Do I Need to Be a “Full Time Worker” to Serve the Lord?
by William Hoste
The idea that there is some inherent incompatibility between secular and “sacred” callings is not borne out by the Scriptures. The teaching is explicit: “As God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” “Ye are bought with a price; be ye not (lit., become not) the servants of men.” “Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Cor 7:17, 20, 23, 24).
Could anything be clearer? What can justify conniving at, not to say encouraging callow Christians leaving their trade or profession before they have had time to give proof either of call or aptitude for deacon work, or laying hands upon them suddenly, before they have given any assurance to the elders of their own Church of their call to public service. How many false starts would have been avoided had the above Scriptures been borne more in mind! Many a man has overstepped his measure, grown stale, and become the servant of man in some form or other by leaving his calling prematurely. A well-known servant of Christ, who had a wide service in the gospel both before and after leaving his calling, told me once, not long before his death, that he had only regretted giving up his business once since doing so, and that was all the time. No one ever had, he said, the influence he had gained in the meat markets of London, and he virtually lost it the day he left his trade as meat-merchant. The butchers of the Metropolis gave a hearing to a fellow-tradesman, which they refused to what they termed a “parson”.
It is a profound mistake to think that a man is less a deacon, whether evangelist, pastor, or teacher, because he earns his daily bread. Did Paul forfeit his apostleship at Corinth by making tents? Perhaps his service never received such outward marks of God’s approval as there. “Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized.” And God gave him the direct encouragement, “Fear not…I have much people in this city.” Not only did Paul act on this principle himself in various places, but recommended it to others whenever possible.
Probably there are not a few whose ministry would be vastly fresher and more fruitful were they earning their livelihood. Many of the Lord’s choicest servants have been lawyers, physicians, merchants, commercial men, or tradesmen. As we have seen, Paul recommended the overseers of Ephesus to labour with their hands. “Bishops” sometimes talk, possibly a little patronisingly, to the working man of the dignity of labour, but it does not seem to occur to them that the ideal even for them would be to be working-men themselves. The bishop’s apron is, I suppose, a sort of atrophied rudimentary organ reminiscent of this excellent condition of things; but today it would be nothing short of a scandal for a bishop to make tents or boots or sell groceries. Were he discovered doing so he would certainly be called to give an account of his stewardship. There are today many true bishops, priests, and deacons who “profess honest trades for necessary uses” (Titus 3:14, margin). Let “ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses.” The “ours” in this verse is striking, our people, our men, i.e., Christians as a whole.
(From a chapter in Mr Hoste’s book Bishops, Priests and Deacons)