Faith and Marketplace
Have you ever tasted Jesus sweets? This is not a spiritual question but one that you could be asked around Mionwal, a village in Punjab near Ludhiana. A move of God has seen people around Mionwal touched with the love of Christ and many have become Christ followers.
One of them, a sweetmeat producer and seller by profession, also became a follower of Jesus. Soon after that he rebranded his sweets as ‘Jesus Sweets’, and today Jesus sweets are being sold throughout the area and bring a tangible sweetness to whoever would taste of it.
What has happened is that this brother’s faith integrated with his life is showing in his work as well. This might come as a surprise to those of us who have lived in the compartmentalized life of the sacred and secular. It is largely a western thought that divides life into sacred and secular undergirded spiritually by enlightenment theology or philosophy.
A result of this is that we start to see life in compartments and get two different versions of the same person, one on Sunday and the other one on Monday and the rest of the weekdays. Over a long period of time, this can have catastrophic results as one seeks to strike a balance between the sacred and spiritual.
As a member of a local Church in the national capital region of India, I see this dichotomy loud and clear, sometimes even manifesting itself in pastorate committees of our Churches. Like there was this incident where in a suggestion was given that the Pastorate Committee should form a sub committee so that a yearly program could be charted out which can focus on what topics should the preaching and teaching ministry of the Church should be directed at. The suggestion was met with scoffing and the prompter of the idea was told squarely not to waste time of the pastorate committee on ‘spiritual things’ as the work of the committee was only to look into ‘practical matters related to finance and membership’. He was then directed to the pastor if he wished to discuss ‘spiritual’ things.
However in villages like Mionwal and in house Churches around India we see a different thought operational where there is no secular vs. spiritual divide but all of life is lived out as an expression of the faith we posses and under the Lordship of Christ.
Andrew Walls, Senior Research Professor at the Akrofi-Christaller
Institute of Theology, Mission, and Culture, Ghana says that Christian faith is always incarnational; it must be embodied. He stresses that there is no “generic humanity,” only cultural specific humanity.
He says that during the Enlightenment, Western Christianity faced a struggle, and established an Enlightenment type of Christianity. And the Enlightenment had a firm boundary between the empirical and the spiritual world. Western Christianity even tried to police that boundary. But non-Western Christianity doesn’t see that boundary in the same way. So Prof. Walls believes this is a time of theological renaissance in order to figure all this out, and we’ve got to do this as one body, together.
Agreed that the sacred and secular, faith and marketplace can seem to have different values and it would only seem prudent for a Christian to keep the two separated. But a closer look reveals that the larger view needs to be taken. A reason for this kind of divide can be an unbiblical view of the created world. God pronounced the physical world, His creation, as good (Genesis1: 4,10,12,18, 21,25,31). To deny the goodness of God’s creation is to deny the goodness of the creator. This earthly existence is God’s heavenly plan!
God also shows his commitment to this earthly existence in the Incarnation. God became flesh in Jesus (John 1:1,14). Even in its fallen state, God sent Jesus into the world not to deliver us from the physical world, but to reconcile, heal and restore all of creation.
Paul emphasizes the same when he puts the spiritual and the secular together in Colossians 3:16-17 – Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul insists that all of life must glorify God. The issue for him is not sacred vs. secular but Lordship and motivation. According to him we must submit all that we do to Christ and must seek to live with him and for him in all things.
The message is clear that as Christians we need to have a more holistic view of life, work, Church and ministry. We cannot afford to live compartmentalized lives.
Many years ago G.A. Studdert Kennedy said, “A very large number of the people who attend our services and partake of the sacrament are disassociated personalities. They are one person on Sunday and another on Monday. They have one mind for the sanctuary and another for the street. They have one conscience for the church and another for the cotton factory. Their worship conflicts with their work, but they will not acknowledge the conflict. I want to press home what seems to me to be obvious, that while this unfaced conflict exists, the soul is not on the road to salvation.”
Cardinal Peter K A Turkson addressing business leaders on April 9, 2012 said that separation of faith from professional life “is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today” – including the neglect of family life, an “unhealthy attachment to power,” and the “abuse of economic power” that disregards the common good.
“Business leaders who do not see themselves serving others and God in their working lives will fill the void of purpose with a less worthy substitute,” He said. “The divided life is not unified or integrated: it is fundamentally disordered, and thus fails to live up to God’s call.”
Having stated this, there is a lot that needs to be done to address this divide. 90 – 97 % of people have never heard a sermon on work according to Doug Sherman and Howard Hendricks, authors of ‘Your work matters to God’. We can be sure that the situation is the same in India and that vast majority of urban Churches need address this issue.
Christians today need to hear the message that work is not a curse or even bad. They need to know how to share ones faith in a work situation. They need to figure out how to be salt and light in their respective vocations and how to integrate their overall lives with their faith in Jesus Christ. It is not an easy way, but it is not impossible either. There are examples aplenty in the bible and in day-to-day lives that have shown that this is possible.
Daniel for one was a man who rose to a position of great influence and prestige in the world system but never compromised on essential biblical principles. He has showed us how to live a life of integrity in the crush of a secular world. He demonstrated faith in the marketplace. Well so can we!