I want to draw attention to this passage in a way we can apply to our own lives. I was thinking about it last night because two years ago I was so hyped on this very passage that I dropped several activities and those that I began were founded directly in glorifying God. So what happened? Complacency. I'm too comfortable with the world to truly live dead set for God.
I could do a whole series on this one topic and apply it to every minute facet of our lives, but I don't want to get too caught up in the religiosity the Pharasies found themselves in. Instead, I want to open our minds to think of God through every action we do, and one way it to give an example to think about which challenges our very identity. I know people identify themselves differently, and place higher importance on one identity over another, but the one I find that runs through everyone is vocation. When you meet someone, you don't ask what their political ideologies are, you don't ask where they are spiritually, you ask what they do for a living.
Does my job give glory to God? This is the question I want to ask. It is what I spend most of my time doing after all, so if most of my time is going into this task I should evaluate whether or not it is glorifying to God. It's a challenging question to ask for sure. Paul himself, the author of this passage, built tents on the side. Was he hypocritical or did that serve a greater purpose? Paul said he worked to not be a burden on the Church he was serving.
Later, in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Paul urges to, "lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands ... so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." A quiet life. Physical labor. These are things we can do to glorify God. Paul again notes to work so you're not a burden on anybody, as he worked for the same.
We can conclude here that perhaps our vocation is glorifying to God because we are told to labor and to not be dependent on anyone. But certainly some vocations do not glorify God. I have a hard time working where I do as we service the ultra-rich, we sell them products they don't need so they can tower over other people in their decadence. Does my product glorify God? I struggle with this daily.
Some other occupations are questionable to me as well. A pornographer certainly. An insurance broker might be akin to a tax collector in Jesus' time, keeping people from their coverage. A salesman who lies about a product or service to get a sale. A soldier who is asked to kill another. A CEO who does not give his laborers a fair wage. A taxi driver who speeds through traffic. Not all of these are questionable simply because of the job title, they could be carried out in a manner pleasing to the Lord, but others require you to be deceitful, callous, murder, etc.
There is certainly place for liberty through grace, but we should at least strive to follow the one in whom we profess our faith.