March 28, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (NRSV)
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Whether we are at home with the Lord or away, whether we are at work or school, whether we are at church or shopping for groceries, whether we are teaching a class or sweeping a floor, whether we are writing a sermon or closing a deal, whether we’re feeding the hungry or hanging out with our friends, no matter what we are doing we make it our aim to please the Lord.
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
In the season of Lent, Christians pay particular attention to our mortality, to our physical and moral frailty, and therefore to our great need for a Savior. As we have seen, the fourth and fifth chapters of 2 Corinthians develop this Lenten perspective. In these chapters, the Apostle Paul offers an extended reflection on what it’s like to have a mortal body and to long for the age to come in which our temporal “earthly tent” will become an eternal “heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).
Reflecting further on the nature of our earthly existence, Paul states that “while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (5:6). Being “at home with the Lord” would be better than being away from the Lord, according to Paul (5:8). He yearns for the age to come in which his relationship with Christ will be “face to face” rather than “in a mirror dimly,” as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12.
But no matter which age Paul finds himself in, whether he is at home with the Lord or away from the Lord, one thing remains constant for Paul: “We make it our aim to please [the Lord]” (2 Corinthians 5:9). The next verse makes clear that pleasing the Lord has to do with how we have lived in this present age. It’s a matter of “what has been done in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10).
So, though our bodies are temporary tents, and though they are weak and mortal, what we do with them makes all the difference in this world . . . and in the world to come. What we do with our bodies can please or displease the Lord. As it says in Romans 12:1-2, “So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature” (CEB).
When Christians think about how we might please God with our bodies, we often focus on certain kinds of behavior. We think about pleasing God by doing obviously religious things like going to church, reading our Bibles, being generous to the poor, seeking justice for the oppressed, and sharing the good news with our neighbors.
To be sure, these actions are pleasing to God when they’re done faithfully and with the right motives. But if we limit the ways we can please God with our body to such things, we miss so much about God’s pleasure. Remember, God created human beings to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). We are to work in God’s “garden,” helping it to be productive and guarding it from harm (Genesis 2:15). Therefore, we can please God with our bodies in a wide variety of ways, many having to do with our daily work, whether paid or unpaid. You can please God by being a justice-seeking banker, an entrepreneurial job creator, a caring teacher, a beauty-making artist, or a faithful full-time parent. Yes, God will also be pleased if you teach Sunday school or work to make your community more just. But pleasing God is something we can do, not just at certain times, but at all times.
Thus, we might build on what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:9 in this way: So, whether we are at home with the Lord or away, whether we are at work or school, whether we are at church or shopping for groceries, whether we are teaching a class or sweeping a floor, whether we are writing a sermon or closing a deal, whether we’re feeding the hungry or hanging out with our friends, no matter what we are doing we make it our aim to please the Lord.
When you think about how you can please God, what typically comes to mind? What things do you do on a regular basis that give God pleasure?
As you consider your daily work, whether paid or unpaid, in what ways might your work please God? In what ways might your work not please God?
How do you feel about the fact that you can please God—that how you live makes a difference to God?
As you begin your next workday, be very intentional about offering your work to God. Then, throughout the day, remember to aim at pleasing God more than anything else.
Gracious God, what an amazing thing that we can please you! Thank you for caring about us and what we do. Thank you for creating us with the capacity to use our bodies for your purposes and pleasure.
Help me, I pray, to seek your pleasure more than anything else. May I follow Paul in making it my aim to please you no matter what I am doing. May my whole life – including my daily work – be an offering of worship to you. Amen.
Banner image by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Knowing God Completely.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.