Sunday, July 15, 2012

Are You Content to Be "Just" a Laborer?

"So, when are you going to write a book?  You should, you know. You have a gift..."

Such compliments once would make my posture straighten slightly, swell my head with pride. Imagine--little me, a book author.  But after several years of writing in the public forum, those compliments are no longer as flattering, even though most intend them to be.

Instead, the words speak criticism. It's like they are saying, "Why are you wasting your time writing on the Internet when you could write something worthwhile? And 'worthwhile' means you get paid, that your words are bound between two hard covers, stitched and held together with glue."

Even one of my college students' parents criticized me for using my blog as an example to freshmen of writing as practice.  As she complained to my employer, "blogs are so immature."

Isn't being published what writers are supposed to do? What writers are supposed to aim for?  Maybe...four bloggers I've followed for several years are now successfully published; a fifth has a book contract and is striving toward that goal. I'm thrilled for each of them.  Their impact on my life has been tremendous, and I see God's fingerprints on their journeys.

Here I am, still virtually unknown, still writing articles for free each week.  Want to know a secret? Honestly? I don't feel called to write a book. This--blogging.....this is enough. It is the service God has asked of me, and I continue to give it willingly and with an open heart.  It is enough.

This "make it big" mentality is consuming, though, and impacts our service to God.  Society teaches it's not good enough to be just a teacher, just a secretary, just a truck driver.  Instead, we must always strive to work up the ladder to be in administration with a better title, better benefits, better office with a better view. There's more, always more to achieve--more power, more prestige, more leadership opportunities until we're at the top and subject to no one but ourselves.

Please understand--goals are good.  Goals are God-given and we would be remiss if we settled for less when God has called us to more. If God calls you to lead, then you lead. Period. 

But many times, God wants laborers who are willing to not have their name stamped on everything.  And he wants many of us to be content to be just laborers, not leaders..

Consider Bezalel, a " skilled Judahite artisan,"* the only blue collar worker in the Old Testament who was filled with the Spirit of God.  All the others God indwelt were leaders, prophets, and kings.

Then, along came Bezalel, a laborer without the name recognition or authority of a leader, without the holy aura of a prophet.  This man likely had large, deeply-calloused hands, skin well-tanned, scarred, and wrinkled from too much time spent working with wood, stone, and metal. He probably didn't have great book knowledge, likely couldn't quite whole books of the Torah.

Yet, God told Moses, "See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship" (Ex. 31:1-5).

God indwelt Bezalel with a purpose: to give him the skills needed to create the tabernacle.  Only God, Himself, could achieve the level of perfection needed to create this dwelling place for Himself on earth.

Amazingly, God chose to fulfill His purpose through a man--but not just any man.  Bezalel must have been one who was a willing vessel, one who would submit to the authority of the Spirit within, who knew he was incapable of the job by himself and, as such, would rely on God's capability rather than his own.

I find it no accident that Bezalel's name means "in the shadow (i.e. protection) of God"*  Imagine living in God's shadow.  To do so means when someone looks at you, he sees God, not you. 

That's what happened here--when God worked through Bezalel, when divine ability reached down to use human hands, all Israel looked at the finished product of the tabernacle and saw God, not Bezalel.  They praised God for the tabernacle's completion, not Bezalel.

This is what it means to be a laborer for God--being willing to work in God's shadow, under His authority.

In the New Testament, Paul told us, "For we are God’s fellow workers" (1 Cor. 3:9).  He didn't say "we might be God's fellow workers" or "we probably will be God's fellow workers."  No.  He said, "we are."  Yet, Jesus said of these fellow workers, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (Matt. 9:37).

I would argue the workers are few because we don't want to be blue-collar laborers, especially laborers who never (or rarely) receive recognition.  
  • We don't want to fold flyers or sweat (literally) putting Bible tracts on doors in neighborhoods where no one is at home.  
  • We don't want to give up our close-knit Sunday School classes and commit to work in the  preschool wing where the majority of church members never come. 
  • We don't want to pray diligently each day in the secrecy of our prayer closets where no one hears us. 
  • We don't want to help clean up back in the kitchen after a fellowship while everyone else is out there enjoying each other's company.
As a general rule, most people gravitate towards the big, obvious areas of service where everyone can see what they do for Christ, where their name is stamped (somehow) on the work.

Yet, for God to be able to use us, we must be content to work in God's shadow where no one sees us but rather merely sees the work of the Spirit within us. 

God's looking for some content blue-collar laborers like you and me.  It's time we bend the knee and say "yes" to God empowering us beyond our capabilities, to say "yes" to those areas of service no one may ever know we have done in His name.



  1. Jennifer
    This is one of the best posts you've written, and I am so very thankful for your online presence!

  2. Thanks Ginger. It's labor but the kind that's fulfilling. :-) Hope you and yours are well.

  3. I almost missed this one but for Ginger. I share your sentiments. I struggled for quite a while with it but have come to enjoy blogging much more after fully surrendering it.
    Yes, we are human. We care all too much even about blog stats. But I've come to realize {to accept, rather} that if for one person reading, one person blessed by Him through me then it is all worth it. It's an amazing avenue in which He works through so many. Immature? Hardly. There are so many blogs out in the blogosphere focused on a variety of topics.

    But He chose this. For you, for me, for many of us. Maybe just for now. Maybe indefinitely. And there's no place like His plan and will. Should I write a book it will likely be for my own father who's requested his life's story and the story of his hometown.

    I'll gladly share my life on my humble little blog. And I'm so grateful that others like you are content to do the same.

    No big "I"s or little "you"s in God's Kindgom.

  4. Wow. I, too, have come to realize that my obedience to blog is enough. I say Amen. We are not conformed to this world. I'm excited to find another laborer with like-mindedness. How encouraging. Be blessed.