Even as Christians, living in this world can lead us to adopt an earthly vision for how things work. We can easily build two compartments for life – the spiritual and the secular. This leads to living as if some activities (being in church, reading the Bible, small group meetings, or praying with a friend) are spiritual and God-focused, while other activities (work, leisure, or thinking about money) are not.
We might find the occupation of pastor falling into the spiritual category, while that of truck driver would not. Your friends at church would fall into the spiritual relationships category while your friends at work would not. Praying with someone in pain would be a spiritual activity while disciplining the children is not.
When we’re in the spiritual arena – where we assume God is present, interested, and working – we can easily adopt a thoughtful, loving, contemplative, and caring personality. In the secular arena we might think and act differently; we function as if God is uninterested or not there.
When we use a God’s-not-interested compartment, we adopt a worldly perspective that focuses on self. Living with this type of division can remove God from most of life.
A False Reality
The truth is that this spiritual-secular division is a false reality. Life in Jesus doesn’t have this separation. The gospel is meant to dominate every area of life:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
The apostle Paul did not embrace the spiritual-secular division. He wanted to do everything for the glory of God. Even the regular and mundane things of life are to reflect God’s value:
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The thing is, unifying life under the gospel is critical if we’re going to live as we should and impact this world for Jesus. If we yield pieces of life to a separate secular compartment, those pieces will weigh us down in compromise. They’ll continually fight against Jesus living in us as he should.
Money and the Spiritual-Secular Divide
One of the most common spiritual-secular divisions is found in the way we think about money and our financial planning. By putting money and money decisions in the secular category, we get away from thinking like a steward, and we’ll inevitably make wrong decisions.
It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking. For example, it’s easy to think that the money I give to the church belongs to God and the rest belongs to me. This is unbiblical, because all we have belongs to Jesus.
The battle to think about money in a Christ-exalting way is difficult because money opens the door to so much of what this world has to offer. Money temptations can connect to almost every aspect of life and call to us to think about self rather than God or others.
I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.
– David Livingstone –