The Shepherd Calls


Secular Saints
While I was a student at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, the Colonial Bread bakery was just outside the city. Some days when the wind was right you could smell the bread baking. For a dollar you could go inside and purchase a loaf of hot bread before it was sliced or packaged. They just gave it to you in a brown paper sack. A carload of students would pool their coins, buy a loaf, then eat it with their bare hands while it was hot. It was wonderful, but a loaf quickly disappeared among the students.
When I read Jesus’ words, “Man does not live by bread alone,” I remember that delicious bread. Still, no matter how tantalizing hot bread may be, there is more to life than a loaf of bread. When Jesus used the word “bread,” He doubtless was referring to more than food. He had in mind all our needs and wants, all our earthly desires.
Jesus did not mean we are not to seek bread. He said we do not live by bread “alone.” Singular pursuit of the things of earth is a shortcut to unhappiness. However, the pursuit of bread is a necessity. That pursuit should be guided by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
David Roper explained it like this, “We must work, not to conquer, acquire, accumulate, and retire but to make visible the invisible Christ by touching people with His love. Then, we can be sure our labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
I am currently writing a series of sketches about the life and work of some Christian people. Some of them are pastors and missionaries; but others labored at jobs not considered religious. We call them laypeople. They touch people pastors and missionaries never even see, let alone touch. I personally refer to these people as “secular saints.” May I confess that I am eternally grateful God called me to be a pastor. For more than sixty years, I reveled in that ministry; but there were times when I would have preferred to be a “secular saint.”
These “saints” greatly outnumber the clergy, and I will forever thank God for them. When in doubt, we will do well to follow John’s example.