Vocational Wellbeing and Ephesians 6

Reading time: less than three minutes.

Balancing the tension between humility and hubris in our calling is not easy, but humilitywhen done well, it can lead to what I think is the most important marker of vocational wellbeing: Joy in Ministry.

Ephesians 6:7 serves as this week’s “top Scripture for the Lutheran Wellness Wheel” series, our reflections recently.  Paul says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” (NIV).

Humility is understanding that I am no more than a servant, the master of none. Hubris is understanding that I serve as the anointed representative of the Almighty God, who is Master of all.

It’s in balancing that tension that the joy of ministry comes.In this section of Ephesians, Paul is writing to slaves.  It immediately brings to mind Paul’s own self-reference as a servant of Jesus Christ in the opening of so many of his letters.  The example that Jesus gave in the Upper Room, washing the disciples feet also rings loud and clear in this imagery.  We are all humble servants, merely doing our duty, as Jesus said (Luke 17:10).

It’s interesting to me that in the Scripture, authority is never something that is used as a tool against others, for the holder of the authority to have his own way.  In the Bible, authority is almost always something that is given away for the sake of others.

The greatest power in the Lord’s kingdom is authority that is laid aside for the benefit of others.  And there is great joy in servanthood.

On the other hand, it’s a natural tendency for pastors to be pushed around, like a church_womendog at a whistler’s convention.  Maybe that’s why Stanley Hauerwas once referred to a pastor as “a shivering mass of availability.”  It’s easy for us to think we work for the Board of Elders, the church council, the noisiest voice at the voter’s meeting or the Ladies Guild.  (Although, I do suggest that if the Ladies Guild wants something, you’re probably better off just doing it.  jk)

In Ephesians, Paul describes vocational wellbeing as that fine balance of living out our calling as servants, but doing it as if we were working for the Lord, who’s yoke is easy and who’s burden is light.  Right in that sweet spot, Joy is found.

The demands of ministry are humanly impossible.  The task of tending to every need of the flock and reaching every lost soul with the gospel is never ending.  In thirty years as a parish pastor, I never once laid my head on the pillow and thought, “What a great day!  I got everything done!”  That’s not the nature of ministry.

My prayer for you is that you would rest your head each night, comfortably covered washing_feetup and tucked in by the gracious, forgiving love of Christ, with a simple prayer on your lips: “Thank you, Lord, for this high and holy calling.  And thank you for taking the humble offering of my words and deeds of service today and by the power of Your Word and Spirit, working eternal, life-transforming good in the lives of those I have had the privilege to serve.  Good night.  Wake me up if you need me tomorrow.  Amen.”

You’re making a big difference.  You’re a servant of the King.

Thanks for reading.

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