Volume. XXIV, No. 23
Sunday, 06 December 2009

The Dichotomy of Work: Sacred and Secular?


According to Richard A. Muller, the author of the “Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms”, the word “vocation” has its root in the Latin verb vocare, meaning "to call". In fact, the usage of this word before the sixteenth century, referred firstly to the "call" by God to the individual, or calling of all humankind to salvation. In view of the above etymological and historical data, a vocation or a job was originally meant to be a sacred calling, similar to that of a minister. If our vocation is a sacred calling, should there be a distinctive separation and division between the so-called “sacred” and “secular” vocations? We shall explore this question from further historical information and from a biblical perspective. 
Two Tiers of Work: Sacred (Spiritual) and Secular?
While it is true that the nature of one vocation might be vastly different from the other, it is important for Christians not to perceive their so-called “secular” job as merely an “unholy” responsibility completely different from that of a minister or full-time church worker. Our Lord himself was a carpenter and so sanctified all manner of “ordinary” occupations. If the perfectly righteous life of the Son of God was a life of “ordinary” work, at least for the first 30 years of his life, there shouldn’t be a clear distinction between the so-called “sacred” and “secular” work. However the responsibilities of each job might be very different.
In fact, the early church seems to have been that of Christians giving glory to God in and through their occupations, doing the same jobs as unbelievers but performing them in a distinctly Christian way. They did not draw apart to live a separated life. They shared a common life but with a difference. They had a sense of vocation, but they were aware that it was their holy calling from God as well. In other words, the early day Christians lived in the same world but according to a different set of convictions, a different set of standards, and a different set of purposes and intentions. Their holiness was found in the way that they lived the life that unbelievers had to live as well, through which they were able to impact the lives around them and bring people to Christ. The following is a brief description from the mid 2nd century work, “The Letter to Diognetus”: For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life… It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.
It was by the 4th century that this view of a Christian and his work had been replaced by a “two-tiered theory” (i.e. unbiblical medieval theory) of Christian occupation. According to this second theory, the ordinary daily callings of ordinary Christians were second-class, unholy, ofrelatively little importance, and provided much less of an opportunity to serve the Lord. The following is an excerpt of Eusebius work on “Demonstratio Evangelica”: Two ways of life were…given by the law of Christ to his church. The one is above nature, and beyond common human living;it admits not marriage, child-bearing, property nor the possession of wealth, but, wholly and permanently separate from the common customary life of mankind, it devotes itself to the service of God alone in its wealth of heavenly love…and the other, more humble, more human, permits men to join in pure nuptials and to produce children, to undertake government, to give orders to soldiersa kind of secondary grade of piety is attributed to them, giving just such help as such lives require, so that all men…” [Demonstratio Evangelica, I, viii cited in W.R. Forrester, Christian Vocation, 43] In a nutshell, according to this view of work ethic, ministers, monks, and nuns lived the Christian life on “the higher level” – they worked to serve the Lord, but the rest “worked to eat”. Jerome, in the 4th century would go so far as to say, “A merchant can seldom if ever please God,” and Augustine went further to say, “Business is in itself evil.” [Cited in Scott Quatro, Business Practice and Human Resource Management as God’s Creation, 1]
However, the second view (medieval view) poses two very serious errors pertaining to Christian work ethic. First, it is a view that wholly lacks biblical justification. Second, it has kept generations of Christians from bringing the gospel to bear in a powerful way on the affairs of the world because they only “work to eat” not “work to serve”. Unfortunately, many Christians also hold this grossly distorted view of work ethic and it is being adopted and taught by many protestant/evangelical churches today.
Protestant/Puritan Work Ethic
It took the Reformation and the rediscovery of the Biblical viewpoint of work to make an effective attack on this sacred/secular dichotomy of work. Since the time of the Reformation through to the Puritan period, the first and foremost biblical text employed to prove that occupations are divine callings to be fulfilled in faith, love, and obedience, was 1 Corinthians 7:17: “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
Martin Luther was one of the first who began the attack on the medieval model of work ethic and carried it out with vigour. John Calvin, one of the most prominent second generation reformers wrote, “It is an ancient error that those who flee worldly affairs and engage in contemplation are leading an angelic life… We know that men were created to busy themselves with labor and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when each one attends to his calling and studies to live well for the common good.” [Com. on Luke, at 10:38; vol. ii, 89]
This model of Protestant Ethic was later called “Puritan Work Ethic,” partly because the Puritans were the ones who really lived up to this model, but also because they have worked out greater details of this mode of ethic based on Colossians 3:23 which says, “…whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”. In short, the Puritan understanding of work was founded on the absolute rejection of the unbiblical and medieval distinction between “sacred” (spiritual) and “secular” work.
In Conclusion:
Christians today should not make any unnecessary and unbiblical distinctions of work either. Our work, no matter what kind of vocation we are in, is the sphere of our service to God and we should choose our career carefully, not merely based on salary level or prestige. As Rev Richard Baxter, a 17th century English Puritan and pastor advised, “Choose that employment or calling… in which you may be most serviceable to God. Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do most good, and best escape sinning.” Simply working hardis not enoughto justify one’s duty toward God as a Christian worker.We must know who we are working for and for what end we are working hard to God’s glory. May God help us.
Ps Weng

More Lively Hope



Kitchen Rosters: Team Leader: Sis Ethel Chung. Next Lord’s Day Kitchen Roster: Team Leader: Bro Daniel Volvricht.
Session thanks organizers, participants, helpers, food/drink contributors for a blessed Christmas Concert yesterday evening.
Special thanks to Rev K S Moon & The Korean Presbyterian Church, Rev J White & Strathalbyn Bible Christian Church, for their fellowship & contribution to the Christmas Concert.
Please proceed to the dining room immediately after the Worship Service.
No BSAG in December.
Flower roster for 2010 on notice board. Please write your name if you can help.
Looking Ahead
Christmas Worship Service, Fri 25 Dec, at 10.00 am.
Watchnight Service, Thurs, 31 Dec, 7:30 pm.
Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Sis Myung Ki & family (Seoul); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe (Adl/Perth); Bro Raymond Chia & family (Adl); Bro Peter & Sis Sonya Mitchell (Adl); Bro Lucas Yiew & family (KI/Adl); Bros Raymond Ang (Perth), Lincoln Law (Lond), Raphael Ng (Pt Aug/Adl), Richard Tee (Melb) & Youwen Yeap; Sisters Joyce Chen (S’pore), Michelle Lee, Corinne Teng (Perth) & Maybelline Tan (S’pore); & others who have travelled.
Church activities over the past week.
Daily mercies, protection, and guidance.
Christmas Concert yesterday evening - God’s blessing, Gospel preached and good weather.
Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Rev John & Mrs Christine McKenzie; Rev Stephen Khoo, Dr & Mrs S H Tow; Rev & Mrs James White; Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Tommy Brooks, Colin Creaser, Makoto Kobayashi (JPN), Elton Law, Alan Marion, Len & Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, Fred Volvricht & Hans Ziegelmann; Mr Swee Liang Ng, Mr Yeom; Grandpa Ki; Auntie Oei; Sisters Lynette Booth, Mabella Booth (recent fall), Nita Chong’s mother, Annie D’Mello & her mother (Mumbai), Myung Ki (& her father - S Korea), Choon Fong Lee (KL); Fiona & Lehia Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson; Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena Kurek-Braden; Mrs Win Hooper; & others in affliction.
MISSIONS - Rev David Koo & Ministry & Life University; Rev Moses Hahn & Ministry (Sihanoukville); Hopefuls in S’pore; Teo family (Kuching); Bro Surish Dharmalingam - (Vientiane & Siem Pang); Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim (Melb); IBPFM (USA) - missionaries & funds; Batam Missions (organised by Ebenezer BPC , Melb) - preparations.
Journey mercies: Ps Ki & family (Lond); Bro John & Sis Josephine Wong (Bris/Adl), Bro Yick Ho Lam (S’pore) & Raphael Ng (Pt Aug/Adl), Sisters Sarah Carpenter (Perth) & Grace Seow (Adl/S’pore); Mrs Julie Teo & Mrs Way Chor Yiew (S’pore); and all others who are travelling.
Hopefuls’ get-together in S’pore (19 Dec) for next year’s newcomers to Adelaide & Hope BPC.
Job - Bro Cong Pham; Sisters Hui Wei Chua, Judy Li, Tabitha Tan & Corinne Teng.
Good health in pregnancy - Sisters Mira Hornung (twins), Bernadette Ng, & Susan Weng.
God’s comfort, strength, guidance & care: Sisters Kathleen Creaser & Margaret Hooper.
Bible-Presbyterian National Youth Camp - God’s blessing on Speaker (Bro Pete Blake), organisers & Participants. Spiritual growth for campers.
Sunday School Christmas Party - Good fellowship & weather.
Bro Peeyau & Sis Kim Tan - wisdom & guidance in bringing up Isabella. Postnatal convalescence of Sis Kim
Bro Richie & Sis Mira Hornung’s missions work in The Philippines.
MV Doulos - has been decommissioned. Pray for replacement ship to carry on with world evangelism.
Unity of fellowship & doctrine of B-P Churches.



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