The Bible has many metaphors for the church. The church is said to be a building; the church is said to be bride. 1 Corinthians explains in depth how we the church are like a body. But recently I’ve been thinking about some Bible verses that make me think of the church as a kingdom, and actually, more like a company, and consider whether my life is serving the Kingdom of God.
A look at those verses about masters and servants suggest economy to me. Although we don’t think in terms of masters and slaves as acceptable members of a business, I do think they will lend to a different perspective of our role in the Kingdom of God. And after looking at these, I’m inclined to think differently about how I can contribute to the bigger plans of the Father.
Now that I have adult children, sometimes I’d like to be a fly in the corner and watch my kids at their jobs. Have I raised them to know how to work? Are they helpful to their employers? Do they add value to their businesses?
I hope they have learned to serve, a skill that is sadly lacking in modern society. I’m sure you’ve all been subject to the poor customer service of an employee who is present in body only and not in spirit. One whose only response to a question is a shrug of the shoulders and an “I don’t know.”
What makes a good employee?
As I prayed recently for my children to be good employees, I was reminded that a good employee thinks like an employer. A good employee desires to benefit their company and their employer, seeing the profit of the company as a profit for their own selves. They have a team mentality. A good employee works to serve because there is profit in serving well and satisfaction in excellent work.
Am I a good employee of the Kingdom of God?
And then I had to ask myself, do I work for the Kingdom of God like a good employee? Or am I present in body only?
Have people become more self-absorbed as we’ve become screen-obsessed? I’m sure we have. We don’t have to serve others because our world has become self-serve. Fewer cashiers and fewer yet that know how to be cashiers. No one can help us in the empty store aisles so we are left to Google the answers ourselves.
I was convicted by the probing of this question, “Am I a good employee of God’s Kingdom?”
The defining characteristics of a good employee
Remember, a good employee works to benefit the company. That means putting his best talents to do the work before him. Not merely giving the minimum effort required.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:23
A good employee is attentive to meeting the needs around her. Her focus is on others.
“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 RSV
A good employee follows the leadership, looking for ways to implement the strategies of her employee. She will think, see, and contribute to the strategies of the team.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” Ephesians 5:1
A good employee is present. She is present on time.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.” Luke 12:35-36
A good employee is a servant.
No matter what your job or title, your employment is a way to serve. To create and offer goods and services. Yes, the mutual benefit is that you receive benefits and a paycheck. But a good employee remembers that payment is received for service, not because of basic rights or entitlement. From an employer’s point of view, money should be a reward for service, not just a free gift.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
A good employee shares the employer’s perspective. She knows what the employer is after and has aligned herself with the same goals.
“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:14-15
Where is the Kingdom of God?
I know I can treat Sunday morning church like working or shopping at Walmart. Showing up and remaining solo throughout the shopping and work experience. This completely bipasses the idea of service and community that is intended for the body of Christ.
Even so, when the Bible talks about serving the Kingdom of God, is it merely talking about church on Sunday morning?
I don’t think so. If you were under a king, you wouldn’t be moving in and out of the kingdom like you do a church building. The kingdom would be where you live. Kings rule realms and as a subject in it, the king would have all the authority over you that he wanted to wield.
And so I have to consider my involvement in the Kingdom as a 24/7 experience. I’m employed by Jesus all the time. When I’m alone and when I interact with others. Always. With that in mind, what kind of employee am I?
Serving the Kingdom of God as a duty and priviledge
I think it’s interesting that Jesus in the gospel of Luke portrays two seemingly opposite pictures of being employed in the Lord’s service. In Luke 17 we are called to work as slaves, serving the Lord humbly as is our duty, not expecting gratitude, recognition or even time off. The slave comes in from a hard day’s work and then keeps right on working to prepare and serve a master, placing the master’s needs before her own.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10
But Luke 12 paints an entirely different picture of working for the Lord and serving the Kingdom of God! Here the table is set by the master in appreciation of the servant!
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. Luke 12:35-37
Freed to serve
Today I was reading Psalm 116 which sheds a little light on why we would even want to serve in God’s Kingdom. It has to do with love, devotion and gratitude.
Verse 1: “I love the Lord because he hears by voice and my prayer for mercy.” NLT
Verses 8 and 9: “He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth.” NLT
Verses 10 and 12: “What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?…I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” NLT
Then especially notice verses sixteen where the writer explains that she is a servant, but a free servant. “O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains.” NLT
What is similar in both stories of Luke is the virtue and faithful attention of the servant. And then in Psalm 116 we see that the service is devotion. Whether it looks like I’m rewarded or not, the goal is the service not the reward. The prize is the Kingdom of God, working for the best and only eternal company, which reflects the supernatural beauty, justice and love of its founder.
The choice is ours
Being a good employee of the Kingdom of God requires me to value his Kingdom more than my own. And that takes on-the-job commitment every single day. Are you invested in serving the Kingdom of God? Are you living first as an employee of this Kingdom?
Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. Rev. 22:12 CSB