February 9, 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.”
Yesterday, we began to consider how we can love God with all of our strength in our daily work. We were reminded that God created our bodies – gave us strength – so that we might work. When we offer our bodies to God through our work, he is worshiped and loved.
How can we do this, practically speaking? In some occupations, it’s easy to make the connection between the use of our bodies and loving God. I think of a man I know who uses his woodworking skills to make, among other things, beautiful crosses for sanctuaries. While he carves, planes, and sands, he prays for the church that has hired him. Or I think of nurses who use their physical strength to care for people in need in the hospital. In loving others so tenderly, they are loving God. (Photo: the handmade cross in the sanctuary of Irvine Presbyterian Church.)
But what about those of us whose work is not so obviously an act of love for God or people? Can we actually love God when building a spreadsheet, or sweeping a walkway, or designing a brand, or selling a product? Yes, this is possible, if we learn to use all our strength in order to love God. In the classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence is described in this way, “He also counseled that we should not grow weary of doing even little things for the love of God. God does not regard the greatness of the work, but only the love with which it is performed.” Of course, Lawrence was not counting work that is clearly wrong. You can’t rob people in a way that loves God. But, all kinds of ordinary work can be actions of love for God if we do them with this intentionality. We are encouraged by the fact that God does not regard the greatness of our work – or, I might add, its obviously religious character – but only the love with which we do it.
If we seek to love God in our work, we will do the best work we can do. I’m not talking about perfection here. Rather, I’m talking about seeking to honor God by working with excellence insofar as it is possible for us. Dorothy Sayers, the influential 20th century English writer, once wrote an insightful essay entitled “Why Work?” In this essay she commented, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.” Yes, love God by making good tables . . . and spreadsheets, brands, and so many other products.
To add a personal word here, there are times in my work life when loving God with all my strength keeps me going. For example, I try to write these Life for Leaders devotions at least a couple of weeks in advance. But, sometimes the rest of my work demands all of my time and attention. Before I know it, I have a pressing Life for Leaders deadline, but I am exhausted, feeling as if I have nothing to write. In these times, I am encouraged by thinking that what I write matters to you and the rest of our 4,000 plus subscribers. Yet, when I’m especially tired or discouraged, I am empowered by the thought that I am ultimately writing for God’s pleasure and glory. Thus, when I love God with all my strength through my work, I am strengthened even more by his Spirit to work, and even to do good work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you use your strength in your work?
Do you ever think of how what you do with your body at work can be an act of love for God?
How do you respond to Brother Lawrence’s insights?
How do you respond to Dorothy Sayers wisdom about making good tables?
How might you honor God by working with excellence today?
Gracious God, thanks for your wonderful gifts. Thanks for the gift of this work, for the gift of working in this work, for our bodies that enable us to work. Thanks for the privilege of working for you, for your purposes and glory. Thanks for choosing to work in this world through us.
Help us, Lord, to love you in all that we do. May we love you even in the tasks of our work that seem insignificant or irrelevant. May we love you by doing our work with excellence. May we love you by offering all that we are to you in every part of life, including our daily work. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Endless Strength
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.