Lesson 2: Kingdom of Heaven Is Now And In All Aspects of Our Lives
Matthew 4.17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
BACKGROUND: How would you describe the attitude behind the words used to describe your work to your kids? When you talk to your friends? Is it full of complaints or “I have to go to work”? Or “I wish I could stay home with you” or “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work”?
When Jesus started His “church” ministry, He— like John the Baptist—preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven [God] is at hand.” He walked among people who wondered if God was still paying attention. Life wasn’t easy. There was a foreign government in charge. There were no prophets to share God’s Word of challenge and encouragement. False Messiahs had come and gone. Political parties were divided on whether to accommodate the Romans or not. People were taking advantage of the power structures to help themselves— tax collectors, governors, rich young “rulers,” religious leaders too perhaps.
Extreme poverty was present. Sicknesses and mental health issues abounded.
Yet who are the people He calls to shepherd the Kingdom into being visible? Fishermen, tax collectors, shepherds, merchants, farmers, servants/employees, traders, and others were called as disciples and honored in parables. Religious leaders were not. He did not build His kingdom through the organized religion; new wine needs new wineskins. Paul writes that the purpose of the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ…” The saints are not working in the church; they are working in “the world” and that is their ministry. When John the Baptist was asked how one repents, his answers were work-related: tax collectors shouldn’t tax more than required; soldiers shouldn’t take money by force or accuse anyone falsely and be content with their wages. All of us were advised to share food and clothing with those who have none. The Kingdom is concerned with what we do every day.
Dorothy Sayers in her essay “Why Work?” says, “What the Church should be telling [the person who works as a carpenter] is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables…The only Christian work [as opposed to ecclesiastical work] is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.” In terms of serving the disadvantaged, Christ says, “You are serving me.” Might we have this same attitude about our own labors?
The early church had high faith requirements for menial service. For example, people were to have “a good reputation, [be] full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” before they could be assigned to make sure Greek widows got fed. The heroes of the faith applauded in Hebrews 11 were mostly “working stiffs”—only Samuel as a priest/prophet and other unnamed prophets (some of them had jobs too) are what we might call ecclesiastical (church) workers. The heroes of Christ’s human lineage had “real” jobs.
Since Adam’s and Eve’s Fall from grace, we’ve had to earn our food through sweat. The ground was cursed. The ground is looking for renewal and redemption, a release from the Curse. Renewal and redemption is the promise of the Kingdom that Christ preached, sometimes experienced now but fully realized in the times discussed in Revelation. Eden was a relatively small patch while the New Heaven and New Earth is Eden to the umpteenth power. If Christ came to redeem us and the earth, wouldn’t He also redeem work?
When you talk to your kids and friends, could you describe how important your work is to God and how He has blessed you in order to be good at it?
1. In business, we often talk about how we all have customers to serve— either external to the organization or internal to the organization—and the honor of serving them. What messages do you hear at work regarding how honorable your job is or isn’t?
2. What would you do differently if Christ was your customer, the next person to see/receive your work product or service?
3. How might Jesus help you at work? How might this small group help you? How might the church help you?
4. How often do you express appreciation and honor to those on the lowest organizational rung?
5. What will you do differently this week?
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Blessed Are the Poor In Spirit