Friday, January 2, 2009

Find Something to Do

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.

                        Ecclesiastes 9.10

Taking Care of Business

Luke 2.41-50 tells a terrific story. Each year, Mary, Joseph, and their family join a caravan that travels to Jerusalem for Passover. On this particular occasion, Jesus is 12 and He spends long hours with the temple’s teachers, who are dumbfounded by His prodigious understanding. Passover ends, everyone packs up, and heads home. A day passes before Joseph and Mary realize Jesus isn’t with the rest of the group. They return to Jerusalem, spending three anxious days scouring the city to locate Him. They find Him in the temple—the last place one would expect an adolescent boy—and Mary scolds Him for the worry and inconvenience He’s caused. “Why did you seek me?” Jesus asks, alluding to the fact they should have known they’d find Him where He was. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2.49; NKJV)

This was the first instance of what would become one of Jesus’s most telltale traits: He was constantly taking care of business. He remained engaged, making time to take time for others’ questions and needs. Although people didn’t always get what they came to Jesus for, He turned none of them away without hearing their requests and either meeting or challenging them. It was exhausting, time-consuming work. When Jesus felt overly taxed, He wisely pulled back to regain His energy and composure. Mark 6.31 tells us at one point things got so hectic He nor the disciples had time even to eat. Jesus says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Then, newly restored, they get back to work.

Job Placement

While people referred to Jesus as “Rabbi,” as far as we know from Scripture He had no training to certify His qualifications. He had no formal title and held no permanent position. He wasn’t placed in a job. Jobs were placed around Him. When something needed doing—feeding multitudes, communing with sinners, opposing injustice, consoling the bereaved, touching the sick, and so on—He didn’t acquiesce to others originally slated for those tasks. Any need that gained His attention meant someone else was either indifferent about or incapable of doing his/her job. Throwing up His hands in frustration over systemic and moral neglect wouldn’t help the problems at hand. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” says Ecclesiastes. That’s what He did. Personal suffering was His immediate concern. Social and religious irresponsibility also concerned Him. Yet He reserved His comments on “bigger picture” issues for times when His audience consisted of leaders and officials charged with those duties. Jesus didn’t take up a “cause” and leave it at that. He took on the job of finding something to do and He got the job done.

The Day Shift

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work,” Jesus tells the disciples in John 9.4. Solomon finishes his admonition to handle jobs as we find them with a similar thought: “for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Followers of Christ work the day shift. We’re awake, alert, and able to see needs around us. They’re placed in our lives and field of view so we can meet them with love, compassion, and understanding. We can’t escape opportunities to help anyone’s immediate pain by reasoning the system is broken, others are better qualified, or it’s none of our business. His children’s welfare being God’s business makes it our business, too. Except for brief rests to reinvigorate our energy, we should be on the job, predictably seen in places and among people in need, doing the work of Him Who sends us. Let’s look around us. What do we see? A lonely neighbor. An outcast acquaintance. A hungry family. An ailing child. A misunderstood friend. There's no shortage of jobs that others have left undone. When we find something to do, let’s do it—and do it with all our might.

Needs at hand are reasons to reach.

(Tomorrow: Breaking the Law)


Sherry Peyton said...

Yes indeed, with the New Year, we are called to remember our responsibilities. Would that I could do them with a happy heart instead of the imposition I usually feel. I do my work grudgingly, and that is something I hope to change. I happy heart, knowing I am doing as God would have me, should brighten my work day. Thanks Tim for the reminder!

Tim said...

That "gladness" clause in "serve the Lord with gladness" is a real challenge sometimes. I think see our work as an obligation rather than a privilege is a major joy-kill.

Oddly enough--but surely not coincidentally--your comment caught me in the middle of tedious revisions of a work document. I'm always delighted to see you, but this time, I couldn't have been more so, because it invited me to step away from work to think about what you said. Your thought led me right back to the revisions, though, as it reminded me that having work at all in this present economic downturn was a privilege. So, thank you for helping me get the job done.

I have a friend who makes no Christian or other religious claim at all. Yet when anyone asks for his help, he always answers, "I'm happy to do it." It always sounded slightly "precious" to me, not all in keeping with his character. Finally, I asked him about it. His answer was great. "If I say, 'No problem,' or 'I'll take care of it," he said, "I'm halfway to thinking it's a problem before I start. But when I say, 'I'm happy to do it,' that changes how I look at it and go about it. I'm really talking to myself by promising I'll be happy."

Since then, I use that phrase more and more--as a promise more than anything. Try it and see if it works for you.

Thanks, Sherry, for this. You bring up a side of work that definitely needs all of our attention.

Peace--and joy in your jobs!

Maithri said...

Blessings of peace to you brother,

May the new year unfold its beauty to you and yours,

May your work be blessed,

In peace, Maithri

Tim said...

Maithri, what great joy your greeting brings. I pray the same things for you, my brother. May light and love surround you all those you meet.