Consider the following quote from a book on how central the body of Christ ought to be in our lives: “Christians have to earn a living, but we are not called to particular trades, careers, or jobs. So Christians should choose those jobs that will best let them serve the body of Christ (where the body of Christ is understood as local churches). Our actual employment is of limited importance” (Being Church: Reflections on How to Love as the People of God, pg., 70).
I imagine we would all have various reactions to the local congregation playing such a central role in our lives. Honestly, I have never personally heard someone decide on a means of employment based on how such work would serve the local congregation. After all, we might say, my life is my own and the local congregation has nothing to do with such a personal decision.
Yet the issue can be raised from Scripture that perhaps even how we choose to make a living is a concern for the local congregation. Consider the following familiar passage: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Cor 12:12-14). The previous text demonstrates that we are to identify our individual selves in relation to others in the local congregation, the local body of Christ. If we identify who we are in relation to other members of the local body, then how can what we choose to do for a living not be a concern for the local body?
Take a moment and think about how especially young people are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The previous question reveals that within our society we often identify a person by what they do for a living. The apostle Paul says we are to be identified by the gifts Christ has given each of us and how those gifts serve the local body of Christ (1 Cor 12:11ff). Now you may object here and say, “But what I do for a living is a separate question from what I do for the local church. I can separate my identity in Christ from what I do to make a living.” True, Christ did not die on a cross and resurrect from the dead so he could give us good jobs in General Electric. Jesus died and rose again so that we can be and serve the local body of Christ for the salvation of the world (Ephesians 3:1-12).
Who we are and what we do begins in the body of Christ. Therefore, every decision we make must be grounded and conditioned by the calling, gifts, and the responsibilities Jesus places upon each man, woman, and child in the local church. The question then is not so much what we choose to do for a living, but how what we choose to do for a living effects our first priority: What we do for the local congregation to be a living body of Christ in the world.
For instance, imagine that Christ called you to be a hand in the local body. But what if you choose to make a living in the world with a job that takes up all your time and energy, so that you have no time and energy left to be and do what Christ calls you to be and do in the local body? Is it not possible to be faithful and successful to your career, but completely faithless and sinful in your calling to Christ’s local body? We must not imagine that we can justify our careers that take us away for the local congregation by saying, “I sacrifice time away from church so that I can financially support all that the local congregation needs to do.” Brothers and Sisters, Jesus accomplished at the Cross all the work that is necessary for the body of Christ to exist. Jesus has no need of your career. Jesus is calling you to serve the local body with the spiritual gifts he has given you. In other words, you not called to a job, but to a body.