Do you ever get tired of working? I mean, really tired? Sometimes people daydream of a different job in a different place with different people. Maybe a change of scenery would lead to a change in outlook which would in turn lead to a change in outcome. Work might turn into fun!
But dreaming is fun…
Is there work to do in the kingdom of God? “Of course there is,” some might say. But what does this work look like? Who does the work?
The Story of Work
Jesus told a parable about a man who went away to a far country to receive a kingdom and then return to rule it. While he was gone he gave his servants some money and told them to put it to work until he returned.
Evidently the people he was meant to rule did not like him very much and so they sent a delegation after him to try to deny him his kingdom. They were unsuccessful and so he returned as the king and sent for his servants.
Two of the servants had done well and brought back a 100% return on the money he had given them. The third servant said, “Sir, here is your money; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.” The new king was not at all pleased and stripped this servant of his money. Then he made a demand for his enemies to be brought before him and executed.
Many people will recognise this parable and begin to think about it as related to all of the talents God gives us and how we should be working to use those so God will like us more.
This story was told by Jesus when He was coming into Jerusalem. He knew He was going to be executed. The people thought the kingdom of God was about to appear. So Jesus told them a story. Here is how it starts:
“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.” But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.” He was made king, however, and returned home.”
Those words should immediately change the way a lot of people look at this story. Who is the story about?
The story is about the king.
The story is not about the money.
Often we think of the work of God and we get excited about doing our bit. Sometimes we have the same idea the people outside Jerusalem with Jesus had. We think if we just do a little bit and wait on God everything is going to be grand and the kingdom of God will be here and it will all be rather jolly.
Jesus told a different story.
The kingdom of God has been given to Jesus and He will be coming back to reign as its King. He will be coming back to Earth to rule from here as the King of Everything. There will be rewards given out and punishment handed down as well. The servants of the King will be rewarded and the enemies of the King will wish they had acted differently.
Except, just now, work in the kingdom happens in the context of the absentee King. Can you just try to picture this in your mind?
Imagine what life was like for the servants who were working away to please their absentee king. Other people must have hated them! They may have said, “He’s not coming back! You are wasting your time. We do not even like him – why should you help him?” The people hated the king and such hatred could be more easily expressed when the king was gone. Why?
Absence seems to remove accountability.
If integrity is what you do and who you are when no one is watching then these faithful servants had integrity. They must have found it difficult to keep working for someone who was not there. They must have found it difficult to keep working when the absence stretched on and on. They must have found it difficult to keep working when the opposition seemed so certain of victory.
Yet work they did.
Our Work Now
You can probably begin to see where I am going with this thought. Right now, as followers of an absent King, we have work to do. What is our work? Our job is to carry on building the Master’s Kingdom as if He were right next to us. Our integrity should demand His continuing influence in our lives even when we feel only His distance and His absence.
We surely live and work in a place of opposition. Triumph and victory might be the theme for some but many of us will know the bitter reality of the enemies of Christ. Only recently, a Christian couple in the UK lost a court case which would have allowed them to retain the right to rent out separate rooms in their Bed and Breakfast Hotel to unmarried couples. They lost this court case after being sued b a homosexual couple. Despite having already paid money in damages, the Christians are now being taken back to court by the homosexual couple. Why? To be squeezed for more money in damages.
Aside from my own irritation at the taxpayer’s funding of this court case (the homosexual couple are being represented by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which is an independent group funded by the UK government), I think it shows how Christians can expect our work to be opposed. Our role is to spread the influence – the rule and authority of God – into the world around us. We will be opposed when we do so.
So, in your own life and work for God, you will surely encounter opposition. If every day seems like hard work and just being a servant of our absent King feels harder and harder every day then do not worry.
You are normal.
Here is something to remember:
Absence only seems to remove accountability.
I know, that is only a simple restatement of what I said above. Yet the ending of the story was not a loss of accountability. The ending of the story was the return of the King and the day of reckoning. We do not work for the reward. We work for the King.
What do you think? How do you see opposition to God’s kingdom in your own life? What kind of work do you do to expand the influence of the kingdom of God?