January 31, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
How can we love God with all of our heart through our work? Yesterday, I began to answer this question by focusing on what it means to love God with our heart. As you may recall, in the biblical understanding of persons, the heart was the center of the will rather than the emotions. Loving God with all our heart means choosing to obey and honor God above all else.
What might this look like in practice? I want to share three examples of people I’ve known in the last thirty years. The first comes from when I was pastor of a church in Irvine, California. A member of my congregation shared with me a difficult workplace issue. She worked in a financial services company, where she had done excellent work for several years. But, this woman came to me because her boss was demanding that she be untruthful in a report she was writing. When she resisted, her boss strongly suggested that she do what he asked if she wanted to keep her job. She came to me as her pastor for guidance.
Now, I could easily have told her that she should always tell the truth. I could have given her biblical support for this counsel. But what I really wanted was for this woman to wrestle with the challenge before her, to seek the Lord, and, ultimately, to choose to do what pleased him. As this woman and I talked, I asked her about her faith and her experience of God’s faithfulness in her life. The more she talked about how God had loved her through hard times in the past, the more she became clear that she wanted to be truthful, not only because it was right, but also because it was a way of expressing her grateful love to God. She was willing to risk her job because she loved the Lord more than the security of her position in the company.
Our exercise of will in order to love God at work doesn’t always come in times of challenge and hardship, however. I think of a man I know who made a considerable amount of money through a highly successful start-up company. Now, his main occupation involves investing that capital so as to increase it. Yet, this man is also eager to love God through his investments. So he invests in companies that contribute to the common good in the areas of education, medicine, energy, and service. He sees his daily work as a response to God’s gifts and calling, as a chance to honor and serve God in the world.
My final example of exercising one’s will in the workplace in order to love God comes from my time at Laity Lodge, a retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. The hundreds of guests who came to the Lodge each year were treated to rooms that were immaculately cleaned. One day, I asked one of the members of our housekeeping staff what motivated her to work so hard cleaning bathrooms hundreds of times each year. “That’s easy,” she said. “I want to serve the guests well. But mostly I think, I’m cleaning this bathroom for God.” She exercised her will, choosing to make her bathrooms spotless, as an expression of her love for God.
So, no matter where you work, whether in financial services, investments, or housekeeping, whether as a teacher, a lawyer, or an electrician, or you name it, you can discover how to love God with your heart by choosing to honor him in your daily work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to the examples noted above?
Can you think of a time (or times) when you chose a certain course of action in your work because you sought to love the Lord?
Can you think of ways you can love God “with all your heart” in your work today?
Gracious God, thank you for loving us beyond what we can ever imagine. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your love by loving you in return, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Teach us, Lord, to love you with all our heart, to exercise our will so that our actions honor and please you. Help us to do this in every part of life, including our work.
Even this day, Lord, may I work as an expression of my love for you. May my choices be consistent with your will. May they contribute to your work in this world.
To you be all the glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18)
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.