Are Some Professions 'Off-Limits' for Christians?
Are there some careers that should be considered "off-limits" for Christians due to the nature of the job?
Not according to Gene Edward Veith, provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College, who recently shared his thoughts on the matter on The Gospel Coalition website.
"The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life – with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships – and then calls us to that assignment. God never calls us to sin," he wrote. "All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking, there are no unlawful vocations."
For the former culture editor of World Magazine, the better question to ask is whether or not a particular line of work is in fact a calling or vocation from God at all, with some professions obviously "morally problematic" like that of con artists, criminals, drug dealers, and etc.
And another question to ask is whether or not Christians are fulfilling their purpose through their profession.
"The purpose of every vocation, in all of the different spheres in which our multiple vocations occur ... is to love and serve our neighbors," Veith wrote. "Loving God and loving our neighbors sums up our purpose."
"Having been reconciled to God through Christ, we are then sent by God into the world to love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors. This happens in vocation. So we can ask of every kind of work we're doing, 'Am I loving and serving my neighbor, or am I exploiting and tempting him?'"
Over the years, many professions have come into debate as to whether or not they are appropriate careers for those of faith, with some more easy to categorize as unfit than others.
Take for example athletes and those working in military service.
According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, becoming a professional athlete could be problematic because "the moral ethos of sport," which centers on pride, "is in tension with the moral ethos of faith," which requires humility, Veith reiterated.
For Christian soldiers, on the other hand, the issue is that believers, who are directed to love both their neighbors and their enemies, are sometimes required to kill his or her enemy.
So where is the love in that?
It is in their love for their fellow citizens, whom they are authorized by their calling to defend, the author of God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life shared, recalling the words of Martin Luther who previously addressed whether or not soldiers could be saved due to the nature of their work.
"Soldiers, as Christians, should indeed love those enemies – not hate them, hold malice against them, or mistreat captives or civilians – but they have an authorization to do what soldiers have to do," he stated.
"Though as individual Christians we must not kill, God certainly has the right to take human life. And God works through the governing authorities, which according to Romans 13 are his agents in restraining and punishing evil so that a society of fallen human beings is possible."
A countless number of other vocations and professions have also been criticized by Christians and labeled as ones to avoid as well because of the potential to "profit from sin." That includes casino workers, nightclub and bar owners, among others.
"Vocations, in general, must carry out their proper work and fulfill their proper purpose," the former Concordia University Wisconsin Dean clarified. "A business owner must make a profit; a professional athlete must help his team win. To say these involve selfishness and pride, making them off limits to Christians, confuses different realms."
While the earthly laws of economics depend on participants following their rational self-interest, the Christian, he said, while doing so, can also turn the same productive labor into an expression of love and service.
Specifically speaking, "The athlete can trounce his opponent and joy in the victory while still being a selfless teammate who honors those on the other side," as seen recently in the example of the New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin.
Lin previously stated, "I [have] to really understand that I'm not playing for all my fans, for my family, even for myself, I really have to play to glorify God. And when other people see me play basketball, the way I treat my teammates, the opponents, the refs, that's all a reflection of God's image and God's love so that's the stuff I try to focus on."
The point guard took his profession, which is often tainted by sin, and turned it into a place where he could glorify God through his love for his teammates and opponents.
When analyzing particular professions and careers, Veith understood that it was not always clear what occupations were "off-limits" for Christians.
"Vocations are unique," he concluded. "God calls and equips individuals in distinct and highly particular ways – so they may resist hard and fast and universally applicable rules and moralistic dictates."
"Since vocation is about God's work as well as human work, it has to do not just with the law but with the gospel; since vocation is where the Christian life is to be led, it will be an expression of Christian freedom."
Veith currently serves as the director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and also oversees both academic and student affairs at Patrick Henry College. He has also been a fellow at the Capital Research Center and the Heritage Foundation.