“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) A slight change of tack this week. Rather than looking at an extended passage, we’re taking just one verse. The Apostle Paul has been addressing the issue of food sacrificed to idols and how the Christian’s attitude is to be governed not only by their freedom in such matters but also by their love for their unbelieving neighbour. Our verse speaks into the current Lockdown with liberating power.
Imagine the scene. You’re invited to a friend’s BBQ and there are a few familiar faces but many you’ve never met before. So you get chatting to some complete strangers. What’s one of the first things you ask (particularly if you’re a bloke)? “So what do you do?” For some people this is like manna from heaven because they like nothing better than talking about their job- “Oh I’m in a really exciting foody start-up” or “I’m an engineer at McLaren Racing. Can’t believe I’m paid to do what I love!”. But for others this question is the hurdle they’ve had to jump many times before- “Oh I’m just a ………..” (fill in the blank). Or maybe you’re presently out of work and are not exactly excited about it. Different cultures value different things and our culture still esteems certain jobs over others. It’s a trap that we can easily fall into. We measure a person’s worth, and even our own, by what we do. This attitude has infected the church for years, in a reverse way. Why is it that we happily pray for our missionaries and ministers at the prayer meeting but never our bankers or brokers?
At the beginning of May 6.3m jobs in the UK had been temporarily furloughed. As the month has progressed more and more companies announced wholesale redundancies, including flagship employers like British Airways and Rolls Royce. The employment landscape in this country is bleak, hopefully only temporarily. Good job we can’t have any BBQ’s at the moment to meet complete strangers, because we probably wouldn’t want to talk about our jobs anyway! But some jobs are now in the spotlight, gaining long overdue recognition, like nurses, care-workers, teachers, delivery drivers, supermarket employees, postmen, bus drivers. Key workers who’ve kept our society functioning. Who’d have thought in January that within a couple of months we’d be lining our streets every Thursday night at 8pm to applaud our NHS workers! This is great, but it isn’t the answer. We mustn’t be defined by our work.
All Work Matters
One of the results of the Reformation in the 16th Century was a new approach to work. For many centuries there had been a deep divide between spiritual practices (praying, meditation, priestly functions) and secular work (what everyone else did). However, with the rediscovery of justification by faith, that we are made right with God through faith in what Christ has done and not our works, this spiritual/secular barrier came crashing down. Reformation Life was summed up by the expression soli Deo Gloria, ‘glory to God alone’. Suddenly everyday life became the context in which we glorify God. And so we come to Paul’s words to the Corinthians- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” What could be more mundane as eating and drinking? After all it’s something that we do everyday without thinking, like packing the dishwasher, taking out the rubbish or having a shower. But for the Christian, who has been reconciled to God through the completed work of Jesus, even the most basic task, or whatever you do, can now be performed for the glory of God. Bible reading, private prayer, small groups and church attendance are all important aspects of being and growing as a Christian, but they’re not to be partitioned-off as ‘spiritual’ and the rest of life ‘unspiritual’. As Richard Lovelace puts it- “True spirituality is not superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from the bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit.” (Dynamics of the Spiritual Life) Every aspect of our lives as followers of Jesus is an opportunity to give God glory.
Whether we work or we’re retired; we’re furloughed or unemployed; we’re working from home or the office; we’re a ‘key worker’ or an estate agent twiddling our thumbs; a frustrated parent having to learn new skills to home-school our children or a frustrated teenager desperate to get a part-time job and have a social life again- there’s an important truth that we must grasp. If I’m a follower of Christ then I’m not to be defined by my work or my busyness. Christ is now my life and I’m liberated from having to prove my worth to anyone. I can bring glory to God in Lockdown by making dinner for the family in the evenings just as much as spending the entire day in zoom meetings with colleagues. I can bring glory to God in Lockdown by reading my children a book just as much as preparing and preaching a sermon. I can bring glory to God in Lockdown by writing personal notes of encouragement to family and friends just as much as giving my unbelieving neighbour a Bible. Some things we do will have a greater eternal impact than others (eg teaching children in Sunday school versus cutting the grass). Some people have gifts that enable them to have a greater eternal impact than others (eg Ravi Zacharias versus yours truly). But as followers of Jesus, recipients of God’s amazing grace, we’re no longer defined by what we do or how well we might do it. We are liberated and able to bring glory to God in whatever we do!
Prayer- Dear Lord God. Thank you that through the work of the Lord Jesus for us, all of life is a stage upon which your children can display your glory. Please help us to delight in this opportunity you give us each day and grasp it with both hands. Amen