August 30, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Some men came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the story in Mark 2:1-12, in which four men carried a paralyzed man on a mat, lowering him to Jesus through a hole they made in the roof. In response to “their faith,” Jesus forgave the paralyzed man and healed his body.
As I was reflecting on how this story relates to our work, I consulted, as I so often do, with the Theology of Work online commentary. What I read there was both fascinating and compelling. So, rather than reword it, I’m going to quote liberally from the Theology of Work commentary on Mark 2:1-12.
“The story of Jesus healing the paralytic man raises the question of what the theology of work means for those who do not have the ability to work. The paralytic man, prior to this healing, is incapable of self-supporting work. As such, he is dependent on the grace and compassion of those around him for his daily survival. Jesus is impressed by the faith of the man’s friends. Their faith is active, showing care, compassion, and friendship to someone who was excluded from both the financial and relational rewards of work. In their faith, there is no separation between being and doing.
Jesus sees their effort as an act of collective faith. “When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:5). Regrettably, the community of faith plays a vanishingly small role in most Christians’ work lives in the modern West. Even if we receive help and encouragement for the workplace from our church, it is almost certain to be individual help and encouragement. In earlier times, most Christians worked alongside the same people they went to church with, so churches could easily apply the Scriptures to the shared occupations of laborers, farmers, and householders. In contrast, Western Christians today seldom work in the same locations as others in the same church. Nonetheless, today’s Christians often work in the same types of jobs as others in their faith communities. So there could be an opportunity to share their work challenges and opportunities with other believers in similar occupations. Yet this seldom happens. Unless we find a way for groups of Christian workers to support one another, grow together, and develop some kind of work-related Christian community, we miss out on the communal nature of faith that is so essential in Mark 2:3-12.
In this brief episode, then, we observe three things: (1) work is intended to benefit those who can’t support themselves through work, as well as those who can; (2) faith and work are not separated as being and doing, but are integrated into action empowered by God; and 3) work done in faith cries out for a community of faith to support it.”
I find this section from the Theology of Work commentary most astute. But, if you’re concerned that the “work” done by the mat carriers wasn’t real work because it wasn’t paid work, remember that, from a biblical perspective, work includes far more than that for which we receive compensation. When we drive someone to the doctor’s office, or build a house with Habitat for Humanity, or give our children a bath before bedtime, we are working, using the strength and ability God has given us to contribute to his wider work in the world.
Something to Think About:
In what ways does your work, paid or unpaid, “benefit those who can’t support themselves through work”?
Do you think of your faith and your work as integrated? Why or why not?
In what ways could we, as a community of faith, support each other’s work more effectively and consistently?
Gracious God, thank you for the example of the mat carriers in our passage. As we reflect on their work, we recognize that we need to grow in our support for each other in our work. Help us, we pray, in our Christian communities, to discover how we can encourage each other in our daily work.
May all our work glorify you, dear Lord. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive at the Theology of Work Project online: Walking Around in the Skin of the Paralytic
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.