September 27, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
[Y]ou do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Work can be an expression of love for others. This idea may already be quite familiar to you. If so, that’s great. But if the connection between love and work is rather new to you, I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on how the work you do – both paid and unpaid – can be a way for you to love God and other people.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy urge the Christians in Thessalonica to grow in love for other people. As a part of that exhortation the letter writers also encourage the Thessalonians “to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you” (4:11). At first, it might seem as if these additional instructions have nothing to do with the main point about love. But, in fact, this passage helps us to see a crucial connection between work and love.
The Protestant reformer and theologian Martin Luther was one of the first to clarify this connection. Through our work, Luther explained, we are able to express our love for God and, crucially, for our neighbor. This is especially obvious in certain kinds of work. The farmer, for example, who grows food and sells it at a fair price is loving those who benefit from that food. The teacher who invests countless hours in lesson prep in order to teach their students well is exercising love.
Though all good work ultimately serves people, often in today’s world workers don’t get to experience first-hand how their work makes a difference. A farmer may grow nutritious food, but rarely sells it directly the those who will benefit from it. Rather, their produce is taken to a farm distribution center from where it is shipped to a grocery distribution center and then to markets where people purchase it. (Increasingly, these days, food eaters don’t even shop in person, but rely on delivery services to get their food.) Thousands of miles and several relationships might separate the original grower from the final consumer. Thus, a farmer may have a hard time experiencing their work as an act of love.
You may find yourself in a similar work context. What you do each day may seem far removed from loving your neighbor. You may need to take time to reflect on how your work enables you to love others, not only through what your work produces, but in other ways as well. For example, it’s likely that you have colleagues or customers whom you can treat in a loving way through your work. If you’re a business owner, you can love people by hiring them, giving them good work to do, paying them fairly, and treating them justly.
For many of us, working with our hands is something we do outside of our occupations. Today, for example, a friend of mine asked if I might fix her toilet. Her fill valve was broken so it took forever for her tank to fill with water. I’m not an experienced plumber, but I do know how to replace a fill valve. So I worked with my hands to do it. Meanwhile, my friend was using her hands to cook a wonderful breakfast for me and several others whom she had invited to her home. In situations like this, it is easy to experience our work as a way to love others.
The idea that work is an expression of love may already be quite familiar to you. If so, that’s great. But if the connection between love and work is rather new to you, I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on how the work you do – both paid and unpaid – can be an expression of love for God and for other people.
Do you experience your work as an expression of love for God?
Do you experience your work as an expression of love for other people?
In what ways is the work you do a way to love others?
Take time to reflect on your work and how it can be a way for you to love God and other people.
Gracious God, thank you for loving us through the work you do. Thank you for creating us in your image, so that we might imitate your love through our work.
Help me, Lord, to love others as I work. Teach me to see my work as you see it. Give me wisdom to know how my work can be a genuine expression of love. 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 the Theology of Work Project online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Christians Are Expected to Work (1 Thessalonians 4:9–12; 5:14)
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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.