I’ve been watching with interest the unfolding discussion around some of my posts about art. One of the crucial issues seems to be how to understand the New Testament teaching about the value of work and the relationship between Christian obedience and secular work.
Whatever we finally conclude about the meaning of verses like 1 Cor 15.58, we have to say that we — especially here in Sydney — have an image problem. We’re seen to devalue secular work by our strong emphasis on ‘labour in the Lord’, giving up careers etc to pursue full-time work that directly contributes to building Christ’s body — preaching, evangelism, teaching Sunday School, etc…
I’m not saying we actually devalue secular work. Only that that’s what we’re seen to do.
And so we need to hear Lesslie Newbigin’s warning (am I the last person in the world to discover Newbigin? I feel like he was saying stuff thirty years ago that I want to say today):
It must be confessed that in some of our thinking about the task of missions we have taken a wholly unbiblical view of the world. We have spoken as though the affairs of secular history concerned us only when they either assisted or impeded the work of the Church. We have often made it appear as though we believed God to be interested only in religious questions. Thereby we have repelled from the Gospel the artist and the scientist and the lover of men, because we appeared to be insensitive to the beauty, the truth and the goodness that they found everywhere about them; because it appeared that we tried to assert the uniqueness of Christ by denying the splendour of God’s work in creation and in the spirit of men. We have made it appear that we have regarded the man who gives himself to the service of God and men in politics or social service or research as having a less central part in God’s purpose than the man who gives full-time service to the Church. (Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission, p 27)
Ouch. Stings, doesn’t it?