Lord of Our Labor

August 27, 2005

Read: Gen. 2-3; 2 Thess. 3:6-12; Matt. 25:14-30

Lord of Our Labor. When Jesus becomes Lord of our life, do we become ambitious and upwardly mobile, or do we remain content with our state in life.

  1. Jesus the laboring man: Mark 6:3; Luke 2:51; 3:23. In his early years, Jesus lived at home in Nazareth, was obedient to his parents, and learned the carpentry trade. He entered his public ministry at age 30. To what extent is Jesus’ work career a model for all humanity? Should we avoid formal education? Should we honor the working man as well as the scholar?
  2. Work before and after sin: Genesis 2-3. What does the early history of the human race tell us about the value and motive for work? How has the incarnation changed this perspective, if at all?
  3. Everyone a worker: 2 Thess. 3:6-12. Paul emphasized that everyone should be a diligent worker. Given that emphasis, how can one encourage the spirit of compassion for those who cannot work or will not work?
  4. Work and the advent: Matt. 25:14-30. Jesus’ parable of the talents places a great deal of value on those who are found working when the master returns. How does the psychology of “advent” affect our ability to lay plans and carry out even long-range plans?From a biblical perspective, Matthew 24-25 is one of the best passages for establishing the point that the imminence of the advent should not disrupt the normal routine of life. The master will return as unexpectedly as a thief (24:43-44; cf. 24:45-50); and when the master was gone, he expected the workmen to keep using their talents faithfully until his (unexpected) return (25:14-30)Both C. S. Lewis and Thomas Merton provide us with striking quotations which reinforce the importance of maintaining a “life-as-usual” perspective in the face of the Advent. Merton was asked how the Shakers could turn out such marvelous furniture in view of the fact that they believed Jesus could return at any time without even a moment’s notice. Merton responded: “When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time, you do your work well.” (cited by Rodney Clapp, “Overdosing on the Apocalypse, Christianity Today, 10-28-91)

    Lewis couched his point about the need for constant preparedness in the form of a warning to those who think that they might be able to predict the time of Jesus’ return:

    “We must never speak to simple, excitable people about ‘the day’ without emphasizing again and again the utter impossibility of prediction. We must try to show them that the impossibility is an essential part of the doctrine. If you do not believe our Lord’s words, why do you believe in his return at all? And if you do believe them must you not put away from you, utterly and forever, any hope of dating that return? His teaching on the subject quite clearly consisted of three propositions. (1) That he will certainly return. (2) That we cannot possibly find out when (3) And that therefore we must always be ready for him.” (C. S. Lewis, “The World’s Last Night” in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays 107)

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