At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

How to Please God through Everyday, Ordinary Work and Vocation

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Do you ever wonder how you can please God and what that looks like in concrete terms when you wake up each day?

One of IFWE’s Twitter followers tweeted at us earlier this week that her pastor, Reverend Dr. Stephen J. Casselli, preached about this very question on Sunday.

Casselli’s sermon focused on I Thessalonians 4:9-12:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Expounding on this passage, Casselli starts by pointing out that Paul is not talking about trying to earn favor with God. He states,

He [Paul] is saying that we are justified freely before God on the basis of faith in Christ alone, but to those who are freely justified by the grace of God, he now turns and gives instructions regarding…the will of God for our sanctification, for our progress in Christian living.

Casselli then asks, “how can we make progress in Christian living?”

Citing Paul, he answers that we should love one another. One way we love each other in the church is through work and productivity. Casselli explains:

Look at what [Paul] says. Here is how you love one another. You be productive in your work. You work in such a way that you please God by providing for others in the body of Christ.

Anne Bradley has written several pieces about how our work serves not just those we know in the church, but sometimes people halfway around the world we may never meet.

Apparently not everyone in the church Paul is addressing in this passage had this same mindset about work. Casselli mentions Paul’s admonitions of idleness and why some in this church might have stopped working:

For some reason, some in the church were not working. Many think the reason for that is because this new community of Christians had heard for the first time in their lives that Jesus, who had gone to the Father, was going to come back to earth. And Paul had taught them that that could happen at any minute. In light of the second coming, they concluded, “well, then why work?”

In response, Paul, as Casselli says, “brings into view another broad them for our consideration…as an antidote to the problem in the church.”

That broad theme is the doctrine of vocation. Casselli asks his congregation to consider vocation as a way we please God, saying “We please God when we are faithful to whatever calling he has given to us.”

After giving a short history lesson in how Christians have viewed vocation throughout the centuries, Casselli offers three implications derived from Paul’s teaching.

  • Ordinary work is God’s way of caring for creation: “Paul says “make it your goal to be ordinary.” That just blows all our categories. We don’t think in these terms…. The way in which God governs and cares for his world is through the ordinary work that you do day by day. Under his providence, God tends and cares for his world through the ordinary work of people.”
  • Work is an expression of love. “We work with the motivation of love. That is deeply countercultural…Love to God, love to neighbor, the whole of God’s law fulfilled as we are faithful to our ordinary calling before God. We do not work to earn God’s favor, we work in response to God’s favor and out of expression of love for our neighbor.”

You can listen to Casselli’s full sermon here. He also offers encouragement in ways to be faithful in carrying out our ordinary, everyday work, and it’s worth checking out.

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