The arena in Orlando, Florida was packed with over 5,000 business people attending a one-day motivational conference. I was there with a number of my salespeople from work to listen to some of today’s greatest inspirational speakers, including General Colin Powell, Dick Vitale and Tony Robbins.
One of the speakers asked, “If you went home tonight and found that a long lost relative had died and left you ten million dollars, would you be at work tomorrow?”
A resounding “NO!” came from all around the arena.
The audience’s response is no surprise. A Gallup poll found that 77 percent of Americans say “I hate my job.” Another poll found that Americans hate their jobs more today than in the past 20 years; fewer than half say they are satisfied with their current job. With 50-hour-plus work weeks and long commutes, workers are spending more and more of their lives at work; yet many of them are unfulfilled and frustrated with their jobs.
Even for many Christians, work is often only a means to an end. Many Christians today have bought into the pagan notion that leisure is good and work is bad. They have also been misled by the sacred/secular distinction, which teaches that working in the church is the only “real” full-time Christian service.
This artificial division between sacred and secular has not always prevailed. The Reformers taught that all labor is noble if it is accepted as a calling and performed “as unto the Lord.” This truth has slipped dramatically in both today’s church and contemporary culture. In his book The Callings: The Gospel in the World, Paul Helm says:
Work is part of a Christian’s calling…. This Biblical idea has had a profound influence in Europe and North America since the Reformation but has largely been forgotten, due to the eclipse of the influence of the Christian gospel from national life.
As a businessman in the mid 90’s, this was certainly the case in my life. If you had asked me, “what are you doing to further the Kingdom of God,” I would have answered, “I am an elder at my church, teach adult Sunday school and work with several non-profit organizations.”
The idea that my vocational work mattered to God never crossed my mind. I believed that as a Christian I should work in an ethical manner and take every opportunity to share my faith. Beyond that I saw no connection between my faith and my work.
When I heard that question, “If you inherited a fortune, would you be at work tomorrow?”, I remember thinking, “Absolutely not! I would quit my job and do something important for God, maybe go to seminary, become a pastor or possibly go on the mission field.” Yet even in that moment I knew something was wrong with this picture.