Has the “palace” of your work become a prison?

esther on work Jun 21, 2021

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:12-16)

If you missed last week’s devotional, let me bring you up to speed. Esther has been chosen by King Xerxes to be his new queen. Xerxes has no idea that Esther is of Jewish descent, but he does know (and has sanctioned) a plot to “kill and annihilate all the Jews” in his kingdom (see Esther 3:13).

While Esther appears to be enjoying her new life in the palace, her uncle Mordecai begs Esther to use her position of influence to save God’s people. Initially, Esther refuses (see Esther 4:6-11). So Mordecai asks again, uttering the now-famous words of verse 14 to his niece: “who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

There are two things I want us to see in verse 14 this morning.

First, God uses people in all work environments to accomplish his will. When you’re working outside the four walls of a church, it can be tempting to view your work as “secular” and the work of pastors and missionaries as “ministry.” But the Book of Esther (and indeed, the whole of Scripture) thoroughly refutes this idea. Mordecai’s words to Esther remind us that God has placed us in our current positions intentionally so that he might do his redemptive work through his people.

Here’s the second thing I want us to take away from verse 14: An understanding of grace should lead us to sacrifice our power. We’ve already seen that the first time Mordecai asked Esther to help save the Jews she refused. But the second time, she agreed. What made Esther change her mind? Of course, we can’t know for sure. But I believe the answer is found in the word “come” in verse 14. 

Commenting on this verse, Tim Keller has pointed out that “The Hebrew word translated as ‘come’ is a passive verb. It would be better translated: ‘Who knows but that you were not brought to your royal position because of this?’”

Mordecai is reminding his niece that the only reason why she’s in the palace in the first place is because of God’s grace. And that demands that she sacrifice her agenda, comfort, and maybe even her life, for his agenda and the lives of others.

Keller says, “Unless you use your clout, your credentials, and your money in service to the people outside the palace, the palace is a prison…if you are unwilling to risk your place in the palace for your neighbors, the palace owns you.”

God has put you in your place of work for a reason, and it’s not primarily for your own comfort. May we be those who embrace our positions “in the palace” not as a means of promoting ourselves and our agenda, but sacrificially pouring out whatever power we have been given for the glory of God and the good of others.


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