This is the fifth and last in a short series on the testing of Jesus as He started a new phase of the work He was born to do.
There is an irony in today’s world in that we believe we are in a less religious society than we used to inhabit and nowhere is this more obvious than in work. Religious prejudice is to be avoided, religious expression to be controlled, and proselytising is seen as an unacceptable practice. The party line in most businesses is to keep religion out of work.
Yet our gods are everywhere. They are conceptual – like success, promotion, status and respect; they are material – like big offices, desks, cars or teams; they are human – like heroes, role models or mentors. We want them, we want to be like them and we are prepared to sacrifice to get them or to please them. High stress levels arise when we feel we have offended anyone we really admire. We display all the attitudes of religion in a so-called secular environment.
We may not have one God but we don’t have no gods. No one will say it but deep inside the working culture is a belief just a strong as any apostles’ creed: if I make this sacrifice of time, energy and resource I will obtain this reward.
There is nothing wrong with hard work to achieve honourable goals. But somewhere along the line the sacrifice becomes worship of the false god, in order to obtain the desired reward. The double irony is that it based on a lie. The gods we serve cannot deliver the results we desire. There is even a third irony: in giving up the many gods for the One – in serving him alone – we stumble across freedom, reward and satisfaction. Jesus was offered the very reward he hoped for: the possession of kingdoms of this world for himself. The temptation was to try to obtain them by subjecting himself to another kingdom. It was a lie upon lie. Firstly, what good would it be to gain these kingdoms but have to bow down to the enemy and lose his soul? Secondly, in bowing down he would forfeit the very position he had just acquired. Thirdly, the prize on offer from the enemy was not the enemy’s to give. This is not a trap it is a web of deceit.
All very spiritual and theoretical, you may observe. But ask yourself who you sacrifice to. Ask yourself what rewards you are after. Ask yourself what methods you use and who holds the focus of your attention.
Scratch the surface of your soul and is your motivation different to your colleagues? Is your heart beating in time with the rhythms of earth or heaven? There is only one God and we are called to worship him and nothing and no one else. Some days that will mean letting go of unhealthy hero worship, whileon other days it will mean refocusing your personal ambition; at still other times it will mean being real and truthful – for worship and service mean the same thing. Some days it may mean giving up a benefit of yours for the benefit of others.
Every day it will mean that you can’t be bought, compromised or lured into a shady deal. Above all it will mean that you must try, however large or small the task, to find a way of doing it which reflects the God you serve. In other words, you will try to find the way which promotes the way of love. Freud argued that life is about solving the problems of love and work. Sometimes these are the same thing; whom you love will determine how you work; don’t give in on that.
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