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Marketplace Christians

Probably you do your work outside of a Christian church or nonprofit. This is the case for 97% of Christians. Sadly, Christian workers who are not in professional ministry often feel like their work is less important than that of pastors.

My daughter Jennie was sharing these thoughts with me today from a book she’s reading as senior business major in a Christian college: Marketplace Christianity.

I told her that this lack of respect for marketplace Christians is an ancient problem. As far back as Eusebis, the Church historian from third century Rome, monks and priests were viewed as having the highest calling from God, church workers were next highest, and those who worked in society were at the bottom.

What Jesus Has to Say About Your Work

But this is not Jesus’ idea. He called all of his followers the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). He’s saying, “You may not feel like you’re significant in your world or that the work you do matters that much. Think again. Bring yourself and your work into God’s kingdom and you’ll see how your presence and your loving service to people adds God-flavors and God-colors to people.”

Do you hear Jesus talking to you? You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. As you work at your computer. As you run your business, sell products, sweep the floor, teach students, or care for children. Without your saltiness people around you will miss the taste of God. Without your light they will have trouble seeing Christ.

Fortunately, Kristi and I have taken Jesus’ words to heart, not only in our nonprofit ministry today and my years of being on a church staff, but also in the earlier years in which we worked as psychotherapists in the public marketplace.

Is Business Just Business?

Part of the problem is our view of business. People in our world today say, “Well, business is business.” And what that means is that it’s okay to squeeze whatever profit you can out of people. Or it’s normal business to mislead people in advertising or terminate someone from a job without being kind.

No! Business is God’s idea! It’s providing a helpful service or product for others.

Many times I’ve seen examples of these unloving attitudes carried out by Christians — both in the secular marketplace and in churches.

Your work is not just earning money, climbing a ladder, or passing time. It’s a spiritual calling to use your talents and energies to honor the Lord and serve people. Your work is meant to love your neighbor. All of us are called to be ambassadors for Christ in the world, representing Christ in our relational network (2 Cor. 5:20).

We need to do our business and our ministry work in a spiritual way, depending on the wisdom and strength of the Spirit of Jesus with us and seeking to glorify God in what we do. So Paul urges us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23).

Godly Marketplace Heroes

The Bible shows us examples of people who serve the Lord in the public arena. But usually we think about Bible heroes as if they’re all priests or prophets, but many were marketplace workers. But this is not the case.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were ranchers. Joseph was a government administrator. Joshua and Caleb were military generals. Deborah was a judge and warrior. David was a shepherd, warrior, and king. Esther was a queen. Nehemiah was a builder. Mary was a mother and homemaker. Even Paul, was not only an apostle and pastor, but also a tent-maker.

We need these models for serving the Lord in society as marketplace Christians. Our world today is desperate for people who love Jesus passionately through the secular work that they do that benefits other people.

If you’re a pastor, Bible teacher, Christian educator, or parent help the people you lead to appreciate the spiritual significance of their work. Honor them for the work they do. Teach them how to deal with the challenges and opportunities of their job as a disciple of Jesus.

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