February 2, 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.”
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider how we can love the Lord with all our soul in and through our work. We focused mainly on the biblical meaning of “soul” (psyche in Greek; nefesh in Hebrew), which can refer to a living being, the life force that animates us, or the emotions at the core of our inner life.
So, then, how can we love God with all our soul at work?
I want to share two different but related thoughts that occur to me as I ponder this question. First, I’m reminded of the fact that when I am most in love with my work I’m also at risk of not loving God through my work. When I’m feeling most happy about my work, most fulfilled, and most engaged, I can love my work but stop right there. Loving my work becomes an end in and of itself, rather than an impetus to love God through my work. Thus, work can become for me a kind of idol, something I love even more than God, at least in the moment.
Conversely, in times when my work is frustrating or unfulfilling, I am more aware of working because I love God and seek to be faithful to him. There have been many times in my life when I have dreaded the work I have to do in the day ahead. Yet, I am empowered when I have prayed, “Lord, I am doing this not because I want to or like to, but so that I might serve you well.” In those times, when I do not really love my work, I am better able to love God through my work.
I’m not down on loving our work, mind you. There is something absolutely right about loving the work God has given us to do. But I want to be honest about my own tendency to neglect the Lord when I’m most engaged in and most in love with my work. Perhaps you can relate. (Or perhaps not.)
As I think about what helps me to love God through my work, rather than loving my work more than God, I’m reminded of gratitude. If I can step back and recognize that my work is a gift from God, and if I can say “Thank you, Lord,” then I’m less inclined to love my work more than God. And, when I’ve had a great day at work, if I take time to thank God, then my love for God increases. Gratitude assumes that all good gifts come from the Lord. Gratitude expressed in prayer helps us to love God from the center of our being and to grow in feelings of love for him.
What I’ve shared here about loving God with all my soul at work is just the beginning. I hope the following questions will help you reflect on how your own love for God is reflected in your work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a time when you loved God with all your soul in the context of your work? Why were you able to love God so deeply in this time?
What gets in the way of your ability to love God through your work?
What difference does gratitude make in your experience of work?
Would you be willing to adopt a discipline of daily thanksgiving related to your work?
Gracious God, we want to love you with all our soul, with the core of our being, with our emotions as well as our words and actions. Help us, we pray, to learn to love you this way when we’re at work.
Thank you, Lord, for the work you have given us. Thank you for times when we feel fulfilled in our work. Thank you for other times, when our work is not wonderful but we are able to work because we love you.
Even as I go about my work this day, may I do it out of a deep, devoted love for you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: “You Shall Have No Other Gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)
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.