February 28, 2021
How can we start working spiritually? We’re beginning to focus on things we might have pursued instead of the abundant life God has to offer, and one of those things is work.
One version of the Lord’s Prayer can give us some perspective:
Our father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
That prayer is so familiar, and it is beautiful in its simplicity. Since it’s so easy to pick up, we teach it to our children, but each line deserves a great deal of reflection and meditation.
For example: “Give us this day our daily bread” has a lot of meaning behind it. Bread might be cheap when you get it at the store, but it’s something that’s in almost everybody’s diet. Like eggs, and bananas, they’re common in a lot of what people eat. But Jesus isn’t talking just about bread. Martin Luther once said that: “When you pray for daily bread […] you must open and expand your thinking […] over the broad fields, the farmlands, and the entire country that produces, processes, and conveys to us […] all kinds of nourishment.”
When you stop and think about it, there’s a lot that goes into bringing bread to your family’s table.
It might remind you of a project A.J. Jacobs did when he started thinking about all the people, processes, and institutions required to get coffee to him every morning. He set out to thank everybody that had to do with getting the coffee to him. He didn’t just thank the barista, thanked the corporate buyer for the coffee. A.J. Jacobs also traveled all the way to Colombia, where the coffee was grown, and traveled to thank truck drivers, steel workers, and product engineers who made the equipment, vehicles, and even the cups and lids for that coffee. He did his best to thank everyone involved in the entire supply chain.
Our society is so intricately and amazingly linked together. Because of all the work involved, the prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” is a pretty incredibly profound prayer to pray.
That prayer is equally applicable to work, a huge part of our daily lives. Martin Luther also wrote that “God could have easily given you grain and fruit without your plowing and planning, but he doesn’t want to do so.” Even before sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve had jobs:
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”Genesis 1:28 (NLT)
There are other jobs that are described in the Bible: Cain farmed, and Abel was a shepherd. Moses was also a shepherd, and so was David. Lydia was a businesswoman who sold fine fabric. Paul was a tent maker, and Peter and Andrew were fishermen. And Jesus was the son of a carpenter, so he probably was a carpenter too. But none of those jobs define who those people were. Even though the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age changed the way people work, the idea of work still doesn’t define who you should be.
Our relationship with work is a really delicate balance. We sometimes over identify ourselves with our work. On the other hand, we might avoid working because we don’t want our identity to become wrapped up in our work. Not working enough is also a problem, so we have to follow a balancing act.
Over the past year with the pandemic, many people have needed to work at home, and this might have become a distraction from home life. It might have pushed some people to forget to identify with Jesus, and instead start seeking meaning and fulfillment in our jobs.
So, to achieve balance, and start working spiritually, we should follow the advice to the Colossians:
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT)