Expert Advice: A Surprise Bridge Across the Faith-Work Divide

Expert Advice: A Surprise Bridge Across the Faith-Work Divide January 31, 2016



Teaching Fisherman How to Fish

Imagine this. You are a fisherman, a commercial fisherman. The men in your family have lived this work for as many generations back as you can remember. You know the secrets of the trade—how to find the fish and when to give up when casting your nets is a waste of time.

Then one day, after a long night of catching nothing, you sit by the shore cleaning you empty nets. While there in the warm sun you listen to a carpenter’s son turned radical rabbi. After his presentation, he instructs you to push out into deep water and throw down your nets for a catch.

There are two problems with his instruction: 1) you’ve already burned a night fishing and know there are no fish here and 2) you also know that even when the fish are abundant they are not in the deep water. But he is the Rabbi, so you reluctantly comply.

Before you know it your nets are bursting with fish. You realize that you are out of your depth. This carpenter turned rabbi knows more about your life-long trade, than you do. You are humbled, ashamed of your doubt. But he reassures you and invites you to join him in world-changing work.

You are Peter the fisherman and the Rabbi is Jesus. And Jesus taught Peter and his fellow fisherman how to fish.  In this, Jesus demonstrate expertise in field that was outside his training.   In this he shows us something important about himself—Jesus is omni-competent. There is no area or field of human endeavor of which Jesus does not posses infinite expertise and wisdom.

In him [Christ] lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3)


A Thought Shift to Overcome the Vocational Divide

Why is it so easy to separate faith and work? Because the center of our faith, Jesus, doesn’t seem to have much relevance for the lives we live on the job. We see Jesus as directed to the social, relational or religious elements of life and cut off from work lives. But that is not the Jesus we meet in Scripture:

  1. Jesus was a carpenter, actually a general contractor. He was apprenticed to his father Joseph and worked the family business until his public ministry began at age 30.  He spent more time in the “marketplace” than he did in the “ministry.”
  2. Jesus used business metaphors with skill (see Luke 16 or Matthew 25).
  3. Jesus showed his competence across industries (See the above mentioned story from Luke 5).
  4. Jesus is intimately involved in every aspect of the world that we know. Consider:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

Jesus knows how to do your job better than you do. As we learn to believe and see this, we shrink the chasm between faith and work, we build a bridge across the vocational divide.


Overcoming the Vocational Divide

This post is part 5 of a series on the vocational divide—the disconnect between one’s faith and work. This disconnect is a personal experience and a relational and institutional divide.  Living in the divide damages people, workplaces, families, and churches.   The divide is driven by a number of forces, and three areas must be addressed to bridge the divide: thought, rhythms, and systems. In this post, I addressed the first of second of two thought/belief changes: it’s the change where we see that Jesus has wisdom for our work-lives.  There are three other thought pieces to bridging the divide:

1.  We need a robust vision of living Faith at Work

2.  We need to see our work as significant to God

3.  We need to remember that faith will be required for our work lives and that faith can be placed in God.


Faith and Work Resources: I keep a current and curated list of great resources related to the faith and work conversation follow this link: Resources on Faith and Work  

About the Author:  Dr. Chip Roper writes Marketplace Faith from New York City, where he is the director of Marketplace Engagement at the New York City Leadership Center. You can learn more about him here. Chip is available for speaking, consulting, and speaking engagements. Inquire via email:

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