(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Apprentice, Shark Tank, and Dirty Jobs…
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
Genesis 2:1-3, 15, 3:17-19
The archetypal stories in Genesis set many of the basic Biblical assumptions about life. Among those is the principle of work. Work was always a part of God’s original, “good” creation, rather than being any kind of punishment. The simple reality is that both God and humans work, creating and maintaining life. (Note: the idea of “work” includes, but is much broader than, a formal job description and a paycheck. God has work, paid or unpaid, for every person at every stage of life.)
Usually when we think about the Sabbath commandment, we focus on the idea of rest. But rest is only one part of the life rhythm that the commandment envisioned. If there is no work, rest becomes nothing more than pointless self-indulgence. And if there is no rest, work becomes an intolerable, destructive burden. Life becomes full and meaningful in the alternating rhythm of “six days” and “Sabbath.”
Jesus challenged ways of thinking common in his day and ours. We tend to think “producing” is just about goals and results, with no place for “soft” values like love. But Jesus told his disciples he had called them to “go and produce fruit,” and linked their ability to do that with living in God’s love and loving one another. Acts said it worked. The disciples did “produce fruit, so much that a mob in Thessalonica said they’d been “disturbing the peace throughout the empire” (or, in the King James Bible’s superb phrase, that they had “turned the world upside down”—Acts 17:6).
The Pharisees were so busy enforcing their understanding of the Sabbath command as forbidding even trivial “work” like carrying a mat, they missed a much larger point. Jesus, who said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), told them that godly acts of blessing and healing were fully compatible with the Sabbath rest. God’s healing, sustaining work goes on full-time.
Because Jesus stood aloof from the conventional economic expectations of his day, there is some truth in modern descriptions of him as an “unemployed” person. If that leads us to think he was an idler, however, we’ve missed a key reality. He had a profound personal mission, and worked steadily to carry it out. In his prayer the night before the crucifixion, he told the Father that he had done his God-given work by making God known to our world.
Our culture’s tendency to treat work as a competition, with title, paycheck and office location as the scoreboard, often makes work a tiresome burden. If we buy into that view, Paul’s counsel to his converts to “be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others” sounds hopelessly naïve. But Paul knew (we’ll study this next week) that each of us is uniquely gifted, and called to be who we are made to be (not a clone of anyone else). If we grasp and accept that truth, the pointlessness of comparison begins to appear, and God frees us to “work for the good of all,” rather than trying to elbow our way ahead of one another.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
God of all creation, Jesus modeled for us a life that consistently focused on working for the good of all. Guide us as we seek to become more and more like Jesus in our own work. Help us to find and value the work you have given each of us to do. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
If 1 is “worst” and 10 is “greatest”, how would you rate your job(s), paid or unpaid? Very briefly, why did you give this answer?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Genesis 2:1-3, 15, 3:17-19. Based on these verses, is work itself a punishment from God, or is it part of God’s creation plan? How do you feel about work—more positively or negatively? Why did work seem to become more difficult after sin entered the picture? How can our day-to-day sins make our work more difficult?
Read Exodus 20:8-11. These verses make it sound like God offered relief for work on one day – the Sabbath – by making it holy. When you honor the Sabbath by attending church, do you feel relief? Why might we feel such relief? Does God work, too? How would you feel if you had to work constantly without meaningful breaks? How would you feel about yourself if you did almost no work at all? Considering we seem to live in an ever-busier world, do you tend to allow work to enter into your every moment, or do you make sure you provide for some solid “down time”? Re-read verse 10. How might that apply to ethical choices that involve our expectations about the work of others and other workplace issues?
Read John 15:9-17. Ewing M. Kauffman, a famous local entrepreneur, refused to allow people in his organizations to be called “employees.” Instead, he insisted that they be called (and thought of as!) “associates.” How do these verses seem to reflect that way of thinking and operating? How would you imagine this philosophy affected his organizations? How do you feel about this kind of thinking? In what ways can you apply that philosophy in your own organization or family even if “upper management” doesn’t seem to buy in? Can we really affect change in our little corner of the global workplace? Is Jesus Christ really your ultimate boss in life, or not?
Read John 5:1-17. If we do the kind of work that benefits others who need help, are we violating the concept of resting on the Sabbath? How do we feel after doing this kind of work? Is it beneficial and restorative for us? Note the similarity between the words “rest” and “restored.” The Sabbath is holy. Is this kind of work holy? Does the world run itself? Is God still at work, instilling his creative work in the world? When you read about disturbing things going on, do you have hope and faith that God’s work in still able to make a difference? What (or who) does God use as his work tools?
Read John 17:1-7. During his years of ministry, Jesus was an “unemployed” person. Was he an idler? What work did he do? Do you have a sense of the work God has given you to do? If so, how does that shape your priorities in how you spend your time and energy? If not, how can you, and perhaps the members of your group, discover the work God’s given you? Jesus said, “I have revealed your name.” What did he mean? Is work with spiritual results “real” work, or do you consider it a more insubstantial activity?
Read Galatians 6:4-10. Some people might read these verses and feel as if God is shaking his finger at them and telling them to get off their duff and get to work. Do you feel that way? Others might read it and be filled with great hope and joy. What can our divergent reactions to some of the words of the Bible teach us about ourselves? Our culture constantly teaches us to compare ourselves and our work with others. What did Paul say? How do we resist the world’s temptation for us to compare ourselves against some kind of worldly scorecard? Note the word “only” in verse 8. Is it wrong for us to work for our own benefit? How do we go about working, not only for ourselves, but also for the “good of all”?
From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider Christ’s words that we not be afraid? Did you find ways to incorporate these much repeated words into your daily life (e.g. put Jesus’ words on your bathroom mirror, dashboard, desk or computer screen, or use them as a breath prayer)? Please share with the group whatever you discovered.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, June 1, 2014:
In the beginning of time, when life was perfect, when God spoke all things into being, he also formed and shaped us. On the sixth day he created us in his image. We read earlier, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
God creates us, forms us, builds and crafts us in His own image, which means at our most basic level, we are bearers of God’s image. We can reflect God’s image of light and life to the rest of the world. How cool is that? God creates us in a way that people will have the opportunity to see a reflection of God’s image in us, but the question is, how? What must we do to live this out fully? The Scripture continues: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living things that moves upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:28). After God creates us in his image, he blesses us with a purpose, he gives us work to do. He blesses us with work.
In other words, God blesses us and invites us to reflect his image to the rest of the world by tending to the garden and bringing forth from it, fruit, abundant fruit. God blesses us with the work of keeping order in the garden, stewarding paradise in a way that breeds new life and light. In Genesis, God calls us to the work of ordering creation, to do the same work God did at first. In the same way that God brought order out of chaos, God created us, as image bearers to do the same work. We are to become co-creators, bearing fruit that will last. This is what Jesus commands us to do as well. In John 15, Jesus instructs us and reminds us, saying: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16, 16).
This is what we were created to do. God blesses us, speaks to us, equips us and calls us to do the things that he does so that we could grow to become the people we were created to be, reflections of God’s image. In that way, work can’t just be another four-letter word. It is the four-letter word that leads toward another four-letter word, L.I.F.E. Work is the pathway toward life. It’s the pathway toward becoming reflections of God’s image to the world around us.
It marked Jesus’ pathway to the cross. After a life of ministry rooted in compassion, generosity and grace, Jesus pauses to pray before leaving his disciples to enter into death. As he prays, he offers us insight as to why and how he lived and worked the way he did. Jesus cries out to God, saying, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do…” (John 17: 4).
Jesus’ life’s work was to glorify God, to lift peoples’ eyes to the light and life of God’s perfect love. He lived, breathed, worked and died hoping always to draw people to their knees in worship that we might become one with God, one with each other, that we might return to paradise. He lived with a sacrificial love that always sought to the do the merciful thing, to love and serve others first, even if that meant a resulting death. This is the pathway toward life he says, loving others the way I have loved you. Serving others the way I have served you. He calls and invites us to do the same thing. He says, “Those who believe in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will do greater woks than these” (John 14:12).
As people created in God’s image, who seek to follow Christ…we are called to work like this. We are called to serve one another, and love one another the same way that Christ loves us. It doesn’t matter whether it is volunteer work, ordinary work, the work we find in retirement, the work we find wearing a blue collar or a white collar, God calls us regardless of our occupation to work, to love others the way that God first loved us, or to serve those around us the same way that Christ served us. When we do this, we will find the life that really is life, we will experience meaning and value and worth that far surpasses anything you could ask for or imagine…and so will those around you, because that kind of work is what reflects God’s image to the world around us.
As we begin this sermon series on W*RK, it is important to establish that we are more than our occupations. Before we are doctors, or lawyers, pastors or bankers, we are created. God created us in his image, which means we are image bearers. We are God’s craftsmanship, uniquely blessed to do the things that God does, to work, to bear fruit, to lead people to the life that really is life. When it comes to the question of work, and what should I be doing with my life, I think we’ve gotten it wrong. The question we should be asking isn’t, “What should I be doing with my life?” It is, “How am I glorifying God, through my work?”…
One of my favorite shows these days is a show called Dirty Jobs. Its host Mike Rowe ventures into these horrible occupations by the world’s standards. He goes on the job with Road kill collectors, Catfish Noodlers, and Septic Tank Technicians. These are the jobs that should be avoided at all costs, and he goes into these jobs and does the things they do. There are two rules for the show. One is that everything is done in one take, no second takes. And two, he must do the things they do. So he goes and has to do these unthinkable things, like inseminate camels, pick up road kill. One would think these people would be miserable, yet as you watch this show, you find that these people are happy and full of life. They enjoy what they do, not because of what they do, but because of how they can see it meeting needs, contributing to the whole, changing the world. They are living sacrificially and working in a way that makes it possible for others to live fully.
Mike Rowe has discovered something in the midst of life’s dirtiest jobs. He discovered joy and peace and life. Through his occupational tourism, he’s discovered that if you produce something that makes people’s lives better, even if it is boring, routine, monotonous or little, then you are doing God’s work and that brings life. Work isn’t about our needs, it’s about God, and doing the same things God does. When we do these things, we find life.
Work – what others have said:
– Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
– Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all. – Sam Ewing
– All happiness depends on courage and work. – Honoré de Balzac
– Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work. – Gustave Flaubert
– In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. – Leo Tolstoy
– Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
– A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. – Leo Tolstoy
– We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work – Thomas Edison
– Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade? – Benjamin Franklin
– Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. – William James
– When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED. – Dr. Seuss
– A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor. – Victor Hugo
– Work without love is slavery. – Mother Teresa
– This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it
work, realize it is play. – Alan Wilson Watts
– Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. – Aristotle
– If you care about what you do and work hard at it, there isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to. – Jim Henson
– If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. – Michelangelo
– It is hard work and great art to make life not so serious. – John Irving
– The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. – Jimmy Johnson
– In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own. –Madeleine L’Engle
During the week, prayerfully consider whatever jobs you have and the work you do. Ask God to show you how to improve both. During the week find a way, no matter how small, to follow God’s guidance. Next week share with your group some of your most surprising results.