Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
Lately I have been doing some work in the Gospel of Luke. I’ve been looking at Jesus’ work, and how it relates to our working.
For most of my life the only connection I heard between Jesus and work was that he was a builder, and then, at age 30, he started his public ministry. The way it was presented to me, and the way that I framed the story of Jesus, is that the first 30 years didn’t really matter. Jesus’ real work was his public ministry; that was his important work, his lasting work.
However, what if we started to reframe this. For more than 60% of his life, Jesus worked as a builder. It’s difficult to make propositions from silence, but I suggest that what mattered to Jesus was that he did his work well, and with integrity. We know that the Old Testament made a link between work and worship, right from Genesis.
In Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew root for work avad is also used of serving or worshipping God in the temple. The linguistic link is not accidental.
In the prophets there is a link between integrity in ordinary work as being as meaningful, perhaps even more meaningful, than worship practices. You couldn’t do shoddy work, then go to the temple and make your sacrifices and think that God would be happy.
What the Bible Says
Isaiah 58:2-3 says God looks at our work before noticing our worship:
Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
“Why have we fasted,” they say,
“and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?”
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
As Dorothy L Sayers said in her essay “Why Work?”:
The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly - but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth.
It is true that Jesus’ work on earth was part of the witness to his identity as the Messiah. So, join in Jesus’ work by doing your work – paid or unpaid – well, seeking to honor God and serve others, making it your offering to God.
Think it Through
- What have you thought about in terms of Jesus’ first job, as a carpenter/builder?
- How are you challenged in your work by these ideas?
Thank you, Jesus, for being willing to be a humble worker.
For learning a craft, and making a living with your hands.
Thank you for doing it for such a long time.
Thank you for the reminder from the Old Testament that the quality and care of our work is linked to the value you give to our worship.
Please help us to do our work well, as an acceptable offering to you.
Help us top honor you and serve others,
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.