Jesus, integrated workplaces, and jobs with his life’s mission
Of the 132 public appearances of Jesus recorded in the New Testament 122 of them are in the marketplace. Of the 52 parables of Jesus recorded 45 had a workplace context. Jesus spent His adult life as a carpenter until the age of thirty when He began a public preaching ministry in the workplace. Jesus called 12 workplace individuals—not clergy—to build His Church. There were 40 divine interventions recorded in Acts 39 were in the marketplace.
Matthew 4:18-22 NIV As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
The first recruits belonged to the blue-collared community of the day. Not CEOs or executives. Most Jesus’ original disciples were ordinary ﬁshermen. He called them, trained them, empowered them, and sent them on the most important mission in history.
Matthew 10:1-4 NIV Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Matthew 28:16-20 NIV Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Because He recruited normal working-class men perhaps that is why so many people had difficulty reconciling Jesus, the carpenter, with Jesus the Son of God who did miracles in the workplace.
The folk from Jesus' hometown of Nazareth knew that He wasn’t from a wealthy family, and they rejected Him because they knew he was just a carpenter and His earthly His father, Joseph was just a carpenter.
Mark 6:1-3 NIV Jeus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Work is worship
The Hebrew word avodah is the root word for both work and worship. Work in its different forms is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible. That's more than all the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined.
Your entire life is an important response to God’s call.
Most people today, even many Christians, see no relevance between God and work in today. I will agree with most people who say religion has no place in the workplace. Religion has no place, but Jesus does.
Jesus was a workplace minister who with a workplace call. In the mind of Jesus, there was no sacred/secular divide. He did not consider His work life to be less important than His spiritual life. There was no separation of the faith life from the work-life.
Think about this. All the disciples came from the workplace. They were not paid clergy. They were not Scribes or Pharisees. There seems to be an unspoken unspiritual hierarchy in our society that places spiritual calling and value based on vocational position. It goes something like this:
Vocational ministry worker
Marketing, sales, advertising executive
But God has never said that one profession has more spiritual value than another. We all have distinct roles and callings.
Just as Jesus had a work to do before His Father, we each are called to a specific work for which we will be judged and rewarded. The role of the church and those called to full-time vocational ministry as pastors and leaders is to equip workplace believers who have the potential to transform families, workplaces, cities, and nations.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The Church has a tremendous opportunity to impact society through working people. There is no other institution where leaders of business, government, arts and entertainment, media, family, and education convene on a regular basis. This is a tremendous opportunity to equip leaders in these areas of influence to impact the culture in their communities.
The consequence of failing to affirm that every believer is a minister is that followers of Jesus in the workplace are made to feel like second-class spiritual citizens and they exist purely to support the ministry of their local church through their giving. However, when we recognize and affirms the call Christians in the workplace, their spiritual self-esteem grows, and they become more active in their faith. They will use their influence for Kingdom initiatives in their workplace, city and local church.
Work that doesn’t violate Scripture can become worship.
For most of my adult life I was an executive. I had over thirty years of diverse business experience, at executive levels in start-up and early-stage companies including many distinct positions and executive responsibilities with companies in the technology, medical products, banking/financial and services sectors. I directed business development, marketing, and sales activities of administrative and technical personnel in banking, consulting, and technology industries.
I also served as a volunteer in leadership positions in small and mega churches. It was while volunteering in ministry that I learned that work truly is worship to God. If you are in a secular job that doesn’t violate Scripture, your vocation is just as important to God as that of a full-time pastor or full-time missionary anywhere in the world. God calls each of us to a vocation. He desires to use us for His Kingdom in that vocation.
God cares about everyday jobs and everyday needs.
God cares about all jobs and the people that do them. God cares about white collar, blue collar, or no collar workers. God cares about those with multi-million dollar salaries and those earning minimum wage.
Galatians 3:28-29 NIV There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Just look at who were the first to receive the official announcement of the birth of Jesus.
Luke 2:8-11 NIV And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
In Palestine shepherds were poor and uneducated. They were often portrayed as being untrustworthy, still, the birth of Christ was officially announced to them first. Not the white-collared Herod or the Scribes.
Christians often measure the significance of a job by its perceived value from the eternal perspective. Will the work last; will it “really count” for eternity? The implication is that God approves of work for eternity, but places little value on work for the here and now. If you look at it that way the work of ministers and missionaries has eternal value because it deals with people’s spiritual, eternal needs, but the work of a salesman, teller, or typist has only limited value, because it meets only earthly needs. In other words, this kind of work doesn’t really “count” in God’s eyes. However, this perspective overlooks several important truths. God cares about the everyday needs of people as well as their spiritual needs. He cares whether people have food, clothing, and shelter.
Matthew 6:25-33 NIV “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
God promises rewards to people in everyday jobs, based on their attitude and conduct.
Ephesians 6:9 NIV And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Colossians 3:23-25 NIV Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
God cares about people who will enter eternity. To the extent that a job serves the needs of people, God values it, because He values people.
It is time to affirm that every man and woman of the church is on a mission from God, in their workplaces wherever and whatever they are.
Colossians 3:23-24 NIV Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.