The Lure of the Fragmented Life

We all have a tendency to live fragmented lives, and a central part of this is because we do not look to the place where all true integration happens, and that is to the Lord Jesus. But part of the reason we don’t do this is because we foolishly believe that fragmentation makes us easier for us to hide things. One life, whole and entire, is just out there. But busted up into little pieces, it becomes possible for us to persuade ourselves that this little piece “belongs to me.” This is antithetical to true discipleship.

One of the great recoveries of the Protestant Reformation – and there were many – was the recovery of the idea of vocation or calling in all lawful professions. Whether you are a dentist, a lawyer, a dairyman, a soldier, a homemaker, or a contractor, God has called you to that place (Eph. 2:10). Now there are ways for sinful men to take this teaching and try to distort it, of course. But understood rightly, this is a glorious attempt to recognize the Lordship of Christ everywhere, on every day of the week, and not just in your personal devotions or in your church time. If you are only called to explicit discipleship when you are explicitly in church, this cedes the rest of your week to the realm of the devil. But why should we want him to have it?

Our tendency is to try to create “reservations for Jesus,” where He shows up in appointed places and at appointed times. But look closely at what that does. Even if you make large donations of time, or money, if it is less than 100 percent, you are not doing what the greatest commandment requires of us. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. This requires that we be disciples of Jesus in our accounting, in our carpentry, in our work as a student. There is no neutrality anywhere.

The doctrine of vocation does not mean that you get to be a workaholic at the office instead of worshiping God, or visiting widow and orphans, or leading your family spiritually. It means that everything that God has given to you must be offered back to Him as an integrated whole. And it means that He delights to receive such offerings.

  • Nicholas J. Gausling

    I recently found some old posts by Gary North that had to do with vocation and calling, and mentioned them on my own blog earlier this month:

    Integrating all of life under Christ’s Lordship is key. Many Christians today, even Reformed Christians, don’t think about this goal enough. But for those of us who believe that the Great Commission will ultimately be a success, it ought to be clear that this doctrine needs to be revitalized in contemporary teaching and preaching.

  • Jonathan

    I strongly agree with the general idea here. It blows my mind when people think they can only give part of themselves to God, that dropping 10% of the money in the church treasury means they can spend the rest of it on a huge house and multiple cars, or that spending 5% of their time in Christian ministry means they can pursue whatever money-making business they want in order to become personally wealthy.

    I’m not sure about this line though: “Whether you are a dentist, a lawyer, a dairyman, a soldier, a homemaker, or a contractor, God has called you to that place .”

    Isn’t it possible that you are choosing not to be in the place that God has called you to? I certainly think that we are called to give 100% of ourselves to God, but I believe that includes our choice of profession, not just whatever actions we perform in the profession that we have used worldly standards to lead ourselves into. Giving 100% of ourselves to God can (and perhaps should often) involve quitting our job and giving away all our possessions, not just taking half-measures in a life that looks rather familiar to the rest of the sinful world.

  • Melody

    Jonathan, what do you do for a profession, i.e. to earn a living?

  • Jonathan

    I serve in a Christian ministry among the poor in a slum.

  • Valerie (Kyriosity)

    Jonathan, if God has called you to serve in a Christian ministry in a slum, rejoice in your calling and do your job. If your brother is tithing and owns a big house and multiple cars, rejoice in your calling and do your job. Another way of saying “rejoice in your calling and do your job” is “mind your own business.” Be concerned to do the good works that you were created to do, and don’t try to second-guess a) what God has called your brother to do (you can’t possibly know that) or b) how well he is stewarding the resources God gave him (which you also probably can’t know…especially if he’s obediently not letting his right hand know what his left hand is doing) or c) what his motives are (you are not a mind-reader). Did Hosea look askance at the other prophets who weren’t called to marry whores? Did Ezekiel think the other widowers weren’t as faithful because they cried when their wives died? Would the rich young ruler have had cause to complain if he had obeyed Jesus by giving away all his goods and then saw Zacchaeus giving only half? Can the eye say to the ear, “Because you’re not an eye, you’re doing it wrong”? Can the foot say to the hand, “If you really loved Jesus, you’d be lowly like me”?

    We are all prone to think our gifts and our callings are the “right” ones because they are right for us. Whether it’s evangelism or mercy ministry or hospitality or adoption or missions or advanced theological study or whatever, we are all tempted to absolutize our gifts and callings into laws for everybody. But reality is, the only law about the specific use of income that does apply to everybody is the tithe. Beyond that, we’re simply not in a position to judge the specifics of what anyone does with his money.

  • Andrew Kelly

    Jonathan, if everyone quit their jobs, who would fund the work you’re doing?

    Paul understood the principles Valerie speaks of. In 1 Cor. 7 he understood quite well that even though he was called to a life of singleness, others were not. He did not give into the temptation to elevate his calling above everyone else’s.

  • Jonathan

    I have absolutely no doubt in God’s ability to fund the work I’m doing regardless of whatever other people are doing. I don’t need other people to disobey God’s calling to keep my work going.

    I haven’t said specifically what other people should be doing. I definitely didn’t compare it to my own profession, which would have stayed out of the question if someone else hadn’t asked.

    But I think it’s ridiculous to say that we speak God’s wisdom into so many other aspects of people’s lives, and not their choice of jobs. Jesus CLEARLY calls some people to quit their current jobs. Not just immoral jobs (of which there are indeed a great number), but even jobs like fishermen, if God is calling them to do something else. And Jesus CLEARLY calls some people to give away all their possessions. Not just possessions immorally gained, but all possessions that could block their relationship to God.

    And, perhaps most relevantly, Jesus CLEARLY calls all people to not chase after wealth and material possessions. Yet, in America at least, chasing after wealth and material possessions is a large factor in why a great number of people chose the jobs they chose.

    On this blog, there have been strong statements about, for example, what school we send our kids to. I don’t believe that the job we work is any less a moral question. The fact that the professions that Christians chose are so indistinguishable from the professions that non-believers chose should be a warning sign, not a given.