At Work & Theology 101

Faith, Work, & Foot-Washing: What We Can Learn from Christ’s Example

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Jesus, on the night he was betrayed…

We are all familiar with these words, usually said as we join together in the Lord’s Supper. But before serving that remarkable first communion, Jesus did something else that was also remarkable.

He washed the disciples’ feet.

In doing this, Jesus provided a model of service that applies to our whole lives, including our work.

Foot-Washing Then…

In washing their feet, Jesus was giving the disciples (and us) an amazing picture of his redemptive work. I encourage you to take a few minutes and read John 13:1-16 today. John recorded these events so that we can easily understand the meaning of Jesus’ actions.

Let’s trace our way through them:

  • Before dinner, Jesus rose up from the table. This is a literal picture of how he rose up and prepared to leave his place in heaven. Then, he took off his robe. Again, this shows how he shed the glory that is rightfully his so that he could accomplish his task.
  • He wrapped a towel around his waist. The parallel is that he took on the form of a servant by becoming a man. Then, he washed their feet. What a clear illustration of how he lowered himself to a posture of humiliation. He died on the cross, shedding his own blood, so that we might be clean.
  • When he finished washing their feet, he put on his robe, returned to his seat at the table, and began to teach them. These are pictures of how, after suffering a humiliating death, he rose from the dead in a new, glorious resurrection body. Then, at Pentecost, he rose into heaven, took his place in the seat of power and sent his Holy Spirit to be our teacher, comforter and helper.

That is the gospel, my friends!

We could stop there and be satisfied. But, as is often the case, there is more to the story.

…And Foot-Washing Now

In verse 14, Jesus says to the disciples (and to us),

…you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

He calls us to join him in his foot-washing ministry through a life of humble service. In the context of faith and work, what does foot washing look like in 2014?

Here are six suggestions:

1. Trust God and know that he has a plan for ALL aspects of your life.

In verse 3, John tells us that Jesus stood up to wash feet “knowing that God had given all things into his hands.” It’s an honor for us to work for Jesus’ in his foot-washing business.

2. Work and lead with a servant’s heart.

Jesus didn’t just talk about washing feet. He got his hands dirty. As Christ’s servants in the workplace, we should be ready and willing to get our hands dirty as well.

3. Be intentional in the lives of our colleagues and partners.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors – that includes co-workers. He also calls us to encourage one another and build one another up in the faith.

4. Be vulnerable with one another.

It is not easy to be vulnerable in the workplace. We often go to work with a dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest mindset. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) paint a very different picture of how we are to be in this life. Being vulnerable with your colleagues will go a long way toward building trust.

5. Be prepared to serve.

Have you ever wondered where Jesus got that towel? I like to think he brought it, suggesting that he came with a plan to wash the feet of his disciples. Even if he didn’t bring it, we know he made it since all things were made through him.

6. Be careful, even gentle.

Foot washing is an intimate act that requires a very careful touch. The same is true of our dealings with others in the workplace.

We at IFWE wish you and your family a blessed Easter, one marked by service, love, vulnerability, and gentleness – all characteristics modeled by Jesus as he washed the disciple’s feet. May we do the same.

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