December 27, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Luke 2:10-12
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
The Christmas story underscores the fact that God values those who respond to God’s grace with faith and obedience. God is looking, not for those who are great in achievement, but for those who are great in openness to God and God’s will. Thus, we would do well to define our identity, not in terms of professional success, but rather in terms of faithfulness to God.
This devotion is part of the series: Work in Light of Christmas.
The shepherds in my wife’s Nativity scene are colorful and well-dressed. They’re the sort of people you’d be glad to have in your living room (even if they stand on the bookshelf and never talk). The shepherds in our crèche have children and pets with them, not to mention several clean, odorless, and picturesque sheep.
When we read about the shepherds in Luke 2, it would be tempting to project onto this biblical story our own experience of Nativity scene shepherds. In reality, though, shepherding was hard, gritty work. Shepherds spent their time outside, hanging around animals that were not, in fact, odorless. Shepherds had limited access to bathing or other comforts. Shepherds were not well paid. Nor were they highly regarded. In some cultures of the world of the first century, shepherds were actually despised and distrusted, though this may not have been true in Jewish culture. In general, though, shepherds found themselves among the lower class, without the benefit of honor, privilege, or ease.
Yet God sent angels to some shepherds to announce the birth of the Son of God, the Messiah. God did not send angels to the religious authorities, or to the rulers of Judea, or to the wealthy, or to those who were highly respected in society. No, God sent angels to mere shepherds, who became the first human beings, outside of the holy family, to know about the birth of Jesus.
I’m struck by the fact that God chose to reveal such stunning good news to people who were relative “nobodies.” Their work, however necessary it may have been, did not earn money, fame, or honor. Yet this didn’t keep God from granting to the shepherds one of the greatest honors of all time. God didn’t choose an audience in terms of their strategic benefit or cultural worthiness. Rather, God chose those who would respond to the good news of the Savior’s birth. And, I might add, God chose those who would continually remind us of heavenly values.
For many of us, our identity is tied up in our work. If we’re successful, then we think highly of ourselves. If we’re not, then we can regard ourselves as failures. What we do for work can define who we are. This is not altogether wrong, since we were created for work and work is central to our life’s purpose. But we can easily define ourselves so exclusively in terms of our work that we lose sight of how God values people. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
The Christmas story underscores the fact that God values those who respond to God’s grace with faith and obedience. God is looking, not for those who are great in achievement or status, but for those who are great in openness to God and God’s will. Thus, we would do well to define our identity, not in terms of professional success, but rather in terms of faithfulness to God.
To what extent are you defined by your work?
What else tells you who you are? From what do you get your identity?
Are you ready to respond to God’s call? Or are you too busy with other things?
Talk with a good friend or your small group about the extent to which your identity is defined by your work.
Gracious God, thank you for choosing to reveal the good news of Jesus’s birth to shepherds. Thank you for reminding us that our value to you is not determined by our success at work, but rather by our readiness to receive and embrace your word.
Help us, we pray, to be like the shepherds in our responsiveness to you. Teach us to see ourselves as you see us, and to define ourselves in light of your love for us and your call upon our lives. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Status in Church and at Work: Friends in Low Places (1 Corinthians 1:18–31).
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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.