By Jeremy Robertson
April 30, 2024

False dichotomy: secular vs. sacred

Discover how every job has a sacred purpose in God's design. Bridge the gap between faith and work.

A false dichotomy presents two seemingly opposite choices as the only potential choices. False dichotomies are fallacies that ignore a wide range of potentially nuanced outcomes.

“People either love bacon or they are vegetarians.” Is that true? Obviously not. Someone could conceivably not enjoy bacon but enjoy other meats such as chicken or beef. This is an example of a false dichotomy.

“You’re either a cat person or a dog person.” I have friends that would beg to differ. They enjoy cats, dogs, and birds as pets in their home. Cat vs. Dog is a false dichotomy.

As we consider our sense of vocation, it’s important to resist the false dichotomy of “Secular” vs. “Sacred.” Some have accepted a false premise that some jobs are “sacred” – Minister, Pastor, Missionary – while other jobs are “secular” – accountant, physician, teacher. This false dichotomy ignores the fact that the redemptive work of God is not limited to those employed by a church.

In Genesis 1, God creates all kinds of amazing things: oceans and land, birds and livestock, trees and plants. On the sixth day, God creates humans, His image bearers. In v. 28, God commissions humans, beginning with this message: “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” The God-given commission to humans at creation was to fill the earth and have dominion over it. Cory Maxwell Coghlan states, “God deliberately created the world with a capacity for development and we, as His image-bearers, are to continue this ever-unfolding work by building and sustain culture.”

If we can recover the culture-building commission of Genesis 1 and see it as part of God’s design for His creation, then it becomes easier to serve God in all vocations. 

Confession time: Some of us like the dichotomy of “secular” and “sacred.” It’s easier to go to work and meet expectations there and then go to church and meet an entirely different set of expectations. To figure out how my faith influences my vocation is hard work. It’s not always easy or intuitive. But it is necessary! It is necessary if we’re going to honor God in the workplace. It is necessary if we’re going to call ourselves disciples. And it is necessary if we’re going to fulfill our calling to partner with God in bringing redemption to a broken world.

To discover the “sacred” in your “secular” job, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my vocation serve others?
  • What influence have I been given, and how am I using that influence?
  • Would those I oversee or partner with characterize me with similar traits to Jesus?
  • How does my job bring order?
  • What unique gifts has God given me that I’m using in my profession?
  • How am I aiding in bringing justice to broken situations?
  • What opportunities do I have to convey honor and dignity to other people?
  • How am I helping others experience beauty and wonder?

God invites us to partner with Him in redeeming the world back to Him and out of its fallen state. May our jobs not be seen as “secular” – devoid of any spiritual significance. Instead, may we see our profession as an opportunity to partner with God in redemptive work for His creation.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

– Colossians 3:23-24

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About Jeremy Robertson

Jeremy Robertson has served as a Minister at the Edmond Church of Christ since 2010. After 13 years of Youth Ministry, he transitioned to Family Life Ministry in 2013. He graduated from Oklahoma Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in Ministry/Bible and later earned a master’s degree in Family Life Ministry from OC. In his role, Jeremy leads ministry and outreach efforts for marriage enrichment, young adults, men’s and women’s ministry, and other family life contexts. He and his wife Ashley have two sons.