Annie Dillard once said,
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Work, for most of us, looms large in that equation. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work – or around one third of their life. Scary. So it’s no wonder that so many Christians are asking questions about whether those hours at a secular job are where God wants them.
For many of us, there’s a vibe that God cares more about the work of a pastor than the work of a plumber. Where work fits on the sacred/profane divide is a debate that’s had a long history, and everyone from Martin Luther to Tim Keller has weighed in on it.
It’s a question I’ve grappled with, too. When I left a Christian ministry workplace this year, I had misgivings. Should I stay in the ministry space, or pursue my career elsewhere? Was my ambition okay in God’s eyes? Even when I blog, I wonder if my posts are not faith-oriented enough.
After all, isn’t Christian work really what I should be doing?
Taking care of business
Funnily enough, this question cropped up in a year when I’ve been in contact with more Christians who are passionate about integrating faith with work. One of them is Sarah-Jane Meeson.
This lady and I crossed paths when I recently recorded a podcast with her. SJ is passionate about helping women in business understand how faith and business can be connected. Having founded two businesses herself, her work has helped encourage 20,000 women and counting.
“It’s getting women to understand who they are in God, that they are part of a kingdom that’s so much bigger than this world of Instagram comparison,” she says.
The network, incidentally, includes Christian women from a wide spectrum of businesses, from graphic design to cleaning. So when I asked her about the age-old question of whether “secular” work is less valuable than “sacred” work, she is well in her wheelhouse.
“You’re not just a Christian on Sundays,” she says. “Just because you’re in the secular world doesn’t mean you’re not in ministry.
“I feel a bit queasy when people say things like, ‘I only go to church on Sundays for other people, not for myself’. Because then I’m thinking, does that mean that the whole other time you’re living for yourself? Is Sunday the only day you give to others, or show God’s love?
“The answer is, of course, no you don’t. Your whole life, whether it’s being a mum at home, working in the secular world or whatever it is – every single day is an opportunity to be the light in this world.”
She says that God-given gifts – no matter where or how – can be a type of worship, too. After all, God worked and created, and it was part of his plan for us to do the same. “By working and using the gifts that you have, you can worship God,” she says. “You can give him praise for what he’s given you, and the skills and talents that come with that.”
It’s inspiring to meet someone who believes in work so much that her ministry is to encourage women in their businesses. In a world where women can be victims of the confidence gap, this is no small gift.
Maybe ministry isn’t just standing in the pulpit or volunteering down at the homeless shelter. Christian ministry is certainly important, and doesn’t mean you shouldn’t devote time to sharing the gospel itself.
But maybe, other work we do can be ministry if we submit it to God. How you do your work – as you care for others and do the best with what you have – can help support you as you point to the God who gave you those talents.
A silent sermon
There’s an apocryphal quote from Luther that says,
The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.
God’s light isn’t only reflected in what you’re doing – that is, pursuing a church ministry role or being an evangelist. It’s also in the how you’re doing it – that you’re showing that grace and love toward others, doing your best, and using your gifts to point back to God.
Whatever you do, it’s a “silent sermon”. And while your work doesn’t earn you grace, it can be an indicator of God’s character, whether you’re working on a marketing campaign or making sandwiches at Subway. As the famous quote goes,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… (Colossians 3:23-24)
Remembering that “whatever you do” part.
You can listen to Episode #93 of the CWIB podcast with SJ Meeson here.
Sarah-Jane Meeson is the founder of Christian Women in Business & The Automation Girl. SJ is on a mission to help women in business understand how faith and business can be connected together and along with mentoring and consultations. SJ is originally from the UK and has been living in Australia for 10 years. She is married with no kids or fur babies, but does have a mountain bike and climbing gear.