Business and the Calling of God.

“Many are called but few exhibit the quality of called-ness” – Jesus

This may not be exactly how you remember the quote, but it conveys the meaning more accurately than most word-for-word translations.

Jesus is saying that calling is not a special quality available to just a few people, it is the norm. God has a purpose which becomes a calling for every one of us, because as a Father God wants us to be the best we can be. The problem is that too many of us don’t realize we’ve have been called.

I believe that part of the reason for this is that we separate our thinking into sacred and secular … If you’re a missionary or charity worker you are probably called by God, but if you run a Costa franchise or work for the finance team of a pharmaceutical company, well that’s just where you earn the money to support those with a real calling. In this way of thinking doctors and teachers are a grey area, worthy professions so the people who do them might be called.

The trouble is this style of thinking has put the cart before the horse, before mankind needed saving, and therefore missionaries and charity workers, God had commissioned us to be fruitful and to steward the resources He had given us. The world of work was a sacred vocation,  the only thing that is purely secular is Sin!

If we change our perspective, we can see that any job or work situation has the possibility of expressing the quality of called-ness. That doesn’t mean you can be anything that you want to be, calling leads us down one path rather than another. But if we follow His leading we will find ourselves in a place where we can advance Jesus’ Kingdom. In fact the mission of God has always advanced through peoples everyday work and business.

sepphoris
The Galilean Capital of Sepphoris, 3 miles north of Nazareth, the city on a hill built by Jesus in the first three decades AD.

Jesus’ day job was as a builder, not as a carpenter as tradition has led us to believe, (note: the Greek work “Tekton” is a builder as in “Archi-tekton” which is a master-builder or “architect” in English).

Being a builder infused so much of who Jesus was and still is today, building His church. You hear it in the first accusation made against Jesus, that He would pull down and rebuild the temple in three days. You catch it in his wisdom, “don’t start building a tower before you’ve calculated the cost”. And you hear it in his prophetic teaching, “my Fathers estate has many buildings and I’m going to prepare a place for you there!”

But it is interesting to also note how other people jobs and businesses opened doors for the kingdom and provided a platform or foundation for ministry too.

Jesus ate the last supper in the upper room of an estate that also owned a working olive oil business. Gethsamane means oil-press. The early Church tell us the last supper was eaten at the home of John Mark the Gospel writer, and it tells us that he was the lad who ran away naked from the soldiers when Jesus was arrested. John Mark was no doubt sleeping out in the outbuildings of the families Olive Oil business as so many adults where in town for the passover!

John the disciple also had property in Jerusalem which tradition ties to his business activity selling the fish that had been brought down from Galilee. This base and the related commercial activity meant that John new the staff at the nearby Priest’s palatial complex and this got him access to Jesus trial in the High Priests mansion. John’s house also acted as a gathering place for Jesus’ family in the days immediately after Jesus trial and execution.

Paul the apostle used his trade as a leather worker¬† to fund his missionary work, (“tent maker” is a term used for more general leather working just as “saddler” is is English). But it was about more than just money, the tools he used for his work actually became a part of his missionary outreach. So people would take the aprons and sweat clothes Paul was using during the day to people who needed healing. There was no conflict of interest between Paul’s natural gifts and vocation and his missionary task.

In planting the church at Ephesus Paul used the school of Tyrannus as their public building. The school would have been a private lecture hall used for a variety of purposes, most Greek cities had these halls, often attached to Gymnasium’s. So Tyrannus’ business assets became the means by which the Ephesian church was established..

Right the way through the New Testament the kingdom grows and spread through the resources of business owners and trades people. Lydia traded in purple fabrics, Luke probably traveled as a ships doctor etc.

And so it is through history… God want’s to bless the work of our hands. We can display the quality of called-ness whatever the details of daytime employment. In fact we might not be able to show that quality in any other way.

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