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Employment

††††††††††† Scripture tells us of a personís secular employment in quite a few places. Generally, any honest way of earning a living is acceptable. The only time that one can recollect anyone is told to give up their employment is in Ephesians where Paul tells those that stole to steal no more. They were told to use their hands for a legitimate purpose, where before their hands had been used for stealing. Most work is normally carried out by the use of oneís hands; whether that is actual manual labour or scribal work.

††††††††††† Looking at the New Testament it is clear that what we call the professions is a legitimate way of earning a living. Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14), a medical calling. Zenas was a lawyer (Titus 3:13) and Erastus was steward of a city; today what we would probably call a municipal accountant (Romans 16:23). As to Christís disciples, at least four were fishermen. On at least two occasions Christ helped them get a haul. Christ brought the fishes to where they could be netted, but he left the disciples to bring the haul to the shore. Christ does not do for us what we can do ourselves, anymore than we would for our own children. Fishing, incidentally, is an extractive industry. Christ, Himself was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), so that his secular employment was in the building trade. Paul was a tent-maker (Acts 18:3) so he was a manufacturer. As to Christís other disciples we know that Matthew was a tax-gatherer, in other words a tax collector (Matthew 10:3), that is, a civil servant. Nathaniel appears to have been a fruit grower (John 1:48). Then God honoured shepherds by sending an angel to tell them of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:8-20). At the other end of the intellectual spectrum we find that wise men (magi) were given a star as a sign of the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:1-12). Whether they were astronomers or astrologers may be arguable, but in any case they were, we may say, the scientists of their day. Then there was Simon a tanner (Acts 10:5/6). This was a treatment business. We also have Lydia, a seller of purple (Acts 16:14). This is thought to have been purple dye and was a marketing business.

††††††††††† Being a soldier would appear to have been a legitimate occupation. John the Baptist gave instructions to such (Luke 3:14) and the first Gentile convert was a centurion (Acts 10). In other places the military are spoken quite well of (Mark 15:39; Acts 27:1-3 & 27:42/43). Being a sailor was also an acceptable occupation (Psalm 107:23-32 and Jonah 1). Maids were in certain cases spoken well of (2 Kings 5:2/3; Acts 12:12-17). Gardening was also a legitimate occupation. After all, Adam was a gardener (Genesis 2:15). However, he was dismissed and sentenced to hard labour for taking and eating that which had been forbidden. Being a magician clearly was not a legitimate occupation (Acts 13:6-12). Note: being blind for a season was something Paul himself had experienced and possibly it could have led to the conversion of the magician. The examples given above are probably not exhaustive, but are ones that suggested themselves to the writer.

††††††††††† Generally, being a master or a servant was acceptable. However, if one was a bondman and could become free it was something that it would be advisable to do (1 Corinthians 7:21). Paul gave instructions to both masters and servants (Ephesians 6:5-9). It appears that there were Christians in Caesarís household (Philippians 4:22).

††††††††††† It will be noted that Christ did not limit Himself to dealing with certain classes. He was no respecter of persons (James 2:1-9). In Jericho he dealt with a beggar as well as the chief tax gatherer (Luke 18:35; 19:2). For Zacchaeus to have to climb a tree in order to see Jesus must have been undignified for a man of his standing. However, he was rewarded by having Jesus stay at his house. Christ didnít impose himself on the beggar as he probable hadnít got a home of his own or the wherewithal to entertain Christ and his disciples. However, Zacchaeus was rich.

††††††††††† Before considering spiritual occupations as distinct from secular occupations one would mention that we are to do secular occupations for the Lord, just as much as any spiritual ones (Colossians 3:23-24). Our behaviour as servants should be to ďadorn the teaching which [is] of our Saviour God in all things.Ē (Titus 2:9/10).

††††††††††† One would mention here that our secular employment may have a certain correspondence to the work that the Lord gives us.For example, Simon and Andrew were fishermen. However, when they were called by Christ He said: ďI will make you become fishers of men.Ē(Mark 1:17). If we think of Paulís occupation: he was a tent- maker which suggests something to be used temporarily (Hebrews 11:8-10). His particular work for Christ involved the ordering of the assembly here on earth (1 Corinthians 3). However, as a carpenter Christís work suggests what is permanent, and we know that his work will abide (Matthew 16:18).

††††††††††† It is quite legitimate to have secular employment and at the same time be involved in Christian service. Paul did. He worked as a tent-maker at the same time as he proclaimed the Gospel in Corinth (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12). However, others including Christ worked full time when they entered on public ministry. Christ depended on gifts which were given to support Him and his disciples (John 4:8; 12:6). He did not work miracles to support himself (Matthew 4:1-4). Paul declares the rightness of doing this (1 Corinthians 9:14). Missionaries who go to foreign parts often have to rely on support from churches that they attend when at home.

††††††††††† What works do those do who believe the Lord has given them a commission? There are many things that they may be used for. It is clear that their members such as the ability to speak or write are necessary for most things. However, a spiritual gift is also necessary. The Holy Spirit gives these (1 Corinthians 12:7), so that persons have the ability to carry out the work the Lord gives them, just as for most secular work training, or at any rate, anatural talent is required.Not all can be musicians or artists. The Lord directs his servants (Acts 16:10; Colossians 3:24).

††††††††††† Gifts are listed in such passages as 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and Ephesians 4:11. However, there are often things that need doing which are not necessarily specifically mentioned in Scripture such as collecting sticks to make a fire (Acts 28:3). Church rooms need cleaning, chairs need arranging, money matters need to be attended to. Christís disciples had left the money side of things to Judas (John 12:6; 13:27-30), which I believe was a mistake. Judas loved money (Matthew 26:14-16). When we come to the time when the Holy Spirit was given, we find that the apostles insisted that those who looked after money matters were persons full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3). ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

June 2013