come to me, all ye who labor for a living (part 2)

Continued from yesterday...

Jesus knew the vulnerability of human life, the daily need for food and shelter to survive. And he knew the anxiety that can overwhelm us in this need. Yet he did not respond in the usual way, by working hard (and harder and harder) to gather up for ourselves what we need and storing as much as we can for the future. Instead, Jesus responded with faith.

Faith is giving up our own will, our own purposes, to God and depending on him completely for our good. And this is exactly what we see when Jesus talks about our daily needs:
“I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

"Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

"…Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith!” (Lk 12.22-24)
Jesus taught that we should set aside concerns for our own physical needs (O we of little faith!) and trust God to supply them, because “your Father knows that you need them.” And not only did he assure us that we would have what we needed, but he also described the life of faith as beautiful, like that of the birds that are fed without storehouses and the lilies that are beautifully dressed without toil. Strikingly similar to the happy life of children well cared for.

Jesus also demonstrated such a life of faith. In what we know of his public life, his needs—as well as the needs of his disciples—were met without laboring for their own daily bread. And when Jesus sent out his disciples, he very specifically instructed them not to take provisions but to trust God to provide through those they met. Later, near the end of his ministry, Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They answered, “Nothing.” (Lk 22.35)

Jesus seemed to embrace the vulnerability of daily physical needs. Rather than seeing it as a source of anxiety or the driving force for endless work and hoarding, he seemed to see it as an opportunity for faith. Our vulnerability, like that of the birds and lilies, is part of God´s creation. And for us it provides the opportunity to freely and joyfully rely on God´s provision rather than struggling to provide for ourselves and fighting to keep what we have gathered. This is the ongoing act of faith. Which God responds to not only by providing for our physical needs, but more importantly by drawing us closer to him, where we experience the fulfillment and joy of total love. Thus our humble physical vulnerability becomes the opportunity to address our deeper problem of separation from God, and experience deeper union with God through our response to the daily needs that arise.

Also, as we see in Jesus' life, our needs provide an opportunity to encourage others to respond in faith also. Our faith (and God´s provision) shows the way to faith for others. That those struggling around us might also know God´s care and presence.

But this doesn´t mean Jesus didn´t work, or taught others to avoid work. What he did was offer us freedom from anxiety so we could be free do the work God calls us to, rather than working for money, or to provide for our own needs. After describing the life of the birds and lilies, Jesus continued:
"Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom..." (Lk 12.29-32)
Elsewhere he said, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you..." (Jn 6.27) We were being invited into the life of God's kingdom, where we would be free to work for others, guided by God's love and God's purposes, rather than working for ourselves.

And the work of the kingdom was to be given as a gift to people. Instead of work being a slavery, the part of our lives we must sell to “pay our own way,” the work Jesus encouraged was to be a free gift of love. Perhaps the best summary of this appeared when Jesus sent out his disciples to preach and heal, telling them, “You received without paying, give without pay.” (Mt 10.8) Their needs were going to be met by God (through others) as a gift, God´s love responding to their vulnerability. And all their talents and abilities and wisdom were also gifts from God, along with the energy they had and the motivation of love to use those abilities for the good of others. All gifts. So they were told to offer their work as a gift to others, without pay.

Not just their "volunteer" work, either, their work in their spare time (after the "work day" is over). But all their work. They were to make their whole lives a gift.

This was how Jesus himself worked. He used the abilities God had given him to serve those around him, and he asked nothing in return. (He did, though, accept the gifts that others freely chose to give to him). And he taught his followers to do the same, such as in these passages:
He said to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Lk 14.12-14)

“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great…” (Lk 6.33-35)
Together with “give without pay” and Jesus' own example, these provide a consistent model for our work. God´s provision for us allows us to give our service freely to others without asking for payment. Instead of working to provide our own "living," we are offered life—as a gift—so we can offer our lives to others as a gift. And this frees our work. No longer do we need to be driven by our own needs or have to do the kind of work “that sells”; no longer do we need to serve first those who have the money to pay. We are freed to do the kind of work that God has created us for, the work God calls us to, motivated only by love for those we are serving.

"Come to me, all ye who labor for a living, and I will give you rest"—and freedom.