(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)
8:40 AM …
This morning I was reading some of the “Christian agrarianism” blogs and stumbled across a post that basically called for everyone to leave their jobs and begin farming. After all, doesn’t Paul tell us to “work with our own hands”? Think about it. I run a 123-acre farm but I’m not an “agrarian” because I don’t see this is as the only legitimate Christian lifestyle. I enjoy it. It’s healthy. It’s hard! All well and good. But I am not an advocate, if you know what I mean.
Of course, all of this is to miss the larger point, the elephant in the room if you will. You see, regardless of the work we do or where we live, we forget that the main purpose of work has nothing to do with us. Note what Paul says in Eph. 4:28:
Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
That’s The Message. The NLT puts it this way:
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.
Sadly, instead of confessing that the real purpose of our work is to help others, we idealize a particular lifestyle that enables us to be “fulfilled” or to home school or to never retire, etc. I suspect that even the Christian agrarian movement has been influenced by narcissism and greed every bit as much as capitalism. Related to this, I think we’ve relinquished the care of the needy to the government for so long that most Americans can’t picture themselves as doing anything to help them or taking responsibility for the social needs all around them. Due to this faulty way of thinking, we sadly imagine that our greatest duty in life to work the soil and we tend to avoid the messy realities of poverty and need all around us.
I know this issue is terribly complex and ambiguous, but I think it’s clear that once we “take a stand” for any kind of “Christian” lifestyle we miss the point. We become Christian archists (and the “archy”/”rule” we are defending can be any number of things) instead of anarchists whose only concern is with expanding the kingdom of God. (See my book Christian Archy.)
The real divisive issue is not the way we earn our living but the way we polarize around our belief systems to the neglect of what is of most importance. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven our concerned isn’t to criticize what Caesar does so poorly or even to eschew the “American Dream” of bigger and better, but to try and understand the needs all around us (both in our families and in our world) and do whatever we can to help others through making radical sacrifices with our own earthly goods. If we would learn to do this, then the glory would go to God (where it belongs) instead of to us (and our paltry little “movements”), and the kingdom would advance. And we would keep the kingdom holy. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not great at doing this. But I’m trying. When I see genuine unmet needs in my family, if I can meet them (and if it is right for me to do so), I will try and meet them. Ditto for the work of the Lord in other nations. You see, the cross of Christ revolts against all that is self-centered. But you’ll have to work against going with the flow of our culture.
“Give generously to others in need.” This is where Christianity really shines. But it means that we will have to give up our platforms and get off our soap boxes and put our arms around this confused and dangerous world. I’m proud to know several Christians who live this way. They are a model of the kingdom for me and others. To them I say, thank you!