This week, Roger Morency and I are in Missouri with eight teenagers. They are serving disabled kids each day as camp counselors. Their work is not easy. You can see the exhausted look on their faces each evening as the day comes to a close. Some counselors work through the night helping their campers find comfort away from home. Their only break is a one-hour rest after lunch; the campers are supervised by staff so that he counselors can recoup.
Interestingly, this week’s sermon has to do with work. As we continue our series on new clothes, Paul turns his attention to the practical matter of stealing and giving. He writes in verse 28,
(Ephesians 4:28 NIV) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
On the one hand, this seems like a no-brainer. Most in society would agree that stealing is wrong. Taking what belongs to someone else is the easy way. In contrast, Paul admonishes Christians to work. Paul writes similar admonitions to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians.
(1 Corinthians 4:12 NIV) We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV) Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
The Greek word that is translated work literally means to grow tired or weary. In other words, Paul is telling us to get tired. We often avoid work. We attempt to find the easiest way to get by. Yet we are called, as Christians, to expend our energy so that we will be able to give. Stealing is about getting. Work is about giving. On Sunday, we will unpack this idea. We will hear testimony from our teenagers during the sermon. As they have worked this week, they have found it to be a spiritual experience.
Our new clothes in Christ involve work. While this may not sound like fun, we discover that work contributes to healthy spirituality. As our bodies grow tired, we find joy in giving up. We model Jesus as we work, offering ourselves for God’s glory. As we prepare to worship on Sunday, allow me to share Eugene Peterson’s rendering of Romans 12:1-2.
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.