How the Church Fails Businesspeople 4

Screen-shot-2012-03-06-at-5.15What was Apostle Paul’s job?

A tentmaker, of course!  Lydia was a merchant.  Peter was a fisherman.  Jesus was a carpenter.  In How the Church Fails Businesspeople, John Knapp says “very little social or occupational hierarchy is evident in the New Testament church.”  But, as church grew, “egalitarian values gave way to formal structures that increasingly placed ministerial responsibility and authority in the hands of local bishops.”  Gradually, this “clergy/laity gap widened,” and the clergy came to be viewed as possessing “gifts and graces not available to lesser mortals” by the third century, Knapp says while quoting Frank Viola and George Barna in Pagan Christianity.

This makes sense.  And I think there is more.

The New Testament is deafeningly silent about Jesus’ work as a carpenter.  We just know that he was a carpenter’s son, and he probably learned the trade from his father.  Likewise, even though we know Paul was a tentmaker, we don’t hear him talk much at all about tentmaking.

I’m not saying the gospel writers should have written about Jesus’ carpentry career.  I’m not saying Paul should have written to churches about his tentmaking.  Why should he have?  What the church needed to hear was the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is what he wrote them about.

But then, maybe it was inevitable that the secular-sacred distinction would seep into Christian communities, eventually birthing what may be an unbiblical hierarchy of occupations.  After all, when we hear “Jesus,” we don’t first think, “carpenter.”  We instead think of teacher, savior, and Lord.  When we hear “Paul”, we don’t first think, “tentmaker.”  We think of apostle, missionary, and preacher.  Now, is this because we are misreading the Bible, with our eyes already colored by the lens of unbiblical secular-sacred distinction?  I suspect not.  Rather, I think this is because Jesus and Paul talked about the gospel more than they talked about carpentry or tentmaking.

As a result, perhaps folks began according more and more authority to the clergy who talked about the gospel than to anyone doing carpentry or tentmaking.  And so was born the hierarchy of occupations.



Luther on Calling, Again!

“If you are a craftsman you will find the Bible placed in your workshop, in your hands, in your heart; it teaches and preaches how you ought to treat your neighbor.  Only look at your tools, your needle, your thimble, your beer barrel, your articles of trade, your scales, your measures, and you will find this saying written on them.  You will not be able to look anywhere where it does not strike your eyes.  None of these things with which you deal daily are too trifling to tell you this incessantly, if you are but willing to hear it; and there is no lack of such preaching, for you have as many preachers as there are transactions, commodities, tools, and other implements in your house and estate; and they shout this to your face, ‘My dear, use me toward your neighbor as you would want him to act toward you with that which is his.'”

Again, this is Luther, according to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation.

Luther on Calling!

“The incomparably clearest sign in God’s providence is the fact that we have the neighbor we actually have.  In that fact lies the law, an evidence of a definite vocation.  Uncertainty as to whether one is called is often due to regarding oneself as an isolated individual, whose ‘call’ must come in some inward manner.  But in reality we are always bound up in relations with other people; and these relations with our neighbors actually effect our vocation, since these external ties are made by God’s hands.  A craftsman’s workshop is like a Bible, in which is written how he is to conduct himself toward his neighbor.  Toos and food, needle and thimble — not even excepting ‘your beer-vat’ — call aloud, ‘Use us for the well-being of your neighbor!’  Things are the vehicle of the Word of God to us.”

This is Luther, according to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation.

Luther on Guidance!

“In answer to the anxious question as to whether the vocation I find myself in is the one God willed for me, Luther refers to the sayings of Christ that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our heavenly Father, and that all the hairs of our head are numbered.  All the external, daily events which form the course of a man’s life are guided by God and proceed from his will.”

This is God’s providence, that is, God’s love finding “expression in God’s direction in external matters.”

Again, according to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation.

Luther on Vocation 9

luther on vocationAccording to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation, Luther taught that a “Christian is both old and new man, not only in relation to God’s judgment, God’s forgiveness, but also in his encounter with vocation and neighbor.”

A Christian is  the old man “insofar as the encounter [with his neighbor] irritates him” but the “new man when the encounter takes place with inner calm and joy.”  “In this is the real meaning of the expression simul iustus et peccator (righteous and sinner at the same time).”  And the “true mortification” of this old man takes place “not in deserted places apart from the company of people, but right in the social and political order.”

In other words, in my encounter with my co-workers in my job, I am sanctified.

In His Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.  …  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 2.)

One of the drivers, perhaps the main driver, behind my dive into the meaning of vocation is my desire to be doing professionally what God wants me to be doing where he wants me to be doing it.  I am usually not certain at all that that is the case.  And then I feel this uneasiness, this hard-to-define feeling, that I am wasting my time.  Wasting God’s blessings on my life.  And that God is vaguely dismayed.

I was agitated with these thoughts this morning.  Then the words of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes quoted above came to my mind.

I think God is gently letting me know that I need to be humble before him with these words.

“Son,” he is saying, I think, “there is a time for every matter.”  “I know.  I will bring it about.  Right now is the time I have set for you to plant what you have, and pluck up what you plant, where you are, today.  And, when the time comes, the time that is right in my time, I will set you where I want you then, and you will plant what you have then, pluck up what you then plant, where you are then.  There is a time for every matter under heaven.  And I will set that time for you.  Don’t concern yourself with it.  Trust me.”