March 9, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 119:36-37
Turn my heart to your decrees
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
be gracious to me according to your word.
We all face temptations at work that threaten to turn our heart away from God. So we ask the Lord to keep our hearts pointed in the right direction. We know that true life is found as we walk in God’s ways.
Psalm 119, with its 176 verses is the longest chapter in the Bible. (Ironically, it comes only two chapters after Psalm 117, the shortest chapter in the Bible.) The 176 verses of Psalm 119 are divided into 22 sections, each section beginning with a different letter from the Hebrew alphabet. (In English, it would be like beginning each section with “Adoration belongs to you . . . . Blessings are yours . . . . Coming to your temple . . .” and so forth through the whole alphabet.)
The point of an acrostic psalm is to repeat a fundamental theme again and again from different perspectives. In the case of Psalm 119, that theme has to do with God’s Word, especially God’s ordinances and decrees, which show us how to live in the best possible way in every part of life . . . including our daily work.
Verses 36 and 37 of Psalm 119 echo the common psalm’s common refrain: “Turn my heart to you decrees . . . give me life in your ways.” Yet they add something distinctive, namely recognition of things that might tempt us to turn away from God and God’s Word. These things are “selfish gain” and “vanities.”
We all face various temptations in the context of our work. We might, for example, have our hearts turned to “selfish gain.” We are motivated so much by the opportunity to make lots of money that we lose sight of the greater good our work should produce. Or, we may be tempted by “vanities,” that is, by things that appear so delightful but are, in the end, lacking real meaning. Vanities might include an exalted title, “the corner office,” winning the company’s salesperson of the year award, and so forth. These might seem to give life when, in reality, their happiness is transient and empty.
As you pray based on Psalm 119:36-37, you might reflect on what in your work tempts you to turn your heart away from God and God’s truth.
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of your Word, for all that is revealed in Scripture. Thank you for showing us who you are and how we might know you. Thank you for teaching us to walk in your ways so that we might live fully and fruitfully in all we do.
I want to follow your guidance when I’m working, Lord. I am eager to live in a way that honors you and bears witness to your truthful wisdom. Sometimes I do this, thanks to your grace at work in me. But there are other times, times when I am tempted by things that can feel so important but, in the end, are empty.
Help me, Lord, not to be tempted by riches, power, or reputation. Keep me from self-promotion or longing only for my own success. Instead, may I be eager to know and follow your decrees as I work. May I turn away from vain things so that I might walk in your ways. Indeed your ways give life, true life, abundant life.
As I work, gracious God, may I do so with excellence, excellence according to my job description, yes, indeed. But also excellence in seeking, obeying, and honoring you. Amen.
Ponder Throughout the Day
God’s ways give life.
For Further Reflection
You may wish to read all of Psalm 119. As you do, consider how this psalm speaks to you and the challenges you face in your daily work.
Banner image by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Hiding God’s Word in Your Heart.
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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.