We often define work in terms of its usefulness and also in terms of its worth (how much we earn etc.) It’s worth bearing in mind, however, the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matt 20:1-16), a parable that underlines God’s grace. Grace is outrageous, lavish and totally undeserved, and the only means by which we can become God’s children (see Eph 2:8-9). We can’t earn God’s favour by hard work; we simply receive from Him with open and empty hands. If we want to rely on wages for how we live life, we have to face the uncomfortable truth: ‘the wages of sin is death.’ (Rom 6:23) The only way we can receive eternal life is by accepting this as a gift from God: ‘the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Rom 6:23) Everything good that we receive from God comes as a gift (James 1:17); it is undeserved and not given to us because of our own righteousness.
Our work must be defined in terms of our relationship to God and to others, for these are the greatest commandments (see Matt 22:37-39). The basic work that Jesus did was invest His time and energy into learning from God and living with people. He cultivated His relationship with His Father and He cultivated relationships with people. In our society, we don’t often see this as work; we define work in terms of activities, in terms of measurable outcomes. Yet so often it is the relationship with our colleagues or customers which makes a real difference to whether we enjoy the activities we do at work and which gives meaning to the activities we do. A nurse cannot simply defined by the medical tasks performed; the care, attention and devotion to patients matter as much as the practical skills employed. How we work is as vital as what we do.
God at the centre of everything is the only way our work can be truly fruitful. Let’s not put our work at the centre, with God on the outskirts. Let’s put God at the centre instead and realise that what He does is so much more bountiful and fruitful than anything we can do on our own! As we remain in the vine, fruit will come; apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5-6)