By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
Today's economy is much different from that of days gone by. At one time, an individual could hope for a job with one company to last an entire lifetime. In today's environment of downsizing and corporate re-organization, it is estimated that the average worker will be employed by at least five different employers! In fact, the average worker is expected to even change careers in the course of working life at least once.
For a Christian, it is important to evaluate career choices to ensure that they do not interfere with your relationship with God. With the exception of forbidden occupations, generally speaking it is the way you do things, not what you do, that is important. Though the Bible applies this directly to preachers, it is true of all of us regardless of our occupation: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
Obviously, there are a great many choices of employment that simply are wrong. God forbids occupations that necessarily involve breaking God's law. My list of forbidden occupations is probably not complete, the result of only approximately an hour of brainstorming.
Being a pimp or prostitute is plainly an occupation God forbids. "Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness." (Leviticus 19:29)
Being a thief or hired murderer is another obvious example of forbidden work. Exodus 20:13 says, "You shall not murder", and Exodus 20:15 says, "You shall not steal".
Mediums and spiritists are truly despised by God, and the amazing thing is that this foolish line of work exists today as an even larger industry than it did in ancient times. You can't watch television without seeing 900 number "Psychic Hotlines" and other such nonsense. The Mosaic Law was strict on this matter. "A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:27)
False preaching for monetary gain is perhaps the very worst of forbidden occupations. Paul predicted that many would choose churches that pandered to their own lusts and not the doctrine of the Bible. He wrote to Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
If your church ordains homosexuals, for example, or lobbies in favor of abortion and euthanasia, it is pandering to those with "itching ears" and failing to preach the word of the Bible. Why? Truth was sacrificed in order to make the message more palatable to those who do not want to repent. This meant higher membership, and higher membership meant more money. This strategy is against the counsel of apostle Peter: "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;" (1 Peter 5:2) In any case, the strategy appears to have backfired on the liberal protestant denominations, which have lost a great deal of membership as of late.
Television ministries always put me in mind of these verses: "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, 'Take these things away! Do not make My Fatherís house a house of merchandise!'" (John 2:13-16)
Whenever I watch a television ministry, I wait to see what worthless product is being sold at an outrageously high price. There are very few exceptions in that venue that aren't simply using the word of God to sell products, making God's house "a house of merchandise."
"...that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12) There is nothing wrong with making money as an honest businessperson. You don't have to be greedy to want to pursue a professional career in business.
It matters very much to God that you conduct your business life in an honest manner. "You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." (Leviticus 19:35,36) A related verse is Proverbs 11:1: "Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight." Dealing honestly in business actually pleases God.
There are two serious errors that businesspeople often make, and it grieves me to think about it. One, some businesspeople use their church life as a business tool, hoping to make connections with potential customers or other contacts. This is really the same as turning the house of the Lord into a house of merchandise.
The other thing that many businesspeople do is dodge taxes. Jesus was asked about paying taxes. "'Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?' But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, 'Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.' So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar's.' And He said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'" (Matthew 22:17-21)
Cultic groups either forbid or frown on some legitimate occupations, especially frowning on careers in the military. The Bible really lends no support for their concerns, although it should be noted that some such occupations require greater diligence than others to retain God's approval.
Publicans and soldiers came to see John the Baptist, and asked his advice about how to live properly. "Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than what is appointed for you.' Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, 'And what shall we do?' So he said to them, 'Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'" (Luke 3:12-14)
John did not tell the soldier to quit his job, he told him how to do his job properly. Why do some denominations add to the words of the Bible, and insist that being a soldier is unconditionally wrong?
Jesus Himself worked as a carpenter before His time came to begin preaching, and a lot of stuck-up people were astonished (and offended) that a "mere carpenter" should know so much. "And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?' And they were offended at Him." (Mark 6:2-3)
Apostle Paul was a tentmaker. "And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers." (Acts 18:2,3)
Most of the other apostles were fishermen by trade. Jesus had no problem with this occupation. "And He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish." (John 21:6)
The gospel writer Luke was a physician. "Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you." (Colossians 4:14)
One thing to be aware of in business is that, as in all other pursuits, you will be immersed mainly in groups of unbelievers who may not have the ethics that you as a Christian must have. You will find that they are surprised, and possibly even insulted, by your integrity. "In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you." (1 Peter 4:4)
The worst they can do is fire you, and I urge you to have faith and endure this possibility. If it should happen that you are fired due to superior ethics, that's probably for the better. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
God rewards such faith. It is hard not to worry in such circumstances, but your faith will be rewarded in some way. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7)
No job is worth sacrificing your ethics. If you prove true to God, your needs will certainly be provided for. I leave you with a passage to think about:
"Then He said to His disciples, 'Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.'" (Luke 12:22-31)
What Work Does God Approve Of? Copyright © 1997 by Compass Distributors
All Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.