December 26, 2019 • Life for Leaders
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . .
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)
Yes, we’re still celebrating Christmas, which is a 12-day feast in the Christian liturgical year. Today is the second day of that feast. So, once again . . .
Recently I was asked to come up with a short list of the most important verses in the Bible having to do with faith and work. My list included some obvious entries, like Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:16-19; Exodus 20:9-11; Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:17, and Ephesians 4:28. I also added a few key verses that are not explicitly related to work, but which build a solid theological foundation for a right understanding of work. Among these verses was John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 proclaims what theologians refer to as the Incarnation, an English word that is derived from the Latin verb “to make flesh.” John 1:14 puts succinctly the fact that the divine Word of God became flesh. Jesus is God in human flesh, the one and only Son of God who uniquely reveals God’s glory, grace, and truth.
But why, you might wonder, is the Incarnation so important for our understanding and practice of work?
I could write a dissertation or two in response to this question, but I’ll briefly note just a couple of major points. First: the Incarnation, God’s becoming human in Jesus, reaffirms the value of the material world. God, who created all things good, chose to save the world by becoming part of it. What could be a more powerful sign of God’s care for the material world, the world in which we work? The Incarnation points to God’s care both for the world and for the things we do in this world.
Second, the Incarnation made it possible for the divine Son to work in an ordinary way. Now, for sure, Jesus’s work as Messiah was unique. He alone did the crucial work of dying for our sins, something that was made possible by his Incarnation. But we would do well to remember that Jesus spent most of his adult life doing the work of a craftsman or carpenter. He worked in and, in all likelihood, eventually managed his earthly father’s small business. The fact that the Incarnate Word of God invested years in ordinary work shows us beyond a shadow of doubt just how much God values this kind of work, the work we do in this world.
So, in this time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, which is to say, the Incarnation of the Word of God, we reaffirm the value of work, ordinary work, work in this world that God created and entered through the Incarnation.
Something to Think About:
As you think about the Incarnation, what thoughts and feelings come to mind?
In what ways do you think the Incarnation is relevant to our understanding of work?
How might your reflection on the Incarnation actually make a difference in your understanding and practice of work?
Something to Do:
Talk with your small group or with a Christian friend about the Incarnation and the difference it makes in life, including your work.
Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God Incarnate, we praise you today for coming to dwell among us as a human being. We honor you for showing us just how much this world matters to God. We worship you as the One who shows us the glory, grace, and truth of the Heavenly Father. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: Jesus Understands the World of Your Work
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.