Sunday, November 22, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Love at Work"

“Love at Work”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
November 22, 2015 :: Matthew 22:34-40

Our Fall sermon series is coming to and end. I only planned to have three more messages in this series. Today, next week, and then December 6th.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll have said everything the Bible says about our work. In fact, we won’t be anywhere close to that. But we will have hit some of the highlights:

Why we work.  We are working for the Lord.
Is work good or bad.
How to witness at work.
How to balance hard work and rest.
How to know what you are called to do for your work.
How to pray at work and what our attitude should be at work.
And, last week, how to work in the name of the Lord.

I think I’ve offered answers for just about all of the questions that you turned in on these surveys we passed out at the beginning of the series.

There are a couple that are more specific than a sermon will cover, and I hope to write an article or two for my blog on the answers to those.

But we’ve covered most of the ground or will by the end of the next few weeks.

Here was one though that I wanted to spend more time on. We’ve hit on it most of the weeks, but I wanted to address it squarely on the head this week.

“Conformity to the world–I really struggle with this.”

A number of you indicated that doing the right thing at work, the ethical thing, the moral things, righteous thing was an area that you thought was important for this series to cover.

And you’re right.

If we are supposed to be working for the Lord (and we are!), then a big part of doing our work the right way will be doing the right thing at work.

But what is that? What is the ethical standard we should be striving for in our workplaces?

In one word it is: LOVE.

Our sermon title this week is “Love at Work,” and I don’t mean office romances or even loving your work which I hope that many of you do.

What I intend for us to think about today is how God is calling us to the standard of love when we make our ethical choices on the job.

If we want to be righteous, we will need to be loving.

And I can think of no better place to see this than Matthew chapter 22 where Jesus summarizes the entire law into the two greatest commandments.

Do you have it in front of you?

This teaching take place during Jesus’ passion week just a few days before His crucifixion. He’s been teaching publically in the temple courts, and He’s been confounding his opponents.

They keep trying to catch Him or trick Him, but He outsmarts them every time.

This time, a Pharisee, an expert in the Mosaic Law steps up to the plate and tries to whiz a fast one by Jesus. V.34

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

For some reason he thinks that’s a stumper.

Probably, being an expert, he thinks that if he can’t answer the question, nobody can.

Or maybe he thinks that Jesus will get Himself into trouble by emphasizing one commandment over another and losing supporters on one side of a debate or another.

Any way about it, this guy think he’s got Jesus stumped.

Before we read verse 37, how would you answer it?

There are a lot of commandments out there. What would you put at the absolute top of the list?

If you had one rule for those who work at your job to observe, what would it be?


“Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

Our Lord Jesus was not stumped by this question.

He had an answer ready. He said that Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 5 would take the top of the list.

‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.”

You want to know what is always the right thing to do at work?


That’s the first and greatest commandment. It’s the most important way to obey while you are doing anything, including doing your job.

Love your God at work.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Because when we do our jobs, we are doing them as working for the Lord not for men.

So it makes sense that we would be loving our Boss with a capital B.

Now that word “love” gets thrown around a lot in our culture. We say we “love” all kinds of stuff.

But the way that Jesus is using the word here is much more than affection or approval of something. This is not the “like” button on Facebook.

This is not “loving” something on Pinterest.

This is putting God first and foremost in our life. Valuing Him above everything else.

Turn with me to the book of Exodus, chapter 20.

Many many Bible students over the years have connected the Greatest Commandment, to love God supremely, with the first 4 commandments in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.

These first four have often been called “The First Tablet of the Law.”

Let’s look at them more closely and think about they would relate to our work.

Obviously, in this form, they were given to Israel as part of the Old Covenant, but we can learn from them ourselves now and think about how Jesus interpreted them and incorporated them into what we call the Law of Christ in the New Covenant of which we are a part. Exodus 20, verse 1.

“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’”

Does that relate to our work lives?

I think so.

God wants us to love Him first and foremost.

Notice, that the Ten Commandments start with grace.  He reminds them Who He is. He is their rescuer.

They weren’t to keep the ten commandments to be saved. They were to keep them because they had been saved.

And because they had been saved for God. He wanted a special relationship with them. One that was exclusive.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

I’ve really enjoyed reading this book by Tim Keller as we’ve gone through this series. Every Good Endeavor.

This week, I read chapter eight which is entitled, “Work Reveals Our Idols.” It’s a very insightful chapter that delineates the many ways in which we come up with what he calls “counterfeit gods” at work.

Greed. Workaholicism. Being driven for success or status. Or even comfort or honor or productivity or any other good thing that has risen to the level of the greatest thing.

God wants to be the greatest thing in our work lives.

And that’s God as He really is. The second commandment is about loving God and not customizing Him. V.4

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Do you see the love there?

Why does God oppose the manufacturing of idols?

Not just because they take the place of God Himself but because they are all poor substitutes for Him.

And if you make an idol, you think can control it, right?

If I make my god, then I can make my god how I want him, right?

But God is a jealous God. In a good way. He wants us to worship Him for who He really is not just how we want Him to be.

How does this relate to our work lives?

Have you heard anyone say, “My God would never do that?” And then they fill in the blank with what they want God to be like.

They want a God who is manageable and tame.

But our God is not manageable. He manages us.

He is not tame. He tames us.

And He wants us to love Him as He really is.

So if God asks you to do something at work that is different from how the rest of the world acts, don’t try to fit Him into the world’s mold. Break the mold and go with God.

You see how committed He is to His glory? Even if you send four generations of God-hating people against Him, you will not win. God is fully committed to His own glory and those who love Him will experience his faithful love forever.

Love your God at work.

And love Him reverently. The third commandment comes with a threat. V.7

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

God is holy.  And His name is holy.  It should be treated reverently.

We talked about this last week.

This is more than just don’t swear with God’s name on the job. Don’t use God’s name as profanity. It does mean that. Don’t do that. Don’t say, “O my God” at work.

But it means more than that.

It means don’t wear that name and then smear mud on it.

I think one of the worst ways we can do our work as Christians is to be unethical on the job while telling the world that we are Christians.

We need to do our work with integrity.

There are “Christian businessmen” who put a fish symbol on their business cards but then turn around an rip off their customers.

Pat Morley said in his book A Man’s Guide to Work, “One thing that kept my own mother from true faith for so long was watching a man she worked with read his Bible every day at lunch, but then live like the Devil all afternoon” (pg. 48).

That’s misusing the name of the Lord.

And it’s not loving your God at your work.

Now, we already looked at verses 8-11 in the sermon on work and rest, but let’s read them one more time.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

One point about this.

We love our God at work by trusting Him even when He says that we should not work.

There are times to rest and let God take it from there.

Or as Keith Green famously sang, “Just keep doing your best and pray that it’s blessed, and He’ll take care of the rest.”

Part of loving God at work is leaving work at work.

And I am very guilty of failing at that.

The Lord has been dealing with me this Fall about my need to trust in Him and take a break and learn to rest.

Work hard when it’s time and rest well when it’s time.

Do you see what we’ve done here?  We’ve just thought a little bit about how the first four commandments of the ten commandments relate to our work life and help us to fulfill the Greatest Commandment at work.

“To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Turn back there to Matthew 22 and look at that verse again. It’s verse 37. Pew Bible page 980.

“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

That word “all” is important, isn’t it?

The words “heart” and “soul” and “mind” are not so much distinctly different things but overlapping categories to cover all of the most important part of us.

So that we don’t just love God with our hearts but not our minds.

Or our minds but not our hearts.

But with all of us. Luke’s version of this commandment includes “with all of your strength.”

Every inch of our beings all of the time and including when we are at work should be bent to worshiping God alone.

Love your God at work.

How are you doing at that?

How are you doing at loving your God at work?

And, again, that’s not just warm fuzzy feelings about God.

But are you loving God first and foremost and saying no the idols that your work might offer?

Are you customizing God at work and not loving Him for Who He really is?

Are you taking His name in vain or misusing it in some other way?

Are you trusting Him and finding a balance between work and rest?

How are you doing at loving God at work?

I’ll bet you are failing.

Not 100% failing, I hope. But I’m guessing that you can see areas where you have failed.

The Ten Commandments, when we really understand them, show us our need of a Savior.

We have all failed at keeping the Greatest Commandment, but thankful Jesus didn’t.

And through His Cross, He offers us both forgiveness and His perfect record.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Have you come to trust Him as your Savior? He’s a wonderful Savior. All that we’ll ever need!

Trust in Him and ask Him to help you to love God supremely in your work.

Each week in this series, we’ve had a group of people stand and be recognized for their hard work and contribution to the common good.

Some of you have stood more than once, some haven’t yet.

If you think I’ve forgotten you or not noticed you, talk to me afterwards today. I want to get everybody by the end of this series which is in two more weeks!

And more than that, I’d like to visit more of you at your place of work.

I was impressed by the pastors I listened to this Summer at the national conference that it’s important for pastors like me to actually go to your place of work to understand better what you do all day every day and every week.

To not just make hospital visits and home visits but also work visits.

Now some of you won’t want me at your place of work, some of you can’t have me at your place of work. I don’t think the power plant where Lonnie is open to visitors most of the time.

But if you would like to have me visit your work, I’d love to come and see what you do and talk to your co-workers and maybe pray for you as you work. I promise not to get in the way!

I’ve done it with some of you over the years, but I see that now as a more important and permanent part of my job description as your pastor.

Today, I’d like to have everyone who interacts with the public stand and be recognized.

I’m thinking especially of those who work in retail or in reception. Maybe you man a welcome desk that people walk up to. Maybe you answer the phone at work. Or maybe you’re in public relations. Or you’re the face or voice of your company.

Would you folks who interact directly with the public stand and be recognized.

Thank you!

Thank you for your contribution to our society. And thank you for doing it as followers of Christ, loving God on the job. I’m sure it’s not always easy. I’m sure it’s not always easy to do the right thing, the loving thing in your jobs.

Thank for you for trying. For wanting to do the right thing. And for loving God and those around you.

Yes, and those around you. Your neighbors.

That’s where Jesus goes next, isn’t it?  In verse 39.

Loving God with everything us is the first and greatest commandment, but it’s not the whole enchilada. V.39

“And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

You want to know what is always the right thing to do at work?


It’s not enough to say that we love God, we must also love our neighbors, the people around us.

Loving people is secondary to loving God but not optional in anyway.

And in fact, we can’t love people the way we should unless we love God.

But if we love God we will surely love people because they are made in His image and because we want to reflect that image by loving what He loves.

So what does that look like?

Turn back to Exodus 20 again, and let’s look at the “Second Tablet of the Law” the last 6 of the Ten Commandments.

These commandments are more focused on neighbors. What does it say there?  Pew Bible page 73. Exodus 20, verse 12.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Now, if your work is at home, perhaps you’re a young person, then this verse applies directly to your work. And of course, we continue to honor our parents as we get older.

I hope that I honor my father and mother in the way that I do my work day in and day out.

And many Christians have seen a deeper principle at work here, as well, that of honoring any proper authority over us.

So loving our neighbors in that sense could be honoring our bosses and treating them with respect.

Are you doing that?

Remember, this doesn’t say, “If they act honorably, honor your parents.” It just says to honor them. And the same is true at work. We don’t just show respect to the management when they are doing their job well.

How did Jesus say to love our neighbors? “As yourself.”

As you would want to be loved if you were the neighbor.

Are you treating your boss in the way you wish you were treated if you were the boss?

Verse 13 is about co-workers.  V.13

“You shall not murder.”

I thought you’d appreciate that one. Next week, the sermon is going to be about  relating to our co-workers, good and bad. A number of you have asked for that one.

But I’m also not kidding here about the 6th commandment.

What did Jesus say about the 6th commandment?

Where did our Lord go with that?

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:21-24).

Jesus goes to the heart of murder, and it’s just simply hate.

It’s devaluing a person and wishing them ill and refusing to forgive them.

Murdering them in your heart. V.14

"You shall not commit adultery.”

That means that you are faithful to your spouse when you are at work.

And it means that all of your co-workers and customers and everyone else you interact with at work are safe from you sexually. You won’t misuse them in any way including private fantasies.  V.15

“You shall not steal.”

You love your neighbors at work by not taking their things. By upholding their property and their rights.

And that’s more than just stuff, isn’t it?

You can steal a lot of different ways at work, can’t you?

Pat Morley has a short list in his chapter on integrity in A Man’s Guide to Work.

Ask yourself:

Do I surf the Internet on company time when the boss is on vacation or in meetings?
Do I make telephone calls on company time (instead of at lunch or during authorized breaks)?
Do I mark sick time on my card when I want a day off or am out of vacation days?
Do I report all of my income?
Do I lie to make sales?
Do I knock off early without permission?
Do I fudge on expenses?
Do I “borrow” company supplies?

When I do those things, I am failing to love my neighbor as I love myself.

Do you see how ethics is about love?

All of ethics is about loving our neighbors. V.16

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

This is about lying at work.

The 9th commandment is about protecting the reputation of others.

This is how you talk about others on the job.

Do you tell the truth about them?

Do you talk about them as you would want to be talked about?

This is the commandment that rules out office gossip.

And one last one. V.17

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

His desk.
His tools.
His position.
His job.
His promotion.
His success at work.

Loving your neighbor means being content with what you have and not jealous of what your neighbor has.

This last and tenth commandment is the most internal one. You can’t always tell if someone is coveting or not.

But God cares about the heart.

That’s where you love or don’t love.

How are you doing at loving your neighbors at work?

My guess is that you are failing.

Not 100%, I hope.

But when I look at these commandments, I am painfully aware of my shortcomings.

I’m painfully aware of my sin.

And that’s right and good.

Because I need a savior and I need to know that I need a savior!

These commandments reveal how needy I really am.

And thankfully, I have a Savior who is everything that I need.

This is the week of Thanksgiving.

And the thing we should be most thankful for is our salvation.

Because we have all failed to love God supremely and neighbors sacrificially.

And it’s not good enough to just try harder.

We should try harder, but we will always fail to some great degree.

But Jesus did not fail. He won the victory, and He gives it to us if we believe in Him.

And more than that, He helps us to love others as He has loved us.

He kept the greatest commandment and the second one like it.

And He is working His love into us so that we can love, too.

And that’s love at work!


Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest
07. Called to Work
08. Prayer at Work
09. Your Attitude at Work
10. Working in the Name of the Lord