Back in October, I prompted my 6th grade English class to answer the following two questions in their journals: Who has the most important job at HOPAC and why? Who has the easiest job at HOPAC and why? I received a plethora of opinions ranging across a vast spectrum. There were a number of sensible students who informed me from their excellent opinion that the director, and deputy directors of the Secondary and Primary schools had the most important jobs for reasons including all the new students they had to meet with, all the extra days they had to be here when other faculty did not, and the fact that they had to sign off on every student’s report card (and that must take a long time all year long). I happen to have the daughter of our current Deputy Director of the Secondary School in my class, and interestingly enough she and many of her friends answered this way. Next came the intelligent yet self-absorbed group that said the students had the hardest job because they actually had to do homework and got detentions while teachers, because all they did was stand at the copier and make copies, had the easiest jobs on campus. Some caring students mentioned that our guards and day time janitorial workers had the most difficult jobs because they had to be out in the sun all day long. Erstwhile the director and his leadership team had the easiest job because his office was constantly air-conditioned. And let me not forget the very memorable little Limi who, although trying (I believe) to pay compliment, ended up insulting her ‘fashionable’ teachers by saying that “Mrs. Hundt and Ms. Guynes have the easiest jobs because all they have to do is show up and look pretty.” Hmmm. It all went to show me that an admirable profession, and also beauty, was completely influenced by one’s perspective, and obviously one’s perspective is influenced by a number of things!
This past week I was attending a discussion on Nancy Pearcy’s book Total Truth, a book about cultivating a Christ-like worldview and engaging culture, that I was reminded of this journal topic and how, like my naïve little 6th graders, we can also easily cling to such differing perspectives about what is an admirable profession. Who has the highest calling? Who is doing more of God’s work? In her first chapter, Pearcy talks about the Cultural Mandate:
“In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” the first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply,” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music.”
Brandon and I are now in the midst of her fourth somewhat chunky chapter, and she is still hammering home the misconception that American Christians split jobs into two categories: those with a holier calling (i.e. Pastors, Missionaries, and other ministry related professions), and those that put the bread on the table. She spent chapter three showing how this tendency comes from a long line of similar views throughout history, all relating back to Plato’s philosophy of the forms being perfect and matter being flawed.
At first this meant little to nothing to me except a chance to reminisce about the class Christianity in the Western Culture I took at Bethel my freshman year. That, by the way, I was so proud of myself for passing that I became a TA for the same brood of history and philosophy profs that annually teach the class to a new set of academically scared freshmen. At times it can take me a bit of effort, or somebody else’s guidance, to appropriately apply literature of this kind to my life, as I find it much easier to gloss over the words that become paragraphs and then pages and then finally completed chapters for the sake of claiming that I have in fact read that book. For this purpose I accepted the invitation to join the book discussion, knowing full well that they would make me think about the content much better than I would for myself.
And so, my discussion group, which incidentally is comprised of 13 missionaries and one Tanzanian, was able to remind me of how people respond to the Cultural Mandate. We talked about how Missionaries are somewhat idolized in their home churches. They’re prayed over publicly, they’re viewed as people who are fearlessly doing so much more for the Kingdom than normal Joe who might work as an accountant for Company and Enterprises Inc. They are looked upon as examples of people who really rely on God. This is a bit distorted, not because Missionaries and Pastors aren’t all those things, but because “non-missionaries” can be all of those things too. I believe many people hold to this notion that all jobs can be equally glorifying to God whether it be Youth Pastor, High School Teacher, Flight Attendant or Car Mechanic, in theory, but how does the culture of our church show or not show support for this. Thanks for praying for Missionaries and Pastors and Sunday School teachers around the world, but could we also welcome Accountant Joe to the front of the church for anointing and prayer during tax season? The main point here is for every Christian to treat their workplace as a mission field. To do business in a way that’s pleasing to God, not just the bottomline. To give your occupation to God, that He may be glorified in it. To find fulfillment in what you do and why you do it, because your abilities and your passions that led you to that job are gifts given by God.
This hit home again the more I allowed myself to dwell and pray about it. What does this mean for my life? Both Brandon and I truly want to find fulfillment in our professions and in our roles in formal ministry settings like church, we want to glorify God and be committed somewhere long enough to see some fruit. However we don’t completely feel called to be long term missionaries in Tanzania. We want to return home to the United States and begin engaging the culture that we know as our own, whether in a Christian setting or a secular one. We know God has something perfect planned for both of us… we just don’t know yet where or what that is, so prayer in this area for us would always be welcomed.
Secondly, we’d like to pray for all of you that you continue to find fulfillment in your workplace, or begin to if you have not yet. We want to celebrate the work you do wherever it is, whatever it is. We want to praise God for the gifts He has given you that make you exceptional at it. And then we want to challenge you and us together to continue living out your lives as acts of worship, holy and pleasing to God.