“I just wish I did work that mattered as much as your work does.”
I was wrapping up lunch with a new friend when he dropped this line. His comment didn’t catch me off-guard. Frankly, it didn’t surprise me at all. I hear this comment—and close iterations of it—a lot. And I’m really tired of it. I’m tired of what it does to me and, even more, I don’t like what it does to my friends.
I get it. I’m living the Christian dream, folks.
I work for an incredible global nonprofit. We’re missionary bankers, investing in the dreams of over half a million grassroots entrepreneurs around the world. Every day, we give vulnerable Rwandans and Ukrainians hope for today while introducing them to lasting Hope for eternity. We’re literally “proclaiming Good News to the poor…and setting the captives free.” I’m living the dream. But these comments inadvertently elevate my work while diminishing all others to little more than donation-makers.
I understand the line between my work and eternal significance seems incomparably short—surely much shorter than someone working as an engineer or baker—but my work is no more sacred. Granted, it’s taken me a long while to really believe that. When I first started working for HOPE International, I probably did think I was a little better than many of you Christians not working for nonprofit ministries. Just a little bit better. I’m sorry, but I think I did.
And I probably thought I was a little less spiritual than missionaries working directly on the field, those actually working in the slums. I felt I was less spiritual than activists running orphanages and/or living the monastic life. I always had an inferiority complex, to be frank, whenever I talked to anyone working to free women trapped in the sex trade at International Justice Mission. Because, I mean, they’re just amazing.
But the vocational kingmaking still pervasive in our churches corrodes us. And it’s simply unbiblical. I believe it hoists many pastors and missionaries onto dangerous pedestals and relegates the rest to cheer leading. Yes, God calls some of us to work for remarkable nonprofits, but he calls more of us to work for law firms, retailers and electrical contractors.
If we really believe we’re all priests, my work is no more significant than Christians manufacturing metal fans and selling mattresses. Scripture uses the analogy of a body. And our biblical heroes include all sorts of careers, from shepherds to centurions.
Some of their careers appear, I don’t know, almost secular. Matthew worked for the Roman IRS. Daniel and Joseph served as high-ranking government officials in pagan regimes. Jesus and Joseph were carpenters. Peter, Andrew and John were fishermen (they still fished for fish, even after they became fishers of men).
When I really look at scripture, perhaps I am the one who should be concerned about whether or not my profession is biblically validated. It’s not so easy to find biblical examples of Christian fundraisers!
Through my work, we provide loans and savings accounts to people living on meager incomes in Congo and India. But my work is no more sacred, nor more biblically validated, than bankers managing the assets of American millionaires. It’s just not. We’re all to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness.” No career has the market cornered on being salt and light.
Merrill Lynch and HOPE International. [Your employer] and International Justice Mission. In light of God and the mission he’s given to us all, we’re all on the same team, each serving uniquely. I don’t care if you’re a homemaker, hotelier, or housemaid. It might not always feel that way, but your job matters as much to God as mine does.
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This post was published October 4, 2013
Chris Horst is the chief advancement officer at HOPE International, an international microfinance organization that helps people escape poverty. His development staff raise $16 million annually to support HOPE’s mission. He loves to write, having been published in The Denver Post and Christianity Today and co-authored Mission Drift, Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing, and Rooting for Rivals with Peter Greer. In addition to his role at HOPE, he serves on the board of the Mile High WorkShop.