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In the Beginning, there was… Work

June 4, 2019 | by: Tom Kruggel | 0 comments

in-the-beginningBending a knee to Jesus and trusting Him as Savior in my teenage years, the call to follow and serve Him with the whole of my life seemed unquenchable. Visions of what that might look like quickly became etched, leading to a full-on quest with vim and vigor in tow.

Over the years formal and informal ministerial studies were pursued and, when finished, a vocation of ministry (with pay) perfectly fell into place with my passion for ministry. Work and the sacred were linked. Destiny appeared aligned with aspiration.  

But the dream faded when other realities of life set course. The alignment was going askew. “Ministry-as-work” changed course into “ministry-as-non-work” when I accepted a much-needed and unexpected job in commercial real estate. That was 35 years ago and my “call” to full-time ministry seemed averted for the remainder of my life.

tom-kruggel“Perhaps I made a mistake and should reverse course back into full-time ministry?” “But why, when I love what I do and the people I work with, and have found otherwise impossible inroads with the Gospel as well as favor in the eyes of the ‘king’, my employer?” “What now was my purpose for work when my ‘calling’ was to work for Him?” With the march of time and tenure, those type questions around God’s purposes about work routinely cadenced across my head.  

In the beginning, there was… work (and I might add, “it was good”). It’s one of the very first mentions about anything in the Bible. The formation of creation itself required work, even for God. [1] “God worked for the sheer joy of it” [2], writes Timothy Keller.  And The Creator marvelously passed along work to His image-bearer [3] and “… put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” [4]

The fall of man into deceit from the devil made work difficult, [5] but it didn’t change its intrinsic nature because “… everything created by God is good”. [6] Martin Luther wrote that, “man was created not for leisure but for work, even in the state of innocence”. [7]

As sin taints most everything, so it can taint the goodness of work and our paradigms about it. The Greeks, with their mythological worldview, helped distort even our current, modern day thinking about work when they saw it as “… a curse and nothing else”. [8] Work was viewed then, and can be even now for us, as a barrier to a higher, more sanctified life. But the Bible tells us otherwise.

“… let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him,
and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches”
~ the Apostle Paul, I Corinthians 7:17

Paul’s mandate here quenches that fallacy. He understood, by the Spirit, what is an “assignment” and what is a “calling”, regardless of where one finds them self. When he uses the word “assigned” and “called” elsewhere in the Scriptures, they have personal and communal implications. Personally we’re “assigned” [9] to minister and “called” [10] by God into faith in Christ, but communally we’re also “assigned” [11] to build up our Christian family and “called” [12] to live that out as a church.

In I Corinthians 7:17 the very same words are used but are “secular” in nature – it’s what we do with the whole of life and how we lead it, melding the secular and sacred as one. All of life is worship, and all of life is sacred [13], including honorable and lawful work as a vehicle to glorify God [14] wherever Christians find themselves (whether in full-time ministerial work or full-time non-ministerial work). And thus, arguably, all work for us Christians is full-time ministerial work – there’s no distinction.

Few understood this misconception that God’s work could only be ministerial work (like a full-time pastor or minister) better than Martin Luther. He called that idea “deceit and hypocrisy”. [15] Instead, “all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and that there is no difference among them except that office… We are all consecrated priests by baptism”. [16] So, what are we who in the working world outside of the church to do?

“Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.”
~ the Apostle Paul, I Corinthians 7:20

Well, Paul’s follow-up mandate here is not necessarily to stay as we are, where we are, but rather to bring peace to our wrestling with these kinds of wrestling’s that I (and perhaps you) profess. In other words, don’t let your vocation trouble you in this way.

Gordon Fee writes, “Do not let your social situation be a concern to you. Your calling in Christ eclipses such conditions, but thereby also transforms them into situations where you may live out your Christian calling.” [17] And never are we to complain about work, as we are to do “… all things without grumbling or disputing”. [18]

As a non-vocational pastor here at Grace Bible Church (it’s not my full-time job, nor am I compensated by the church), I entreat all of us to view work through a Biblical worldview lens, embracing it as a gift and opportunity to live out our God-given gifts, elevate His glory and advance His Gospel-Kingdom right where are. For years I chaffed with a wrong view of my work, even though I loved it, because I feared I wasn’t doing enough for the Kingdom since I wasn’t in a ministerial vocation.

God eventually married my passion for ministry by allowing me to also be a pastor, all while pursuing my vocation outside of the church (what a kind and gracious thing for Him to do). But what I’ve come to realize is that I was always in ministerial work, even before being ordained, and I now have contentment and peace knowing that I’m honoring Him, witnessing for Him, and glorifying Him right where I am in the secular/sacred world of work.

May you discover the same if you struggle as did I. (And for you men out there in the working world with aspirations and desires, like me, to be a pastor, I especially entreat you to reach out to me and/or Tim Menez, also your other non-vocational pastor, about this. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” [19])

Knowing this, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” [20]

Be at peace…

Thomas Kruggel is a non-vocational Pastor who works in the City of San Francisco.

  1. Genesis 2:1-3
  2. Keller, Timothy Every Good Endeavor:  Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (Penguin Books, 2012), page 21.
  3. Genesis 1:26-27
  4. Genesis 2:15b (ESV)
  5. Genesis 3:17-19
  6. I Timothy 4:4a (ESV)
  7. Plass, Ewald M., What Luther Says:  An Anthology (Concordia, 1959), page 1994.
  8. Tilgher, Adriano Work:  What It Has Meant to Men Through the Ages (Arno Press, 1977), page 7.
  9. Romans 12:3
  10. Romans 8:30; I Corinthians 1:9
  11. II Corinthians 10:13
  12. I Corinthians 1:9; Ephesians 1:1-4; Colossians 3:15
  13. Romans 12:1-2
  14. I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23-24
  15. Luther, Martin, Three Treatises (Fortress, 1970), page 12.
  16. ibid.
  17. Fee, Gordon The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987)
  18. Philippians 2:14 (ESV)
  19. I Timothy 3:1 (ESV)
  20. Colossians 3:23a (NIV)
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