A NFL quarterback will win more awards than a night janitor. The CEO of Amazon makes much more than a high school math teacher. There’s no denying that these are pretty solid facts in our American society. But there is debate as to which of these positions is more important than the other.
What makes our vocation important in Gods’ eyes? Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director at The Institute of Faith, Work, & Economics, recognizes that the value of our callings has become blurred.
“Unfortunately, it’s a problem we have in the church today. I was at a conference years ago on a panel with some professors.We were talking about the importance of work and they were implying that all work is good, but some work is a little more important to God. I pushed back pretty hard on that.
“There was a guy out mowing the football field with a big tractor. I pointed to that guy and I said, ‘God believes, and the scripture clearly tells us, that the work he’s doing out there is just as important as the work we’re doing in here.'”
This is not a new problem. The early church fathers, heavily influenced by the Greeks, struggled to understand the value of work.
“Greeks saw manual labor as bad! Socrates, Plato, and all those guys wrote about this. They said it was to be avoided at all costs and it was much better to do things with your mind. Thinking and writing were far superior to manual labor, but that’s not what the Scripture teaches.”
“You see that seep into the church history only to be stopped by the reformers. Luther said the work of the milkmaid is just as important to God as the work of the priest. That reset the importance of work back to the way it was throughout the Old Testament.”
No matter our vocation or career none of us can claim a higher calling than another. Hugh turns to scripture to explain why.
“Think of the story of the three guys and the talents. One guy got 5 talents, another 3, another only 1 (Matthew 25:14-30). This gives us a glimpse of what our master, Jesus, would want us to do. What’s the reward He gives to the guy that makes this extra five talents? He says ‘enter into the joy of the master.’ What’s the reward he gives to the two talent guy? ‘Enter into the joy of the master.’ The reward is exactly the same.”
The parable of the talents gives a look into how God has placed the value of our work not in what we do but in how we do it.
“We look at it and say that he should give the guy that made more money that much more credit, but see God doesn’t work that way. God knows each one of us. He knows what we’re capable of and He expects us to do the best that we possibly can do. He expects us to go out and take the gifts and the opportunities given to us, and work as hard as we can, doing the best we can. The rewards of that are going to be the same no matter what the outcome is, because He doesn’t care about the outcome.”
“There’s a little verse in that parable people kind of gloss over. When he’s giving out the talents, he gives each one each according to his own ability. God is telling us He understands what we have but He doesn’t hold us to the ultimate outcome. He just holds us to do the best that we can with what he’s given us. That’s how we’re all going to be measured.”
“It doesn’t matter what your vocational calling is. If you’re called to wash dishes, you do that to the glory of God and to the best of your ability. If you’re called to work to run a fortune 500 company, you do that to the glory of God and to the best of your ability. That’s an important concept that we cannot lose sight of in the church today.”
In this parable, the third man, who buried his one talent, is the only one who was scorned. God has given us material gifts and gifts in our capacity to work. Even if we may seemingly fail, God does not see it as such. The size of your paycheck, being able to afford the latest styles, the number of cars you own, it’s all irrelevant. God wants you to use the gifts he has given you, to glorify his name to the best of your ability.
Hugh Whelchel, executive director for the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, brings a unique combination of executive responsibility, creative educational administration, and technical innovation from over thirty years of diverse business experience. Hugh has a passion and expertise in helping individuals integrate their faith and vocational calling. He is the author of How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.Hugh Whelchel - God does not judge us by salary