Christian Life and the Time of COVID-19: Discerning Between Essential and Nonessential

  • May 20, 2020
By: Sister Esthemoa (Elaine Joy Caparan)

With countries implementing lockdowns left and right, many businesses, workers, and civilians are finding out what’s essential and nonessential.

Essential workers continue to work amid the risk of infection. Nonessential personnel are expected to do their civic responsibility by staying at home. Essential goods are a top priority for deliveries. Nonessential goods line the shelves of warehouses to be delivered after quarantines are lifted.

Seeing as how we’re currently living a reality often occupied by these two terms, I think you already have an idea of what they mean. But let’s ask anyway. What is essential and nonessential?

In the Time of COVID-19

Without telling you the definition of these two terms, let’s look at these set of businesses and establishments. As you read them, decide whether the set of words is essential or nonessential. Let’s say A is for Essential and B is for Nonessential.

Ready? Go!

  1. Hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies?
  2. Malls, clothing stores, and footwear stores?
  3. Supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores?
  4. Salons, spas, and barbershops?
  5. Warehouses, storage sites, and distribution centers?
  6. Cinemas, arcades, and bookstores?

Done? Let’s look at the answers.

The answers are–different, depending on the interpretation.

In the time of COVID-19, what’s essential and nonessential depends on the interpretation of a governing body. For example, if we are to reference the memorandum circular1 issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on May 5, answers would look like this: 1. A, 2. B, 3. A, 4. B, 5. A, and 6. B.

Though, what if we weren’t quarantined to mitigate the spread of the virus? Chances are, your answers and mine might be different from those above. As I’m writing this, I bet my little brother would consider no. 4 as essential right away – seeing as his hair has gotten too long for his liking.

By definition2, essential is “something necessary, indispensable, or unavoidable.” Nonessential is that but the opposite. In the current reality we are facing, interpretation of essential and its antonym is centered on the fight against the virus and the safety of the population.

To win against COVID-19, health workers are essential. Estheticians are nonessential. To safeguard the population, a steady source of food supply is essential. A new dress or the latest Jordans is nonessential.

In A Christian’s Life

If we’re going to look at it from the Christian’s perspective, what is essential and nonessential?

In our life as Christians, we face an enemy that bears semblance to a virus. Like COVID-19, our enemy is invisible. Like COVID-19, our enemy can spread so fast – infecting without you being any the wiser. Like COVID-19, if not dispelled from our system, our enemy can drive us to death.

Our enemy is sin.

“Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.” (Romans 5:12 GW)

This is the reality we face as Christians. Our day to day life is a battle against sin. For if sin wins against us, our soul will die (Eze. 18:4 ESV). Knowing this reality, as Christians, our interpretation of what’s essential and nonessential centers on the fight against sin and the safety of our souls.

To win against sin, to be with Christ is essential. Fighting sin all on your own is nonessential.

You can’t fight COVID-19 on your own. You need the help of doctors and nurses to fight the virus. So why would you fight sin, the harbinger of death, on your own? You need to be with Christ. We all need to be with our Lord Christ Jesus to win against sin.

You might be wondering why though. Why is being with our Lord Christ Jesus essential in our fight against sin?

“We know that our old selves were crucified with him so that our sinful bodies might be rendered powerless and we might no longer be slaves to sin.” (Rom 6:6 ISV)

To be with Christ is to render sin powerless in our bodies. Through baptism, we became with Christ (Rom. 6:3 NASB). When we became with Christ, we clothed ourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:26 AMP). With Him now living in us (Gal. 2:20 ESV), sin is now weak. Our Lord Christ Jesus is the doctor and the medicine combined. He can dispel sin from our system with His righteousness.

To safeguard your soul, to live by the Spirit is essential. Living by the desires of the flesh is nonessential.

Sin lives in our flesh (Rom. 7:20 ISV). If we live fulfilling the desires of the flesh, it’s as if we forfeited our soul to sin. It’s like going outside despite the quarantine and a high number of cases just to get your nails done. It’s nonessential and life-threatening.

Not convinced yet? Let’s look at what the works of the flesh are (Gal. 5:19-21a ISV). Sexual immorality comes first in the list. There’s jealousy, envy, hatred, and things like that. Oh, and also, murder. If that’s not forfeiting your soul, I don’t know what is.

Instead of nonessential acts that endanger your soul to sin, desire to live by the Spirit. Living by the Spirit means you are living according to God’s Spirit3. You live each day following God’s teachings – setting His examples as the standard to follow, the rule of behavior3.

In living by the Spirit, instead of works of the flesh, you’ll be bearing the fruit of the Spirit. What a sweet fruit it is! In one fruit, you get love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23a ISV). All these are yours to enjoy and share with mankind, as you continue living by the Spirit.

That’s not all. Living in the Spirit negates fulfilling fleshly desires. That’s because they’re directly opposing each other. What the Spirit wants is opposed by the flesh. What the flesh wants is opposed by the Spirit (Gal. 5:17 ISV). Works of the flesh are crushed by the fruit of the Spirit.

Discerning Between Essential and Nonessential

Let’s do this one more time. After what we’ve learned about essential and nonessential, let’s look at these items. As you read them, decide whether the set of words is essential or nonessential. Like before, A is for Essential, and B is for Nonessential.

Ready? Go!

  1. To be with Christ
  2. To fight sin on your own
  3. To live by the Spirit
  4. To fulfill the desires of the flesh

Done? Let’s look at the answers.

If your answers are 1. A, 2. B, 3. A, and 4. B, then you get a perfect score! If you didn’t get all the answers right, go back and read everything from the top!

Moving forward, as Christians, we must be able to discern between essential and nonessential. During this pandemic and well on after, we’ll constantly be tasked to discern whether an act is essential or nonessential in our battle against sin. No matter what comes, may we always choose Christ over ourselves. May we choose to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

By the time COVID-19 is nothing but an entry for the top 10 pandemics that shook the world, I hope we can all look back to it as a time we gained victory after victory in our battle against sin.


1 Lopez, R. M. Business Establishments or Activities Allowed to Operate in Areas Declared Under ECQ and GCQ Pursuant to the Omnibus Guidelines on Community Quarantine as Confirmed and Adopted by the President Under EO. 112 s. 2020, 1–8 (2020). Makati City, NCR: DTI. Retrieved from

2 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Essential. In dictionary. Retrieved May 7, 2020, from

3 Gill, J. Galatians 5:16 Commentary – John Gill’s Exposition Of The Bible. [online] Bible Study Tools. Retrieved from

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