Summary: Work gets overwhelming. The people we work with seem hurtful and self serving. Yet, work is a place where we live out our faith--a setting where we must learn to be more Christlike.
This passage about Mary and Martha is familiar to many of you. It is fairly well known. It is a story about one women working in the kitchen and making preparations to entertain guests while her sister is involved in spiritual pursuits and assisting directly in the ministry of Jesus. And, when the kitchen gal, Martha, complains that she isn’t getting much help from Mary, Jesus points out that Mary’s spiritually-focused pursuits are better.
This passage is an important commentary about work. Work in general. Work, plain and simple. What I do every day. But also the work of stay-at-home parents, retired people, grandparent care givers and students. We all work at something everyday, and this passage gives all of us some important advice about our work.
Yes, I know its Sunday, and it is supposed to be a day of rest, but I really am going to talk about work. Because, in the Bible, work is very important.
I don’t know how many of you have thought about this, but work is one of the first things God gives man in the creation story found in Genesis. We all know that right after spending seven days creating the earth, oceans, plants and the fishes, God created Adam. Now, most of us, if we had to guess, would say that the next part of the story is when God created Eve.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
It wasn’t until two verses later that God created Eve …and the honey-do list.
Work is important in the Bible and it is an important part of living a fulfilled life. Near Akron, where I grew up, there is a preserved 19th century farm, called Hale Homestead. As you walk among the buildings, you realize that it is a celebration of the early American crafts and trades. On the site is a black smith shop, a glass blowing area, a spinning room, a canning cellar, a broom-making shop and a small candle factory. Volunteers give live demonstrations, reenacting these noble trades in the proper period costumes.
Kids of all ages love to go to Hale Homestead and watch farm life in action. It celebrates a simpler time when people simpler tools and found satisfaction in their work at the end of the day.
The story is different today, statistics show that, for the most part, we don’t like our work. Studies show that 35% of people working outside the home feel trapped in their jobs. Many others feel underutilized. Younger workers are often enslaved so they can pay off student loans. We run through life looking for better jobs and better pay, always in quest of wordly success.
Many of us worry about our work, like me…I work in one of the industries that is shipping jobs to India by the thousands.
And then, our time away from our jobs is spent doing more work—usually around the house or in the yard. I know some people who are always doing something.
I want to look at work differently today. I want to look at the spiritual component of work. Because first and foremost, we were put on this earth to engage in a lifelong process of growing closer to God and becoming more Christlike.
You see, work was never meant to be just work. It always had a role in our spiritual growth. And in that spiritual context, work is no longer just something we do to get ahead. It is not solely about profit. It is not about accomplishing more than the next person. It is not an addiction that feeds the ego. It is not about getting out of the house because we can’t stand those who live there.
The spiritual side of work involves giving and serving…not taking and taking. And it is only through giving and serving that we are transformed and made more holy. Work develops the worker
Be it, in the office, at home, in the garden, in the food pantry, or a patient’s bedside, work is an important part in the process of learning how to be in relationship with people, including those we don’t like. It is where can become less selfish and where we can grow and mature.
Joan Chittester, a Benedictine nun says, “Work is our gift to the world. It is our social fruitfulness, where we work for a greater good.” Work becomes a way that we are saved from total self-centeredness. It give us a reason to exist that is larger than ourself. It gives us hope. Work gives us a place in salvation. It helps us redeem the world from sin. It enables creation to go on creating.