Refocusing Work – Work as an act of love
(Luke 10: 25-37)
Eighty percent of our waking hours are spent at work. When we work we deal with what I would refer to as the five Ts: Talk, Task, Time, Tools, and Telos. What do I mean by this?
Our work is centered on specific tasks, that result from talk or communication. We do these tasks in a specified amount of time with the appropriate tools or resources. We do all of this to reach a certain goal, which is telos.
As we turn our attention to the passage from Luke that we have just heard read, we see that the work of love is related to the five Ts: Talk, Task, Time, Tools, and Telos.
Work is an expression of love
Talk – communications
If I were to ask you, “what are you living for? What is the purpose of your life?” What answer would you give? This is essentially what Jesus was probing in his interaction with the lawyer. The man in question was an expert on the law of God as it is recorded in the Pentateuch or the five books of Moses. In those books are recorded 613 laws or commandments from God to his covenant people. The question that the lawyer posses Jesus is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Eternal life is life lived on a higher plane. It is life lived from God and as such it is totally satisfying, eternally sustaining, and emotionally fulfilling. It is the life we have always wanted.
Jesus counters the lawyer’s question with two questions: What is written in the law? And how do you interpret what is written? The lawyer answers Jesus, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus responds by saying, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” So Jesus is talking, communicating about what is of ultimate importance.
What is Jesus saying here? He is telling us, you are what you love. If you love things, or a big bank account, if your life is centered around getting, then you are a materialist. If you love yourself and see everything in life as it relates to you, then you are an egotist. If you love pleasure and live for pleasurable moments, then you are a hedonist. If you love helping people, then you are an altruist. But if you love God above yourself, others and all other things, then you are truly alive. What do you get when you love God supremely? You get God! Nothing in the universe is bigger, stronger, more beautiful than God. He is the ultimate reason for living.
Task –expended energy
The Lawyer pushes Jesus. He wants now to know who is the neighbor that he is to love. Jesus launches into the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. It should be the parable of the Good Priest, or the Good Levite, but no to everyone’s surprise it is the parable of the Oxymoron. A Good Samaritan is, for the Jew, a contradiction of terms. Either you were good and if so, you were certainly a Jew. Or you were a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jew, and therefore certainly not good. But Jesus tells us that the enemy of the Jews exhibited God-like compassion or love, to the exclusion of those who should have known better. You see goodness is not something you know, it is something you do because of who you are.
The word for this is love: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The New Testament was written in common or Koine Greek. Greeks used three different words for love: Eros (desire), Phileo (friendship), and Agape (sacrificial love). When in John 3:16 we read “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life” the word for love is the verb stemming from Agape.
When God loves, it is always costly. It cost God everything to show His love toward us – He gave His Son to die on a cross. For what purpose? That he may save us from ourselves and for him. That we might enter into His love.
The task of Agape-love is to sacrifice what we value to help others. The Samaritan took the bleeding Jew, put him on his donkey, and led him to an Inn. There he gave the innkeeper two silver coins – two denarii. What were those two denarii worth? With two denarii you could feed 25 people (Mark 6:37). But the Samaritan went beyond that and told the innkeeper that he would return and reimburse him for any further expenses. Agape love is costly.
Time – Chronos and Kairos
Love also has to do with time. One of the greatest discrepancies between the two Jews and the Samaritan had to do with time. Here too, Greek helps us. In Greek we have two different words for two different concepts of time – Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is what we all know and abide by daily. It is our schedule, our appointments, what we plan to do today. We derive chronology, chronicle, chronometer from Chronos. But Kairos is different. Kairos describes God’s appointed time to do His work. In the Gospels we read of Jesus that “His time had not yet come” and the word is Kairos.
The Levite and the Priest were living according to Chronos and did not want to be interrupted. Their thought was, “What will happen to me, if I stop to help him?” The Samaritan on the other hand was moved with compassion. He allowed his schedule to be interrupted in order to help the man in need. His thought was, “What will happen to him, if I don’t stop to help?”
Here’s the point: God’s Kairos will always interrupt our Chronos. Kairos never comes at a convenient time. So think about interruptions in your schedule as brought on by God in order for you to meet a specific need that someone has. To love is to be sensitive to God’s Kairos.
Tools – Resources
To love in the Agape-way means applying our resources to get the job done. The Samaritan gave of his time, his oil, win, his donkey, and his money.
Telos – Goal
To what end? The end of love is love. There is no other goal. The end is not “what will I get out of this?” But rather, “how can I partner with God to do what God would do, were he in my skin?” Love becomes its own reward.
You might be thinking? What does this have to do with the topic at hand – Work as an act of love? Everything. If we spend 80% of our time at work, guess where most of our love will be shown? At the workplace or during our working day.
How does this apply to us? Let us consider the work of God within our work. What might we need to understand in order to be in sync with what God wants to do in and through us?
The Work of Love within our Work
Reworking the Anatomy of Work
Talk – The command to love God and neighbor is an invitation to enter into love .
Challenge: Have I thought deeply on God’s love for me demonstrated in Jesus’ death for me?
Task – To sacrificially give of myself to see good things happen
Challenge: Do I work for the good of others?
Time – Chronos and Kairos
Challenge: Do I view interruptions as divine opportunities?
Tools – Shifting from Task to Attitude
Challenge: Is what motivates me in my work pleasing to God?
Telos – Productivity that is beyond doing things that are useful
Challenge: Can I say that I have no ulterior motive than to simply show agape-love?
Loving within our work is . . .
The gospel is like the story of the Good Samaritan – it is oxymoronic – contradictory. In the Greek pantheon the higher a god was in the pantheon the further removed he was from humans and their misery. In Christianity it is the opposite. God does not remove himself from us and our misery, he comes down becomes one of us and dies a miserable death. The work of God is the work of agape-love. And that work is on our behalf.
The Surprising work of the Love of God for us
The Good Samaritan is Jesus (read Phil 2: 5-11)
I am . . .
The subject of his conversation (What does the Father and the Son talk about? Answer: you and me! We are the subject of their desire.
The object of his affection
God so loved you and me that he gave his son for us, to save us from our sin and to allow us to enter into His love by faith.
The reason for his coming
Why did Jesus leave heaven for earth? To seek us out and to call us to himself.
The beneficiary of his work
What is the goal or telos of what God does? It is for us to enter life – life with him as our greatest joy and confidence.
The joy of heaven
God would never ask you to do something he hadn’t already done for you. His work for you is a work of love. Why is it that you can allow yourself to be interrupted by the need of another person? Because Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted by your need. Why is it that the things you give yourself to outside of Christ, will never bring you lasting satisfaction? Because you were made for more than you can produce. You were made to know and love God. When you love God, you are free to do the work of the love of God – by loving those around you.