Today I read Pastor Tim Keller’s comments about serving God in the work place. Tim is no relative of mine, but I like the way he thinks, especially being a Presbyterian quoting Martin Luther. You can check his remarks yourself at http://bit.ly/i77xMD. A key concept for Keller is Luther’s “Priesthood of All Believers.” Luther was commenting on I Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.”
One does not need to be in the church to serve God. As a pastor I like it when people volunteer and serve in our congregation. I often give them special recognition and encouragement. But the congregation is only one place where a Christian can serve God. God’s work is not limited to congregations, important as they are.
I serve God as I love my neighbor, which I can do in various ways. I love to quote Dr. Marc Kolden, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does!” And we love our neighbor through our daily work as a spouse, parent, worker, community leader and citizen. The home, the office, and the community are as vital to God as the congregation.
For example, if one owns a small manufacturing company that makes machine parts for cars, the owner loves his neighbor in at least two key ways. The company is helping provide necessary transportation (car parts) as well as providing employment to the workers. God would want the owner to be fair and equitable with the employees and with the customers. In this way God is working through the owner. God does this with farmers, salespersons, artists, nursing aides, and even politicians. As Luther wrote, these are the “masks God wears” to accomplish God’s task on earth.
For sure, we live in sinful, broken world, in which people take advantage of each other. As sinful human being we can turn work into a false god that consumes our lives. We can make monetary profit the god that rules our lives. We need God’s grace mediated through Jesus Christ to call us back to the vibrant life. And the church can be a community that helps us stay faithful to God’s call at work.
How have you loved your neighbor this past week?
With three other parents, I organized and packaged lunches for the high school Nordic ski team – for their conference meet yesterday. I needed the good works as much as my neighbor, I’m certain of that. And the gratitude of the skiers was a great way for them to love their neighbor. And in the midst of it, I was more aware of many other instances of people loving their neighbor – such as the mom who stood outside for race after race, photographing each skier to give them memories of their hard work. I saw God through the mask of ‘coach’ – as they encouraged and inspired and were simply there for their students. Looking forward to reading more from both Kellers!