8 October 2020

What is the better work? Making sandwiches or teaching the Bible?

Over the long weekend, I attended a conference with people from St Michael’s and the Uni Bible Group called MTS Recruit. The conference aims to raise up the next generation of gospel workers, both in Australia and across the globe. It was a wonderful time not only because we gathered as brothers and sisters in Christ, but also because we were considering how we should use our lives to serve Jesus.

However, in one of the group times the question of ‘what is the better work to do?’ came up. Is it better to teach the bible or to make sandwiches? Is it better to work in a hospital or as an SRE high school scripture teacher? Which is better, gospel ministry or secular work?

The answer is not as straightforward as we may first think. Before we explore why I think it is helpful to define two types of work. On the one hand, we have ‘Creation-Fall’ work. This is work that arises from God’s command to steward His creation (eg. farming to produce food) and from alleviating the effects of the fall (eg. nursing sick people). The other category is ‘Redemption’ work. This is the new kind of work Jesus brought in when he was raised to life. This work includes things like proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Saviour, making and growing disciples as well as serving the church community. This is urgent work considering that 2 Peter tells us that God is delaying judgment so people may have time to repent and turn to him.

The difficulty in working out which is better is that both types of work are essential and dependent on each other. For example, in order to write this letter to hopefully grow you as a follower of Jesus, I’m typing away on my computer, which people have worked on in developing and manufacturing. And as I drink coffee to help my brain stay alert, I’m benefitting from the farmers who grew the coffee beans. And it’s only by those who developed email or printers that you can read this.

The key thing is that all Christians are to participate in both types of work; ‘Creation-Fall’ and ‘Redemption’. And so, if your primary occupation (paid or unpaid) is to do with ‘Creation-Fall’ work because we follow Jesus, we look for opportunities to be involved in ‘Redemption’ work. As we do our work in love and in a way that is distinctively Christian, we may even expect to find that unbelievers around us might raise questions, creating an opportunity for us to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), therefore participating in ‘Redemption’ work. Now, of course, this isn’t limited to just evangelism… Remember it can also include being involved in bible teaching ministries or even supporting our missionaries with our prayers, by writing to them to encourage them or by giving financially.

So, what is the better work? Making sandwiches or teaching the bible? Hopefully you can see that it’s unhelpful to rank them and more fitting to see them as connected. Now, of course, there is more to say about all this. But we need to keep remembering that since we’ve been raised with Christ we set our hearts on the things above and whatever we do,

“whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17).

Liam Shannon
Senior Assistant Minister