbidden in the church after the period of the apostles and the early church.  Bear in mind that by the third century, there was much worldliness and compromise creeping into the established church, but even with this, we find a vigor in requiring people with certain professions to renounce those professions if they wished to be accepted as Christians.  Some professions were also found acceptable.

 

W notice that Tertullian (ca. AD 200) writes, “I acknowledge that I cannot exercise the trade of pandering, or keep that kind of place for my neighbor’s benefit.  So, too, the prohibition of murder shows me that a trainer of gladiators is also excluded from the church.”[10]  The Apostolic Constitutions (ca. AD 390) says, “Some of us are fishermen, tentmakers, and farmers, so that we may never be idle.”[11]

 

Everett Ferguson comments on the Christian view of certain activities: “Several early Christian writers point out that Christians did not attend the theater, the games, the gladiator shows, and racing contests because of the immoralities and violence associated with them.”[12]  Philip Schaff, the church historian, writes of the Christian view of certain entertainments: “Contrast with this the popular amusements of the heathen: the theater, the circus, and the arena.  They were originally connected with the festivals of the gods, but had long lost their religious character and degenerated into nurseries of vice. . . . since the time of Augustus room only for low comedies and unnatural tragedies, with splendid pageantry, frivolous music, and licentious dances.”[13]  We can see that the post-apostolic professing Christians would have avoided any occupation that participated in these evil activities.

 

John Howard Yoder has a lengthy article entitled, “Early Christian ‘Disciplines’ or ‘Church Orders.’”[14] Yoder describes various early disciplines and then quotes those portions that refer to various occupations and professions.  Let’s notice a few of these.  The Apostolic Church Order states:

 

XXVII. . .if there was a pander, he shall be rejected. And if there was one who makes an image or who divines, they will teach him that he should not… And if it was one who teaches children the work of this world, then it is good if he leave off; yet if there is no other occupation by which he may life, he shall be excused. And let him who causes to go to idolatrous sacrifices leave off or be rejected. And if there is one who hunts or teaches hunting, or who teaches fighting, or war, or a driver of horses, let him leave off or be rejected. And if it was a priest of the gods or a guardian of the gods, let him leave off or be rejected. A soldier of the prince they shall not receive, and if indeed they received him, if he was commanded to kill he shall not do it; and if he does not leave off he shall be rejected.

 

Another portion of the same document states:

 

XXIX. …Either he who is a soldier among the believers and among the instructed, or a star-gazer or magician and the like, and a magistrate with the sword or chief of praefects, and he who is clad in red, let him leave off or be rejected. And a catechumen or believer, if they wish to be a soldier, shall be rejected, because it is far from God. An adulteress, or a man without pity, or a man who does that which is not proper to be mentioned, shall be rejected…

 

The Testamentum Domini, dating from the late fourth or the fifth century, gives these directions:

 

One who is a courtisan or a fornicatress or a drunkard, the impious, the painter, the man of the theater, the horse driver, the wrestler, one who consults idols or cares for them; they shall not be received at all. If one who acts thus wants to become a Christian, let him cease that conduct and, believing and zealous, let him be baptized, let him be received and enter into the fellowship. But if he has not ceased the previous behavior, let him be expelled. He who teaches children the wisdom of the world, it is good that he should cease. But if he has no other livelihood, there is no guilt.

 

The same document gives these instructions:

 

XXVII. On new arrivals who wish to enter into the faith, and on the occupations which they must renounce. [After listing those who keep courtesans, manufacture idols, who attend spectacles, who teach young children, who are gladiators or teach that profession or wrestling, the list goes on…] If someone is a priest of idols or a guardian of idols, he should cease or be excluded. The soldier of a sovereign shall not kill: if he is ordered to do so, he must refuse, and in this case he shall be admitted [to baptism]; if not, he shall be excluded.

 

It is interesting to see how there was an evolution (or devolution) in the military profession.  Until about AD 173, “Christian” soldiers were required to renounce their profession.  After this, one was not permitted to become a soldier but if he was already in that profession, he could continue in it—providing he did not kill and did not participate in idolatry.  Finally, by AD 400, only professing “Christian” soldiers could serve in the military!  There was a complete reversal in views.[15]

 

It is clear that lists like these were not meant to be exhaustive. There were dozens or even hundreds of other positions that would have been considered unfit for the Christian, but these are some of the ones that the authorities deemed important to mention.

Seek Your Employment
with Godly Discernment

In our day, we know that not every occupation or profession is acceptable to the ways of Christ.  The discerning believer must search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) to determine what work violates the will of the Lord (Hebrews 5:14).  But excluding wrongful employment is only half of the problem.  The Christian also must determine which of the hundreds of professions and occupations are entirely acceptable for the follower of the Lord.  Generally, there will be a vast number of occupational choices that are not clearly sinful and not obviously right.  This category of jobs may be right in some cases and wrong in others.

 

Let’s imagine a situation that may serve as an illustration.  Renting a motel or hotel room seems to be morally neutral and most of us have done this in our travels.  What about owning an establishment like this?  Or what about working as a desk clerk in a motel or hotel?  Is it a good or bad choice to work in a hotel or motel, knowing that many of the guests are unmarried (thus they plan to commit fornication in the rented rooms), some are with a spouse of someone else (thus they plan to commit adultery in the room), some are remarried (and thus they also are living in adultery and plan to use the room for this ungodly relationship), and some will be homosexuals (and plan to use the motel or hotel room for their perversion).

 

In this case, simply offering a warm (or cool) room, with clean bed and shower, to a guest seems honorable. But considering the implications of this profession, we should pause to really see the pros and cons.  Paul wrote, “We have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).  Scripture also counsels us: “We are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (Hebrews 13:18).  But considering the fact that a certain number—probably a majority—of the guests in a motel or hotel will use the room dishonorably and sinfully, we must ask whether this would be an acceptable means of employment.  Would it be?  Some of the principles we earlier mentioned might be applied in this case.

Forsaking All for Christ

If you are a believer who has read and studied the previous sections of this booklet and has prayed over the question of employment, there may be some perplexity over your present job.  You may have some concern regarding your whole field of training and area of interest.  You may have studied in a college or university for four years to receive your degree or maybe you went a couple years beyond this to receive your master’s degree.  And now perhaps you have come to see that you are not where God wants you.  Or you may presently be in the process of studying for a profession that now seems to violate one or more Biblical principles.  Until now you may have deceived yourself into dismissing from your mind the questionable aspects of your job, but through the Lord’s gracious and penetrating enlightenment, you now see that something must be done!

 

Leaving your profession could result in a serious financial sacrifice.  If you could earn $1 million to $3 million in a lifetime, it is easily possible that you could stand to lose $1 million or more over your lifetime by renouncing a lucrative but questionable job. This is no small matter.  It is a great sacrifice to make, especially when certain others who claim to be Christians continue with such a job and don’t allow the Scriptures to bother them or don’t allow their conscience to be disturbed.  Paul writes of some whose mind and conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15), and who “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (v. 16).

 

When you look on the panorama of professing “Christians,” you will notice that many or even most of them are happy to work in many occupations that clearly violate Scriptural principles and thus are plainly sinful and wrong.  When you look at them—these ones who testify to God’s blessing of their life and their happiness to be “used of God” in their occupations—you may be led to wonder if it really is that important after all.

 

Paul the apostle writes: “We are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).  We must not compare our situation with others.  Further, we must not envy those who compromise the word of God for the sake of material gain or for the sake of enjoying an interesting profession.  Scripture says in Proverbs 23:17:

 

Do not let your heart envy sinners,

But live in the fear of the LORD always.

Surely there is a future,

And your hope will not be cut off.

We also read, “Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked” (Proverbs 24:19; cf. v. 1).  Notice also the warnings of Psalm 37:1:

Do not fret because of evildoers,

Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

For they will wither quickly like the grass

And fade like the green herb.

These passages remind us that we should not envy wrongdoers who are content to stay in a compromising occupation or do a compromising job.  While they may profess to be Christians, they are disobedient to the Lord, thus they cannot please Him or be in fellowship with Him (cf. 1 John 1:7; 2:3-6).  In a Scriptural body of believers, those members who sin by choosing a sinful profession or continuing in a sinful and compromising job will be excluded from fellowship until they repent and forsake their sinful relationships and activities.[16]

In a community of believers who are ordered by the Scriptures, each brother and sister will encourage others to seek acceptable employment that glorifies God.  These saints will practice the “one another” instructions that have to do with living in general and this includes the kind of work that the brothers and sisters seek and maintain.  Notice these relationships:

·      “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10; cf. 13:8).

·      “Admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14).

·       “Have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25).

·      “Through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

·      “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

·      “Be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32).

·      “Regard one another as more important” (Phil. 2:3).

·      “Teaching and admonishing . . . one another” (Col. 3:16).

·      “Encourage one another day after day” (Heb. 3:13).

·      “Increase and abound in love for one another” (1 Thess. 3:12; cf. 4:9)

·      “Encourage one another” (1 Thess. 5:11)

·      “Build up one another” (1 Thess. 5:11).

·      “Seek after that which is good for one another” (1 Thess. 5:15).

·      “Love of each one of you toward one another grows even greater” (2 Thess. 1:3).

·      “Stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).

·      “Pray for one another” (James 5:16).

·      “Fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22).

·      “Keep fervent in your love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8).

·      “Serving one another” (1 Pet. 4:10).

·      “We should love one another” (1 John 3:11; cf. v. 13; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 5).

This type of loving closeness will be the atmosphere where believers will be encouraged to pursue Godly employment and avoid wrongful occupations and jobs.  Christians will help their brothers to find employment that meets their needs, that can help fulfill their abilities and training, and that reflects their past experience.  This is the ideal and true believers should strive to this end.

 

We do need to realistically face the fact that believers may need to depart from compromising professions, worldly occupations, and questionable jobs.  Even coming to Christ will reflect this directly.   Suppose that someone wants to repent of his life of sin and faces the question of his job and what this will mean.  Maybe he has been employed in the defense industry, building fighter bombers.  Perhaps he has worked at Wal-Mart, with the hundreds of worldly items of merchandise, and now he wonders how he can leave a job that he has known for fifteen years.  Possibly he has worked as a high school biology teacher or a college geology professor, and now he recognizes that evolution is a deceitful and wicked theory that offends God the Creator.  What shall he do?  Perhaps a woman has worked as a hair stylist for ten years and now recognizes that she has violated many scriptures in her work as she cuts women’s hair short or arranges stylish coiffures.  But what other work can she enter?  Or it may be that a woman realizes that she is working in close quarters with men and this is not at all advisable.  Or a woman may be convicted that she should go back to the home and raise her children in the fear of God and home educate them according to the Scriptures.  How can this be arranged?

 

In all of these cases, the Christian may face serious financial problems unless a transition into another job is possible.  And if only a job with lower income is available, how does he pay his bills and support his family?  We would all, no doubt, like to find “security” in our chosen occupation or profession.  We may have invested $100,000 or more in the education and four to six years of toil.  And now we realize that we must renounce this job that requires sinful duties and relationships.  We would like our lives to proceed smoothly with handsome financial rewards and material abundance.  These desires are natural.  We want to support our family and provide for their many needs of housing, education, food, medical care, transportation, utilities, and a myriad of other expenses.  And now we face a serious crisis of unemployment, without savings or any other resources.  Although we want an income to supply our needs, God calls on us to sacrifice all to Him to follow the will of the Lord!  Although some false “prosperity” teachers promise material abundance, the Lord has not promised this and may want you to lose it all for Him.  God has not promised a cloudless sky for our journey through life.  A poet has well expressed this thought in the following lines:

 

God Hath Not Promised

 

God hath not promised skies always blue,

Flower strewn pathways all our lives through.

God hath not promised we shall not know

Toil and temptation, trouble and woe.

 

He hath not told us we shall not bear

Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

 

But God hath promised strength for the day,

Rest for the laborer, light for the way,

Grace for the trails, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

 

 

As believers, we must expect some real difficulties, deprivations and problems as an outcome of our commitment to Christ Jesus.  Paul told the new believers in Galatia, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  He told Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good solder of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).  He also wrote, “. . . you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5).  Indeed, our life in Christ is one of hardship, tribulations, and suffering.  Some of this may not be in the form of imprisonments or death, but may be the more mundane suffering of loss of employment.  We may lose our job because we discover that we cannot continue in it because of God’s will or we may lose it because of Christian persecution.  In all of this, we are willing to suffer for Christ’s sake (see 1 Peter 4:12-19).

When a person turns to the Lord Jesus, he will experience a revolutionary change in his life.  This will sometimes necessitate a renunciation of his particular job or occupation.  Consider these Biblical incidents.  When Rahab the harlot turned to God by faith and became part of God’s people, we assume that she left her harlotry profession (Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 6:22-25; Matthew 1:5).  When Matthew Levi came to Christ, we assume that he departed from his evil trade of Roman tax collecting (Matthew 9:9).  Probably Zaccheus did the same (Luke 19:1-10).  When the crucified robber turned to Christ for mercy, we would assume that he repented of his life of robbery (Luke 19:2, 8-10).

When Simon of Samaria believed on the Lord, he was expected to renounce his past life of sorcery (Acts 8:9-24).  Although Scripture is silent about the post-conversion life of Cornelius, the Caesarean centurion, we assume that he renounced his position because of the numerous negative features of his profession (Acts 10:1-48).  If the Philippian slave girl actually was converted, we assume that she did not continue with her fortunetelling (Acts 16:16-19).  If the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens had been converted, we would have no doubt that they would have forsaken their philosophical professions (Acts 17:18-34).  The Ephesians who practiced magic turned from this activity when they learned God’s will (Acts 19:18-20).

The one who turns to Christ in response to the call of the gospel comes with open hands.  He ceases to grasp whatever was displeasing to God and he lifts his hands to receive the rich blessings offered by the grace of Christ.  Jesus said that those who respond to Him must be willing to forsake all—including a questionable occupation.  The Lord said:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25)

On one occasion, the Lord even called on men to renounce a legitimate occupation to follow Him:

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the Son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.  (Matthew 4:18-22).

This is not usually the Lord’s procedure, for He generally wants one to continue where he is—unless the job involves certain negative and sinful factors, as we have noticed earlier.  But if one can continue practicing his profession, this is to be preferred (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20, 24).

Maybe one of the greatest examples of one who was willing to leave everything behind to live for Jesus was Saul, who later became Paul the apostle.  Paul tells us of his own willingness to turn away from his past life: “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:7-9).  We don’t know for sure what Paul meant by his counting things loss for the sake of Christ, but he may have had in mind his means of livelihood, among other things.  Are we willing to turn our back on an occupation or profession that entails certain wrongful and sinful duties?  Are we willing to renounce a job that conflicts with the will of God?

If You Must Leave Your Current Position

We have discussed that the Christian must refuse to take certain jobs because they violate the principles of the way of Christ.  Further, a Christian who now has a job that he discovers is displeasing to the Lord must be willing to renounce it for the Lord.  Scripture says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).  It is not just recognizing that certain aspects of one’s job are sinful, but it is a matter of repenting of participating in those sins and turning from the job so as to keep from involvement in the future. As this passage says, the one who “confesses” and “forsakes” the sins “will find compassion” from God.  He must “bear fruit” of righteousness “in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  This will involve leaving a compromising job and seeking other acceptable work.

 

One may reply, “But this will not be easy.  In fact, it will be extremely difficult for me to leave a job that I find to be wrong.  It would require looking for work and I am not at all guaranteed success in locating other acceptable employment.  If I do find work, I may need to accept a cut in pay and a reduction in responsibilities.  I will lose my seniority and my retirement funds.  I will lose my friends and associates.  I don’t know if I can make such a sacrifice!”  We know that it can be difficult, but if this is what your loyalty to God requires, then you must do it with the power and strength of the Lord.  He will give you the ability to leave your cherished job and will help you to find other employment that He accept as wholesome and good.

 

We must mention a related matter that is very difficult for people to accept although it is not that difficult to understand.  It is this: Suppose—for the sake of illustration—that you had a job producing pornography and selling it widely in this country.  You earn a great amount of money by this means.  You then purchase a $1 million home and place $1 million in the bank for the future.  Now you learn of your sin and choose to renounce your wicked means of livelihood.  First, will you sell your business to another person?  How can you?  How can you make money by selling a perverse and evil enterprise?  And second, if you want to repent and turn from this immoral business, you know that it is wrong to profit from sinful activity.  In other words, for you do repent, you will need to repent of all your sin and renounce all profit that you have gained from the sin.  (In other words, we are never to profit from sin if we seek forgiveness.)  Paul explained that we should “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).  We can see that in a case like this, one would need to forsake his house and bank account—worth $2 million—since that represents profit from extensive sin.

 

This principle of repentance and restitution may be seen in many other sinful professions.  What should a hair stylist do when she knows that surely 90% of her business has been sinful (cutting women’s hair short and producing worldly hair styles—1 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:9-10)?  What should a career army man do when this profession would surely be displeasing to God (Romans 12:17-21; John 18:36)?  What should a convenience store owner do since maybe 75% of what he sells would be sinful (cigarettes, worldly magazines, liquor and beer, junk foods, etc.)?  As you can see, this list could go on indefinitely.

 

In other words, what should the person do who wants to repent and turn from his sinful job or profession?  What will repentance and restitution mean in such cases?  Surely it will mean that he comes to see that he could not have profited in any way from the sins of his past.  He must make restitution for the Lord for his sinful compromise with righteousness.  He must be willing to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow” Jesus (Mark 8:34).  He must be willing to “lose his life” for Christ’s sake in order to gain it (v. 35).  He will know the truth of Jesus’ words: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (vv. 36-37).  Are you willing to deny yourself of your job, lose your life, carry your cross, and follow Jesus in repentance and true discipleship?

The Retired Worker
Set Free to Work for the Lord

Most of our discussion has related to the person who presently is in the work force.  But let’s have a word to those who are no longer employed.  Maybe you were forced into early retirement because of the economy or maybe you retired in a normal way as you reached the traditional retirement age.  Whatever the reason for your present state, you now find yourself unemployed and are able to sustain yourself.

 

If you are a Christian, we urge you to not fall into the typical pattern of those in the world.  Many of those who retire fall into the fleshly lifestyle of the sluggard or the lazy person, as the book of Proverbs puts it.  They spend their time in idleness and uselessness.  Some just don’t know what to do with their excess time and end up squandering it before the television, or playing golf, or fishing, or incessant shopping.  Statistics tell us that older people, especially older women, watch more TV than any other age group.  Much of this is simply wasted and it is a sin before God.  We are accountable for the use of all of our time and must use it wisely for the glory of God (Ephesians 5:15-16).

 

Instead of wasting your time on activities that will pass away and things that will burn up (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:7-14), how much better to use your free time—your retirement time—on positive and spiritual activities that will count for eternity!  Remember this as you enter the final period of your life: You are in a race that will take you to the finish line.  Now is not the time to wave at the crowds, pick the flowers, and adjust your running clothes.  Now is the time to exert all of the effort you can to run well and finish the race for the Lord.  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you will win” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

 

After a career of 40 to 50 years, you may be able to spend the remainder of your earthly life with God’s work in view.  Paul writes, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  If you are able-bodied and able-minded, you can do countless things for the Lord.  Serve your brothers and sisters in the Lord in any way you can.  Visit the sick.  Help the poor.  Paint the house of a needy saint.  Cut the grass and trim the hedges of those in need.  Go shopping for those who can’t easily do so.  Spend time reading Scripture to those whose sight is failing.  Give healthful cooking lessons for those who are open to nutritional excellence (which should be every genuine child of God).  In fact, gather younger women around you and train them to eat in a healthy way and lead their children and husbands in that direction (Titus 2:3-4).

 

You could take the children of single sisters “under your wings” and spend time with them.  You could make it your project to home school them so they can be education in a Christian atmosphere rather than a worldly and humanistic one.  You may need to devote from 9 AM to 12 Noon or 1 PM five days a week for this project, but you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping to build their life on a firm foundation of Scripture rather than the shifting sands of worldly education that will destroy them.

 

Of course, you can and should share Christ at every opportunity you can.  Now that you are retired, you can teach individuals the will of God more accurately (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3-4).  You can share the good news of Christ to the lost (Acts 8:4-5, 30-31, 35).  You can write letters (by pen or by computer) to build up the saved or teach the lost.  You can either send or hand Christian literature (tracts, pamphlets, books) or recordings to both Christians and non-Christians.  You may be able to travel to foreign locations to help share the gospel there, especially if you know the language.

 

In all of these ways, you can use your free time after completing your career for the cause of Christ.  Escape from the American hedonistic trap of pleasure and prosperity so you can use your remaining years in love for God and others.

My Own Experience

My own life reflects my desire to please God and not compromise His holy ways.  The first regular job I had was in the textile business, working as a cutter.  After working a couple of years, most of the employees voted to establish a labor union.  We were given one month to join—or lose our employment.  After this period I had to resign because of the numerous negative aspects of such an organization.  I simply could not be “bound together” with unbelievers in their unchristian pressure tactics (2 Corinthians 6:14ff).  (At the time, I was unaware of the provisions for religious exemption.)

 

I then began work in a hospital where I continued for eight months.  During this time, I was able to avoid involvement in a dishonest practice of the department.   Although my various immediate supervisors knew of my convictions and my refusal to do this activity, the top supervisor terminated me when he discovered my Christian convictions against this.  I then was transferred to another department where my stay was cut short when I discovered I would be required to work on Sunday, the Lord’s day.  I was out of work for the next four months.

 

Some years later, I took a job as a salesman, working in the water softening business.  After one week, I was impelled to resign.  I explained to the manager that the very high pressure and manipulative techniques required on the job was something that I could not do as a Christian.

 

Little happened for some years.  I took another job that lasted for a long time but then a new president and supervisor was installed.  Probably because of his own immorality and dishonesty, he simply didn’t like me and my Christian lifestyle regardless of my devotion to the company where I was located.  In time, he announced that he was going to change my shift to the Lord’s day.  When I explained my convictions on this and the fact that I had worked many years without this requirement, he refused to honor my pleas or place a non-Christian into that position.  I was dismissed.

 

From personal experience, I know what it is like to choose the way of Christ even when this will require termination from a position.  The way of Christ is the way of the cross.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It is the Lord’s will that we as believers live a joy-filled life of purpose and meaning.  Yet we also need to remember that God has not called us to earthly “success”—but to “faithfulness.”  If we are faithful to God, our life can be rich and fulfilling regardless of our circumstances and despite our occupational, professional, and employment defeats and difficulties.  A friend once wrote to me and said that God doesn’t necessarily want us to find fulfillment in life, and I believe that he had employment in mind.  I tend to differ with this.  By His grace, God does sometimes allow us to find fulfillment in our chosen work.  This is especially true if we believe that the work fills a genuine need, that it is a means of helping others, that it allows us to you to use your training and talents, and that it is interesting and stimulating and a means of growth and even outreach for Christ.

 

If we must remain in our present employment, even though we may not enjoy it, let’s ask God to give us the contentment we need to look on the work with His eyes.  Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).  He said, “Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).  Because of the circumstances, we may need to put up with a less than desirable situation on the job (while seeking some alternative).

 

Paul probably had some hardship on his job. Although it was ideal in one respect (he could take up his trade wherever he was as he traveled from city to city in the preaching of Christ), he probably had much fatigue and trials in his work.  Paul said that he worked “hard” (NASB, ESV) as he served with his hands (Acts 20:33-35). We know that Paul labored as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3).[17]  He made reference to his “labor and hardship” and his “working night and day” (1 Thessalonians 2:9; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8).[18]  We can imagine the difficulty of working in the winter weather when his hands were cold as he cut the leather and held the needle for his sewing.  We can imagine his using a lamp at night as he “burned the midnight oil” in his laboring.  Work can be exhausting and burdensome, but this is part of the inferior life of this fallen earth that has been ruined by sin.

 

Some of you are job hunting presently and want to find God’s will for your temporary or permanent position.  Others of you want to leave your present employment since you would like higher pay or greater benefits or different working arrangements.  And some of you feel impelled to leave your job because you can now see certain wrongful aspects of the job from a Biblical standpoint.  What can you do?  We offer the following suggestions:

 

1.    Ask God for His wisdom as you evaluate your situation in light of His Word (James 1:5).

2.    If you are now working, write down the reasons why you wish to leave your present job and evaluate these reasons in light of Scripture.

3.    If you are now unemployed, list the reasons God may have for your current situation (e.g., grow to trust in God, develop endurance, produce humility, strip away material goods, etc.).

4.    Take some time to evaluate yourself and life:

a.     What is your reason for living?

b.    What are your priorities in life?

c.     What do you believe God wants you to accomplish in life?  What are your goals?  (List reasons for your answers.)

d.    Do you have an impression of what occupation God wants you to enter?  What is it?  (Give reasons for your answer.)

5.    Take an objective look at yourself. From the employment bureau, guidance counselor, or private job counselor, take the following and have them evaluated: vocational interest inventory, aptitude tests, personality and temperament analysis.  Try to learn about yourself, your skills, and your interests.

6.    Read all you can about those occupations which are compatible with your interests, aptitude, abilities, and personality.  Obviously, you will study only those fields which you are convinced are within God’s will.

7.    Consider what education or training you have had or what you need and can obtain.

8.    Consider whether you have any experience in the field that interests you.

9.    Seek counsel from respected, spiritual, mature saints.  Especially seek advice from godly overseers/shepherds.

10. Spend time in prayer and seeking God’s will regarding your findings.

11. Make a decision or tentative decision (depending on your discernment of God’s will).  Carlyle said in his Inaugural Address in Edinburgh, “It is the first of all problems for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe.”[19]

12. Proceed with formulating a plan to find a job or enter a profession.

13. Obtain any further education or training that would be helpful in obtaining a given position.

14. Make any preparations necessary and follow through with this plan in dependence on God.

15. Locate employment—using whatever avenues you can: employment bureau, newspaper, leads from friends, writing or visiting employers directly.

16. If you are starting a business of your own, seek Godly counsel and read all you can on the subject of your interest first, to ensure proper preparations.

17. When you do begin a new position or enter a new occupation, continue to seek daily guidance.

18. Express thankfulness to God for His provision and loving care.

With God as Your Guide

The Lord will provide what you really need, and this includes a means of income. Seek His will and seek His face.  Notice our Lord’s promise: “How much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).  You may be assured that if you seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first—even in this matter of employment—he will provide for you  the daily necessities of life (Matthew 6:33).  Jesus Christ demands that He be Lord over every area of your life.  Be willing to follow His directions and He will give you the victory.

 

Endnotes

[1] All the Trades and Occupations of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 11.

[2] Lockyer, p. 14.

[3] Lockyer, p. 11

[4] Lockyer, pp. 12-13.

[5] “Slavery had become a well-traveled road to Roman citizenship throughout the empire by the 1st century, AD.  Captives were educated and trained in Roman ways before becoming citizens. . . . Evidence of various kinds indicates that the Roman freed slaves in great numbers” (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v., “Slavery.”

[6] Lockyer, p. 20.

[7] See John MacArthur, Jr., Different by Design (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), pp. 67-70.

[8] Our booklet, Making Responsible Decisions, offers many other questions to help you determine God’s will in any given matter.  (Presently this booklet is unavailable but we would like to produce a revised edition in the future.)

[9] The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. “Crafts.” See also Herbert Lockyer, All the Trades and Occupations of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969).

[10] Taken from David W. Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, p. 229.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Early Christians Speak, Third Edition, p. 195.

[13] History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, p. 339.

[14]theology.nd.edu/people/research/yoder-john/documents /EARLYCHRISTIAN.pdf

[15] See our booklet, Carnal Warfare or Spiritual Warfare?

[16] Many passages may be consulted that teach Christians to remove unrepentant brothers or sisters from the fellowship until they turn from their sins and seek God’s forgiveness (see Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

[17] “Paul would have been taught this trade as a youth.  It was the Jewish custom to provide manual training for sons, whether rich or poor” (NASB Study Bible note, Acts 18:3).

[18] “The Greeks in general thought manual labor degrading and fit only for slaves.  Christians took seriously the need for earning their own living. . .” (NASB Study Bible note, 1 Thessalonians 4:11).

[19] Lockyer, p. 13.

 

 

 

 

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