Work and the Christian hope
Titus 2:11-3:8New International Version (NIV)
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
Saved in Order to Do Good
3 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
So, this morning I will be talking about work and the Christian hope. Essentially, I want to address the reality that being a Christian is more than coming to church on a Sunday and doing Spiritual things in the week.
Many of us here, have a great concept of the gospel, however, where we struggle is how that translates into our everyday life.
For this week and the next I am going to discuss how the Christian hope of the gospel and the resurrection changes our view on work and sexuality; two realities that have been (maybe) blown out of proportion in our westernized-capitalist-driven world.
Today we are going to look at from this passage how the Gospel and the resurrection fixes our view of work and how the Christian hope renews work.
To address why work has been blown out of proportion in our modern world; we might have to look to why we find ourselves with the mess that we find ourselves in.
Just over 100 years ago the G.I. generation was born, they were born between the two great wars a stock market crash of 1930 and the outbreak of the Spanish flu which wiped out about 500-900million people.
This generation worked hard to survive. However, they brought up their children with the idea that if you work hard and makes lots of money then you’ll be happy.
So, came the Baby boomers; and they did just that; they worked hard made lots on money and were miserable; so they taught their kids do what makes you happy that all that really matters; because money doesn’t.
So this gave rise to Generation x (or Gen strange) A bunch of idealists (this is my generation block) who went out to do what makes us happy, and guess what; we found out two hard lessons; generally you are not talented to lucky enough to do what you enjoy; and when you do end up doing what you enjoy it becomes at the end of the day work… happiness eluded us…
Along comes the Millennials who if the world keeps on going like its going will end up working just to survive again…
The reality is that for the last few decades we have bought a lie; what we do defines us and will therefore give us purpose and significance.
To give you a quick answer this never can work and never does work.
So, what does? And if work can’t make me happy, besides the need to pay bills, why work? These are great questions so thanks for asking them… we will answer them from the text.
From the passage we see that…
1.The gospel teaches balance
One of the great dangers of work – of professionalism – is that we inevitably gain more than an expression of what we do from our work we gain our very identity from it.
What do I mean by this? Well, being a doctor or a banker no longer is what we are good at; it is how we identify ourselves.
And this is a deeply destructive and dangerous way to live. Because if your ability is threatened you can handle it, but What if identity is threatened you are destroyed. If what you do is your identity and then someone comes along who is younger than you or less experienced than you and is better at your job what happens? Your world falls apart.
If being a doctor or a lawyer; or a salesman etc. is what you do then it is no real threat to you or your well-being; however, if you gain your identity from what you do; then your whole world will be shaken when that identity is shaken.
Paul says that that when God appeared and offered us salvation He taught us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and that word worldly passions is the word “Epithumia” – which in the Greek literally means over-desires.
And this is the problem with work for most people is it is a good thing that we have made an ultimate thing; we over-desire it.
It has become more than it was ever meant to be. You see church, God gave us work in the Garden; we are designed to be busy; but we can never gain our worth from busyness.
Why? Because our desires are always too big; we always demand too much and therefore we destroy our work and ourselves because we want too much from it; we over-desire it.
Why do we do this? Because what we truly long for is bigger; we (deep down) long for God – he is the real desire of our hearts; and nothing can replace Him, for unlike him everything else is too temporal, too small, too weak to take our hopes and desires.
So what is the answer? Well the gospel is, and the hope of the resurrection.
You see your work teaches you that you are accepted because of what you do. The gospel says you are accepted because of what He did.
If we are accepted first; then things can be enjoyed for what they are. You can have success without it defining you and going to your head and you can fail without it destroying you and going to your heart. Why? Because if you are successful you know it is simply a gift (your identity is not in that success) and if you fail, well you know that you are a sinful human and His grace is enough.
As Paul says in verse 4;
. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
Grace shapes the way we see our work; because it redefines work from the danger of being an ultimate thing (an epithumia) and put it back as a good thing. It is good that God has gifted you to be a teacher, a administrator etc.
And this has huge implication for how you see work; no longer does it define you so you won’t be tempted to give it more that it deserves, but it is also a good thing from God so you will no longer see it as a pain to endure…
So, the Christian hope brings balance to our work; we no longer see it as what defines us; Christ defines us first.
The next thing is that;
2.The Blessed hope encourages good
There are two phrases in this passage that bring this reality together; firstly, it is the idea of the blessed hope and the fact that several times Paul says this results in an eagerness to do good.
First let us look at what Paul meant when he said the blessed hope? And from there we will discuss why this results in us doing “good”.
Paul states that’s the blessed hope is the appearance of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ. And this is important; The Christian Hope is that Jesus is coming back in glory to take back his world!
Unlike other religions and world philosophies; Christianity believes that this world was made “good”. And therefore, your work is not evil, the body is not evil. However, through sin we have messed things up.
Therefore, we know that when Christ returns that the goodness of this world will be made manifested and made perfect and the evil of this world will be brought to justice and dealt with.
And this gives us great hope for our activity in this world!
Because if we believe this; then we are working for this; and not only in a Spiritual sense, but in every sense, in the activity of our days, that is why the bible says, in everything, whether in word for deed do to the glory of God.
Because Jesus is coming back!
This means that our toil; although frustrating at times is not for nothing.
JRR Tolken the writer of the Lord of the Rings story wrote a short story called Leaf by Niggle during a writer’s block while writing LOTR.
The story goes about an artist named Niggle who decides to paint a tree in a distant forest. But Niggle is so focused on perfecting this painting that he spends incredible time; investing each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. All the while being reminded that “a great journey” is ahead, and being distracted by other duties, so he doesn’t accomplish much of his painting
The story ends that he never does complete the tree, and has to go on his journey (signifying his death) but upon arrival he sees the tree that he has been painting in all its glory finished!
And the illustration works well for our work; we might get into civil engineering because we long to see functional and helpful buildings and roads that serve people. However, we are continually frustrated by corruption, by people cutting corners etc. however, when our King returns one day there will be His great city where our dreams will be fulfilled.
Essentially, unless your profession is a product of complete exploitation such as human trafficking (there will be no room for that in God’s new creation), all that we do will find its completion in the life to come. (Mk10:29, Mat 19:29)
We do not labour in vain; you might spend your life in frustration, but with the hope of seeing your tree come to fruition. Only ever to see a leaf develop, but, and this is important, don’t lose hope your King is coming, and when he does all things will be put right and made good again!
This gives us incredible power to work for real good in the world. A new term that is being thrown around is that Christians should be, in their work and lives, working towards all human’s flourishing.
This means two profound things;we cannot look at profit as the gage of the importance our work! Because, then all work, if it is for human flourishing is God’s work and therefore important. Profit cannot be the reason. “Max Dupree - “Profit is like breathing, you have to breath to live, but who in the world would like to live to breath”
And secondly, am I actively redeeming my work back to God? And that you will have to work out in your relationship with Jesus and how you conduct yourself in what you do: and that is a beautiful and yet daunting task.
So, essentially; we must be asking ourselves two realities when it comes to work and the Christian hope.
1. Is my work my salvation/indemnity?
If it is we need to go back to the gospel and see that Christ and Christ alone can truly be that.
2. Am I working for all men’s good and therefore God?
Does my work have an eternal end to it, if work is designed by God it will have an eternal end to it.
There is obviously much more that I can go into in terms of this topic; but this will suffice, my goal was to entice you into thinking that being a Christian means I bring that world-view into all that I do!
I pray that you go into your work week tomorrow with a redemptive view, with an eye to see how can I redeem what I do for God?