Friday, March 21, 2014
Not long after the "Iron Curtain" came down in the late 1980s, a friend of mine spoke to a group of believers in Eastern Europe on the topic of economics. When he suggested they start small businesses, even if popping popcorn at home, putting it into bags, and selling it on the street for a profit, the question was raised: "But wouldn't it be wrong to sell something to others for more money than you paid for it?"
The idea among Christians that profit-making is somehow wrong [or to be greatly minimized] is more common than you might think, even in the USA. I speak from personal experience here, because I do workshops for churches and other Christian organizations, as well as individuals. My work is viewed as "ministry," and this is a code word among Christians meaning without profit. Consequently, I have a "Donate" button at the side of this blog. But few use it.
Yet, for followers of Christ, is there any legitimate work that is not ministry? Can a believer do work "heartily as unto the Lord" and not have that work be worship?
Any work that's worth doing is a way of serving God and loving people. Do you repair cars? You're loving people! Do you sell shoes? You're ministering to people! Do you work at a bank? You're in the ministry of money management! It's ministry when done "unto the Lord." So does making a profit in the process somehow void the idea that "a man's shop and his chapel are both holy ground?"
18th Century Moravians didn't think so.
In 1457, sixty years before Martin Luther officially started the Reformation, the longest-lived Protestant church was formed. They called themselves the Unitas Fratrum, or United Brethren. They emerged out of the teachings of John Hus, a Catholic rector of the University of Prague who criticized the Church for selling indulgences, and argued that all Christians had the right to read the Bible for themselves. He was burned alive in 1415 for his "heresy."
The United Brethren suffered persecution and suppression for the first 250 years, but experienced great vigor in the 18th Century under the leadership of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf and a Moravian carpenter by the name of Christian David. The church became known as the Moravians.
What happened then may surprise you. It did me.