Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
As we’ve seen during the global COVID-19 crisis, the world’s definition of who is and who is not an “essential worker” is a moving target. But not so with God, which should lead Christ-followers to this question: Who will be deemed the essential workers in eternity? Who will hold the positions of highest authority? Or, to borrow the language of our Savior, who “will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus answers these questions clearly: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Who will be called great in the kingdom? Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commands. Let me be clear: As Christians, our status as adopted children of God has nothing to do with our righteousness and everything to do with Christ’s (see Ephesians 2:8-9). But as today’s passages make equally clear, there are varying rewards for us based on our obedience to the Lord’s commands in this life.
So, what does obedience look like in our work? The answers to that question are innumerable. Here are just a few. If you’re an employee, obedience to the Lord looks like obedience to the earthly authorities He has put in place as your bosses (see Colossians 3:22). If you’re an employer, one act of obedience is paying your people fairly (see Colossians 4:1). And of course all of us are commanded that in “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
The applications of the Lord’s ways to our work are endless. But Jesus famously and helpfully summed up the law with these overarching principles: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….And Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22).
In other words, we are called to love God by being obedient to his commands, and we are to love our neighbors by becoming their servants. It is that concept of service that we will look at more deeply next week as we conclude this devotional series.