First a confession: Whenever someone hands me their business card with a Jesus fish on it, it doesn’t make me want to work with them. Actually it makes me more skeptical about the quality of their work.
And maybe I’m just being cynical but in my experience there is a correlation between those kinds of cards and less than ideal work.
But I don’t think that’s just a problem with Christian business people. It’s been a problem for churches for over a thousand years.
And it is a problem.
We’ve developed a system where a persons faith has nothing to say about where they will spend the majority of their lives. We’ve begun to believe that God is at church, but not really at work.
I’d like to start a blog series for the next few months about how our God views our work. And how God works through our work.
Did you know the first person the Bible talks about as filled with the Spirit was a guy named Bezalel, he’s not a priest or prophet. He was a skilled craftsman, the Bob Vila of the Bible.
We’ve had this idea for the past hundred years or so that the really Spiritual people are the ones who work at church (which I can see why we’d think that).
But the best way to tell whether or not we are doing our work for the Lord well, is by seeing if you are doing you’re work for the Lord well.
Somewhere along the way we bought into the idea that really Spiritual people work at the church, or at non-profits. But the majority of Stories in Scripture aren’t about God working through the Levites, or priests. They’re about God working in accountants, or trumpet players, or carpenters.
There’s a guy named Nehemiah in the Old Testament, and when we first meet Nehemiah he is in Exile. But he’s doing okay, He’s the cupbearer for the King, which sounds like the easiest job ever.
But in reality he drinks the wine before the King does to make sure no one is gunning for the King’s job. And in the beginning of Nehemiah he is asking the King of Persia to let him go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
And the King, who seems like a nice guy, but has way too many x’s in his name says yes. So the rest of the book of Nehemiah is about men building a wall. It’s some of the more boring chapters in the Bible, they’re just filled with these random names of guys who were just stacking bricks.
In fact, look at what the text actually says:
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
They worked with the help of God.
Now this work doesn’t seem that spiritual does it? It’s just ordinary guys, stacking ordinary bricks.
And if the Scriptures didn’t come out and say it, we might never know that God was in this story. Working behind the scenes in making ordinary jobs into extraordinary vocations.
Or what about Genesis 24?
It’s a story about Abraham’s kid Isaac, Abraham wants to find his kid a wife, and since they didn’t have Eharmony yet, he does the next best thing. He sends his servant to find a bride for his son.
Which is a pretty tough job to be tasked with. Repair the fence, do the laundry, find Isaac a wife. So when the servant goes out to look he doesn’t know what to do other than pray. He asks God to show him who will be the future Mrs. Isaac by giving him a sign. Now this is as close as the Bible gets to a magic 8 ball, but what’s interesting to me is the sign he chooses. It’s based on the girl having a strong work ethic.
He prays to God for the woman he wants Isaac to marry to offer to water his camels for him. And that’s exactly what she did:
Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.
Now this seems pretty unremarkable until you start doing the math. John Ortberg points out that 1 gallon weighs 8 pounds. A thirsty camel can drink up to 30 gallons. And there were 10 camels.
This is not just a polite gesture. Rebekah is doing some heavy lifting. She’s carrying up to 300 gallons of water. And she has no idea what God is up to.
She doesn’t know that because she’s doing this that God is using her work ethic to jump start the adventure of a lifetime. She doesn’t know that fathers are going to name their daughters after her for the rest of history.
She just thinks she’s carrying the water.
But God is at work.
There are a lot of reasons why I care about this so much, but here’s the main one. We’ve been given a theology that says that where God really is, where he’s really active at is at church. We’ve divided up our world into the sacred and the secular.
But take heart plumbers and poets, bankers and mechanics, because that’s not the Christian Story.
God is at work.