Last week, we began an in-depth examination of Mark 12:29-31. As you may recall, this passage records the response of Jesus to a question from a Jewish legal scholar. He asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (12:28). Jesus responded by quoting Scripture, beginning with Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This momentous Old Testament passage begins with the affirmation of God’s unique identity. Then it calls us to respond to God by loving God with all that we are. According to Jesus, we are to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In this week’s devotions, I want to consider with you how we might love God this way at work.
We have been looking at Jesus’ seminal Parable of the Sower in the context of our work as leaders. In my last reflection, I noted that a Christian vision of human leadership is one where that leadership originates as a gift from outside us. More particularly, truly human leadership is a vocation. Someone else – God – calls us to our work and provides us the necessary gifting to carry out that work. In the language of Jesus’ parable, there is “a sower (who) went out to sow (seed).” (Mark 4:3)
Today’s text explores our response.
Christians sometimes get confused about how to respond to God’s commandments. Some of us think, for example, that all of the commandments of Scripture are no longer relevant for us since we are saved by God’s grace through Christ. Others of us pay lip service to salvation by grace, but we live as if we have to earn God’s love through obedience to his commandments. By loving God, we believe, we can get God to love us in return.
If we want to love someone well, then we need to know that person well. The better we know someone, the better we will be able to love him or her.
So it is with God. If we are to love God, then we need to know God.
If we are to love God at work, and, for that matter, if we are to love God in any context of our lives, we need first to listen. Like the Israelites, we need to hear what God says to us about himself and about ourselves. We need to pay attention to who God has revealed himself to be and who we are as God’s creatures, made in his image for his particular purposes.
We often think of work as the place of toughness, whether one is doing tough physical labor or making tough decisions or dealing with tough HR issues. Work is a place for strength, endurance, commitment, decisiveness, strategic thinking, and, perhaps, visionary innovation.
But what about love? Is work also a place for love? Do love and work go together? Or should love stay at home and at church, in our personal lives, but not in the rough and tumble world of work?
In the last couple of days we have been examining Mark 12:12-17, an interaction between several Jewish leaders and Jesus. They had trap him, asking Jesus a question about taxation, which, no matter his answer, seemed to force him either to denounce Rome or to disappoint his followers. Yet, Jesus’s response to the trick question, using the image and inscription on a Roman coin, enabled him to escape from the trap.
What Jesus understood was that human beings bear God’s image, even as Roman coins bear the image of Caesar. We were created in God’s image and likeness, according to Genesis 1:26-27.
Then Jesus added something that reframed the whole issue: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (12:17). How intriguing! It’s as if Jesus were saying that the whole taxation issue wasn’t the main point. What people did with Caesar’s money didn’t matter nearly as much with what they did with that which belonged to God.
Was our Heavenly Father a fool to send his beloved Son to save the Jewish people and, even more, the whole world?