Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to succeed in life, without really trying . . .

Today we are going to look for a little bit at the daily lectionary passage from Esther (which can be found here:   )
Mordecai, I think gives us an interesting real life example of what I think is an essential principal of living our daily lives for Christ.  The principal can be summed up in a verse from Ephesians:  "Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord, rather than for people." (Eph. 6:7)
I think we often separate and categorize things and responsibilities in our lives - which, of course, makes sense and helps us make sense of our lives - but when we give less than our best in our jobs or really in anything we do, we have to understand that it isn't our employers or even ourselves that we are 'letting down' it is in fact God.  The God that choose us as his representatives in this world.  The God that loves us, created us and sends us into the world to invite others into relationship with him.  
So the point is then that no matter what category we put the work before us in (mission, ministry, mundane, pointless, vital, etc.) and no matter 'who' it is for (ourselves, our employers, a friend, our church, a stranger) we are called to do it with enthusiasm and to do it as if we were in fact doing it for God.  
So hold onto that idea as we look at the Old Testament passage for today from the book of Esther.  In this passage we have the three major players: the King, Haman, one of the kings most trusted advisors and a man obsessed with gaining power, authority and prestige for himself, and we have Mordecai who is a Jew and a humble servant of the king.  
Haman hates Mordecai because, out of faithfulness to God, he doesn't show Haman the 'respect' he think he deserves.  Everything Haman does is motivated by his ambition and desire for position, prestige and power.  In this passage he has plotted to have Haman killed.  
Mordecai, is a faithful follower of God and because of this works hard at his job - even though it is for a foreign king - to honor God.  
Because of this, when he became aware of a plot against the king he immediately took steps to save the kings life.  
At this point of the story the king remembers Mordecai's good and faithful service and wants to reward him, and he asks Haman what would be an appropriate way to repay a faithful servant.  Haman is so blinded by his own ambition and pride that he can't imagine that the king would be speaking of anyone other than himself.  So he suggests an elaborate and extravagant reward.  Which the king then instructs Haman to administer to Mordecai, his mortal enemy.  
Before we get to the 'moral' of the story and the connection to the Ephesians passage, it is important to understand that Haman was not just a cartoon character bad guy, one dimensional and clueless.  The reason he was a trusted advisor to the king with a lot of power is because he was intelligent and resourceful  able to make insightful recommendations and skilled in a wide array of disciplines.  
But he was so caught up in getting more for himself: more power, more influence, more money, etc. that his ambition blinded him and eventually lead to his downfall.  Mordecai, on the other hand, simply and humbly did his job - to the best of his ability - and in a way that honored his God.  The 'moral' is that we have to remember that God's economy is not that same as the world's economy.  Jesus told us that who ever wishes to save his life must lose it for God.  Seeking power, fame, fortune, importance and influence for yourself will always, eventually lead to trouble.  
But, if we look at all that lies before us (even mundane and boring elements of our job or our daily lives) as an opportunity to faithfully serve our God and Savior, then we will be wonderfully rewarded.  Sometimes that reward will only come in heaven, which is more than enough.
But sometimes, maybe even often if we are focused on faithfully serving God in all we do here and now, it allows us to fulfill our potential in ways we hadn't imagined or dreamed of and can lead to an overflowing of blessing here and now.  
May we use all that we have and are given - boring tasks, unpleasant jobs and great blessings alike to serve and honor our God. 

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