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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Most Important Occupation Jesus Could Have

When it comes to ridding ourselves of SSD [the Sacred-Secular Divide], it would be helpful if the First Commission [Genesis 1:26-28] was given as much weight by Christian writers, singers, teachers and preachers as the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20]. Yet, making this suggestion may cause me to be viewed by some as a heretic.

I can hear it now: “Which is more important, Overman? Flying helicopters to lift trees out of forests so logs can be cut into lumber for building homes, or saving souls?”

But positing this question dichotomously as an "either-or" proposition is like asking, as Al Erisman, co-founder of the Center for Integrity in Business, does: “Which wing of an airplane is more important?”

I still hear push-back: “Which is more important, a house built of wood, or mansion in heaven?”

My response is: “More important to whom?

If I answer the question from the perspective of my own self-interests, a mansion in heaven is more important than a house on Earth. But if I consider the question from the perspective of God’s wholistic interests, I come up with a different answer.

What am I getting at? I suggest we remember Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding of Cana: “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.” Isn’t that our sacred task? As those servants filled pots with water, were they not doing the Lord’s work? 

For eighteen years, the most important occupation Jesus could have was to build furniture and plows, because this is what His Father showed Him to do. Justin Martyr, in the second century, said plows made by Jesus were still being used in Martyr's lifetime. Good workmanship!

The work God wants us to do includes earth-tending and culture-creating. For some, the work of God may be preaching, for others it may be sawing logs into lumber. That's because God wants people to be protected from the elements, and He uses humans to make the shingles. He wants lumber to be moved from point A to point B, and uses truck drivers to do the transporting.

Perhaps the most helpful thing in ridding ourselves of SSD is to view the First Commission and the Great Commission as a single unit. As Paul Stevens wrote in Liberating the Laity: “God gave us the second mandate in order to restore the first.”

We’ll pick up from here next week.

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