“So we are to be engaged in the public square, the local and global marketplace. But we are to do so as saints in the marketplace” (The Mission of God’s People by Christopher J.H. Wright)
How should I be a Christian in my professional life seems to be one of those common Christian questions. We know that it means more than evangelizing our co-workers, but if so, what exactly does it mean?
I choose the title saints on purpose, though I realize the connotation is fraught with unhelpful meaning for too many . In the west, we idolize our heroes of the faith. We have a notion that a saint is someone who does extraordinary things for God. They had a big moment with God and afterwards their lives were just one giant and wonderful act of obedience. While many saints are extraordinary our view of them is rather unhelpful. In Eastern Orthodoxy saints are common, saints are even everyday. They are flawed, they have various vocations, and their personalities are as varied as they come. Saints can be ordinary, they can be everyday, because God calls all of us to take up our cross daily to seek him and to seek the fruits of the kingdom. In other words the eastern view is that we can all be saints.
As evangelicals become less a moral majority in the culture it may be easier and easier to see how we can be distinctive in the marketplace. There are at least some simple guidelines for Christians. For instance we ought not to participate in work that is willfully dishonest, or if we do we must repent much like the tax collector in the temple.
One thing has to be said before I write too much more. As usual I’ll let N.T. Wright do the talking:
“Jesus is the Lord, but it’s the crucified Jesus who is Lord– precisely because it’s his crucifixion that has won the victory over all the other powers that think of themselves as in charge of the world. But that means that his followers, charged with implementing his victory in the world, will themselves have to do so by the same method. One of the most striking things about some of (what we normally see as) the later material in the New Testament is the constant theme of suffering, suffering not as something merely to be bravely borne for Jesus’s sake, but as something that is mysteriously taken up into the redemptive suffering of Jesus himself. He won his victory through suffering; his followers win theirs through sharing in his. The Spirit and suffering. Great joy and great cost. Those who follow Jesus and claim him (and proclaim him) as Lord learn both of them. It’s as simple as that” (Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright ).
You hear too often the notion that one after all has to provide for himself and his family. How many sins have been committed under the pretense of that saying. While it’s true scripture commends provision for family, even calling someone who is unable to provide faithless, it is not true that God is unaware of our needs. We too easily excuse ourselves from moral dilemmas in the workplace.
I know suffering is not a fun topic for American Christians, but it is a theme we should neither glorify nor ignore. They are a part of the Christian walk much like joy and provision, birth and baptism, even marriage. They are not necessarily a sign of failure or disobedience, they can often be a mark of the faithful Christian walk.
So back to to the topic at hand. How exactly should we be everyday saints in the marketplace? It’s hard to be overly specific, because circumstance, vocation, and vocational expertise can often help determine what this looks like in context. Here are some questions to ask yourself though. Do I view my work as having any specific Christian meaning? Am I any different at work then at home? Would my pastor be comfortable with how I act at work? Do I have compassion towards my co-workers? Do I use every opportunity to glorify God in my day to day work? Am I willing to speak up when I see signs of dishonesty, wickedness, and exploitation?
May the Lord bless you as you start your work week,