But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”
First then, I am to prove, that no temporal business, though ever so important, can justify a neglect of true religion.
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This is true and undefiled religion and for the perfecting of this good work in our hearts, the eternal Son of God came down and shed his precious blood. For this end were we made and sent into the world and by this alone can we become the sons of God. Were we indeed to judge by the common practice of the world, we might think we were sent into it for no other purpose than to care and toil for the uncertain riches of this life. But if we consult the lively oracles, they will inform us that we were born for nobler ends, even to be born again from above, to be restored to the divine likeness by Jesus Christ, our second Adam and thereby be made meet to inherit the kingdom of heaven. And consequently, there is an obligation laid upon all, even the most busy people, to secure this end, it being an undeniable truth that all creatures ought to answer the end for which they were created.
. . . In the 14th of St. Luke, the 18th and following verses, our blessed Lord puts forth this parable, ‘A certain man made a great supper and bade many and sent his servant at supper-time, to call them that were bidden. But they all, with one consent, began to make excuse. The one said, I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it, I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought a yoke of oxen and I must needs go and prove them, I pray thee therefore have me excused. So the servant returned and showed his master all these things.’ And what follows? Did the master accept of their excuses? No, the text tells us the good man was angry and said, ‘that none of those which were bidden, should taste of his supper.’
And what does this parable teach but that the most lawful callings cannot justify our neglect. Nay, that they are no longer lawful when they in any wise interfere with the great concerns of religion. For the marriage supper here spoken of means the gospel. The master of the house is Christ, the servants sent out, are his ministers whose duty it is from time to time to call the people to this marriage-feast or, in other words, to be religious. Now we find those that were bidden were very well and honestly employed. There was no harm in buying or seeing a piece of ground, or in going to prove a yoke of oxen. But here lay their faults: they were doing those things when they were invited to come to the marriage feast.
Without doubt, persons may very honestly and commendably be employed in following their respective callings. But yet, if they are engaged so deeply in these, as to hinder their working out their salvation with fear and trembling, they must expect the same sentence with their predecessors in the parable, that none of them shall taste of Christ’s supper. For our particular calling, as of this or that profession must never interfere with our general and precious calling as Christians. Not that Christianity calls us entirely out of the world, the holy scriptures warrant no such doctrine.
It is very remarkable that in the book of life we find some almost of all kinds of occupations who notwithstanding served God in their respective generations and shone as so many lights in the world. Thus we hear of a good centurion in the Evangelists and a devout Cornelius in the Acts; a pious lawyer; and some that walked with God even of Nero’s household, in the epistles. And our divine Master himself, in his check to Martha, does not condemn her for minding but for being cumbered or perplexed about many things. No, you may, nay, you must labour out of obedience to God, even for the meat which perisheth.
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But I come, in the second place, to apply what has been said. I beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, let not your concern for the meat which perisheth be at the expense of that which endureth to everlasting life. For, to repeat our blessed Saviour’s words, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’
—George Whitefield, “Worldly Business No Plea for the Neglect of Religion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:347–348, 350–351.