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Work, to Jesus, was not something you did 9 to 5. It was also not something you did full-time, part-time, seasonally, in shifts, or three weeks on, one week off. It was not contractual, in the sense that you had to agree to do and say certain things “on the job” that you may or may not do or say in your “off” hours.
It was not something you did for money.
Work, to Jesus, was not like that.
To Jesus, work was who he was. He was his work. He made no distinction between the work he did for God and who he was as a person.
We who live in the Kingdom and follow Jesus should also strive to be our work, as Jesus was his.
Today is my Sabbath. I’ve written before about how much I love the Sabbath. The Sabbath, of course, is our God-sanctioned day off from work. We need it and use it to rest from our labours. Keeping the Sabbath is also a Commandment. That means, not keeping the Sabbath is not an option. In keeping the Sabbath, we’re also to keep it holy, which means we’re not to devote our Sabbath day to profane (worldly) pursuits, including doing work for mammon.
I don’t always keep my Sabbath on the same day that most people keep theirs. Sometimes, I’m led by God to keep it on a different day, but the content of my Sabbath – regardless of the day I keep it – is still the same. Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, and I take him at his word. I keep the Sabbath when God guides me to keep it, and I keep it holy, as he instructed in his Commandment.
Jesus, however, was infamous for breaking the Sabbath, or so his detractors accused. Because he made no distinction between the work he did and who he was, Jesus worked on the Sabbath without breaking the Sabbath. Like priests, Jesus was actually obligated and expected to work on the Sabbath, as he frequently pointed out to his detractors.
We again see Jesus’ take on work reflected in the famous interchange between him and Martha, when Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help her with her chores. In asking Jesus to intervene, Martha likely assumed this tactic would shame Mary into helping her. So imagine her shock when Jesus instead sides with Mary and reminds Martha that, in sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning about the Kingdom, Mary has chosen the better job.
During the time they were with Jesus on Earth, the disciples did the same mundane daily chores that the rest of us generally do, such as shopping, food prep, and so on. However, shortly after they’d received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they allocated the mundane daily chores to others and spent all their time doing the work of the Kingdom. Like Jesus, they had finally become their work.
It took Paul some time to get there. Even while he was traveling and preaching and writing his letters, he still made tents for his daily bread. He also encouraged others to earn their way through the world rather than to rely on hand-outs. The six-day designated work-week was important to Paul, as it should be to us. Working six days a week is part of the same Commandment as keeping the Sabbath holy.
So where does all this information leave us? If you’re like me, you’re both working in the Kingdom and working in the world, as Paul was for most of his ministry. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m working only in the Kingdom, like Jesus, but I hope so. I’m on God’s time, not mine.
In the meantime, I’ve been blessed to have work that I can do anywhere in the world and where I’m my own boss. The work I do for the world (freelance writing and editing) also feeds the work I do for the Kingdom, which is a profound blessing. Even better, God is my agent. And being perfect at everything he does, God is a perfect agent, which means he only gets me work that suits me, that I have time for, and that satisfies my needs. I am never without.
How much longer I’ll be doing my worldly work is up to God: again, I’m on his time, not mine. When I do my God-sanctioned and God-given worldly work, I keep in mind that I’m always to do it (as scripture tells us) as if unto God, as if I were doing it for God: as if God were my client. So even in doing worldly work, I’m still doing Kingdom work if I do it unto God, which means if I do it to the best of my ability.
In doing both worldly work and Kingdom work, I see myself along with others doing the same. We’re in a vision given to John, which he recorded in the book of Revelation:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.Revelation 7:9-17
There we are, having come through our own personal Tribulation and washed our robes in the sanctifying blood of Jesus, making them white. That is spiritual rebirth. Protected, guided, provided for, and comforted, we spend the rest of our time on Earth in what Paul called a “cloud” of witnesses – spiritually before the throne of God, rejoicing in God, and serving God only. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’re in John’s vision. Your work and everything you do is now a testimony to Jesus. Stick your face close enough to the words of that passage, and you’ll see yourself waving at you. I’m waving at you, too. Go ahead and wave back.
For Jesus, working and doing God’s will were one and the same, and he did them night and day. For us born-again believers who are doing both worldly work and Kingdom work, we’re not that far off from how Jesus worked if we do everything we do as if unto God.
Even so, if God guides us to do it, we shouldn’t be ashamed to make tents. It’s always better to work than to beg; God never wants his children to beg. If we show the willingness to do whatever’s asked of us, God will bring us the resources we need in the world to continue our work in the Kingdom. That’s a guarantee.
Scripture tells us so.
People ask me why I don’t write for a living. I tell them I do. They say, “So where do you publish?” I say, “Online”. They say, “But for what company?” I say, “No company. I work for God.” And then they give me one of those looks (you know the one I’m talking about) and the conversation ends. (more…)