By Steve Morgan
Do you ever feel like you’re not really doing spiritual work--as though your work isn’t important to the kingdom because it doesn’t feel spiritual enough? Maybe you work in a “secular” job and look to people in ministry as the spiritual workers. Maybe you work in a “ministry” job and look to people in secular jobs as the evangelist and spiritual workers. Or maybe you are like me, a seminary student and worker who has a non-ministry, non-secular job, which gives access to believers who are mostly already called to ministry. I only have the opportunity to interact with nonbelievers when my wife and I leave campus, which at 40+ hours of work and school a week can be rarer than we desire.
Very regularly, I find myself and others struggling to identify our work as spiritual and Godly. It is not that I think of my work as un-Godly, but often it feels a-Godly. I had an old pastor who used to talk about functional atheism and I think this sort of thing is what he was getting at. I work in social media. I stare at numbers and posts all day. If you haven’t discovered this already, Facebook can feel very spiritually empty. I regularly go home feeling as though I am in an unspiritual bad standing with God because I am not working in “ministry.”
The Devil’s lie goes like this: If you aren’t a minister who evangelizes for hours a day, then you aren’t doing spiritual work. He creates two castes, the spiritual caste and the secular caste. If you don’t belong to the correct class (spiritual), you can end up in a rut, like I occasionally do. It can be quite depressing to wrestle through this lie from the Devil.
But it is only a lie, and lies only live for a short while. The truth will always come out.
As Germans were struggling through this very same issue, Martin Luther wrote in An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, “All Christians are truly of the ‘spiritual estate,’ and there is among them no difference at all but that of office, as Paul says in I Corinthians 12:12. We are all one body, yet every member has its own work, where by it serves every other, all because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all alike Christians; for baptism, Gospel and faith alone make us ‘spiritual’ and a Christian people.”
Luther argues that spirituality via work has nothing to do with the job itself. There are no spiritual jobs, just as there are no secular jobs. In Luther’s mind, spirituality came with the priesthood of the believer. He later cites I Peter 2:9, which says, “You are a royal priesthood, a priestly kingdom.” Luther further argues that since we are all a part of the priesthood, then any and every job we take is spiritual work.
This notion becomes one of the foundations of protestant life moving into the future from the Reformation. We, as Baptists, especially ought to hold to this because we view the priesthood of the believer as one of our primary doctrines. Since every Christian is a priest, then every Christian does spiritual work, no matter the circumstance. The python wrangler (not a Pentecostal joke) has as spiritual of a job as the pastor. The electrical engineer has as spiritual of a job as the evangelist. The sheepherder has as spiritual of a job as the seminary professor. I suppose in some ways, seminary professor and sheepherder are more similar than they’d care to admit. I think I can safely make that joke since I have no more classwork left in my degree.
The basis for this statement comes from our status before Christ, not necessarily the caste to which our jobs belong. Justification by faith through the blood of Christ ushers us into the priesthood, not our earthly job. Based on this knowledge, we serve Christ and the Kingdom best by performing our job to the best of our ability and to the glory of God. Hard work is good, spiritual work. Don’t buy into the lie of the Devil. Working hard and ethically at your job passively preaches the Gospel, which should always be accompanied by active proclamation of the Gospel, whether you work in a church, a seminary, or anywhere else.
Steve Morgan is a graduate student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Morgan also serves as the Digital Communication and Marketing Coordinator at NOBTS.