I wrote last Monday about us each developing a conscious and intentional Rule of Life – a pattern of living which helps us to love God and to love others, our core vocations as followers of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul puts it this way (Romans 12:1-2, MSG):
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
1. Quick recap on Rule of Life
I shared three illustrations for what a Rule of Life seeks to be: firstly, it is like a ‘signpost’ which points us in the right direction; secondly, it is like ‘a banister railing’ which gives support as we go up and down in life; and, thirdly, it is like a ‘trellis’ that enables a grapevine to get off the ground, to grow upward, and to become fruitful.
Last week, we looked at our patterns and rhythms of Prayer, as part of our Rule of Life. This week we look at our Work. It’s important to say at the outset that I’m using ‘Work’ in its broadest sense – to describe any, and every, task and commitment that we undertake in our lives.
2. Work in God’s eyes
The Bible takes seriously that our work is a gift of God in creation. God in the creation account is depicted as a worker, and we work as part of his work (Genesis 2:15). We certainly all know something of the toil of work, a part of the fallenness of the world, but there’s rarely a person who doesn’t know something too of the joy of working and the pleasure and purpose that comes with a good job done well which delights God and brings blessing to others .
It’s important that we see work as God sees it – not as something defined by salary or by status, but as anything which works for the common good and the kingdom of God. There is a wonderful liberation in God’s view of work, namely, that – far beyond any divisions of paid/unpaid, higher/lower, sacred/secular – any task done to the glory of God and the blessing of others places us on holy ground. The health worker, the friendly neighbour, the manual worker, the teacher, the (grand)parent, the church worker, the accountant, the businessperson, the good friend, maybe even DIY… the list goes on… all find themselves in sacred space as they work.
However, as with all other gifts of creation, the gift can easily become an idol. Perhaps more so with work than with other things, our sense of identity can be drawn from what we do, rather than who we areas children of God. This can drive us on a quest to achieve in our work that which can only be freely received from God – namely, the sort of worth, value and identity that makes us truly secure in life.
3. Work in our Rule of Life
As we write, draw, paint… our Rule of Life, we might want to consider these prompts:
- What commitments do we currently have in life? (try to list them)
- These may include:
- Paid/voluntary work
- Family responsibilities
- Support of friends/neighbours
- Commitment to St Cuthbert’s (as part of pray-serve-give)
- Do we have too many commitments, not enough, or just the right amount…?
- These may include:
- Does the work that we do match the vision that we have for life under God…? Does it express the giftsthat we have been given…? Does it fulfil the vocation for which we believe we were created…?
- Do we recognise in ourselves a tendency either to over-work or under-work…? What might be the root of this; e.g. identity, worth, security…? What might God speak into this…? What commitment/boundary would help move us to healthy ground…?
- Do we consciously bring prayer into our work:
- Do we pray about things before committing to them…?
- Once committed do we pray: before a task, as part of our preparation; during a task, to sustain us; after a task, as part of a practice of Examen.
These are some of the big questions of life. For many, the season we’re currently in will cause us to naturally reflect upon them. For all of us, these are healthy questions for us to be asking of ourselves at any time so that we can be confident we are living our lives ‘on purpose’ rather than ‘by accident’.
They are also questions that we cannot answer by ourselves. We need the input of those closest to us, who know us well and offer another perspective to us. So do explore them with family, friends, your Life Group, and do make contact if you’d someone to chat and pray them through with you.
To keep the goal in mind, it is that God may be in our everything, in the firm belief that this is the way to life in all of its fulness (John 10:10).
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (Romans 12:1-2, MSG)