August 6, 2012

Lord of the broom closet

Christians in North America are accused of being so taken up with this world and the things of this life that we don’t serve the Lord the way we ought. However, those that focus on God have also been accused of the opposite problem; that we are “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.” 
Is this an issue of balance? Does it mean I ought to take care of my spiritual duties but also give time for my responsibilities in this world? Or is it more about motivation? After all, the Bible warns us about doing the Lord’s work from worldly motives. For instance, I’m not to serve God to gain the approval of others or to personally profit in some way.

The first Christians must have struggled with this also. Paul did tell them to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2) so he wants us to be heavenly–minded. Yet a few verses later, he offers this: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24).

He wrote a similar thing to the Christians in Rome: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

I remember my struggles as a new Christian with earthly things. Doing daily chores seemed so unimportant in the larger scheme of things. What did it matter in eternity if I kept my house clean or pulled the weeds in my garden? After all, those things would not last. Wouldn’t it be better to spend my time and energy on serving God rather than wasting time on these daily chores?

At the same time, I noticed that some professing Christians took that attitude and let their homes go to chaos and weeds. This brought instant dismay to my heart and I thought that they were wrong and lazy. How can anyone who follows Christ neglect their responsibilities? We have the power of God living in us. Doesn’t that mean that we do all things with excellence, or at least to the best of our abilities?

I must have read verses like Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” because the idea came to me that I should do those daily chores for Jesus, not for myself or even for my family. With that, the ordinary chores of life became a sacrament and a delight. The duties did not change, but my reason for doing them did change.

Now, many years later, I feel myself slipping away from this motivation and back into “this is my duty” kind of thinking, not just for the daily chores but also those spiritual disciplines. Prayer is the biggest challenge and praying out of duty so easily keeps me from praying, or at least wanting to pray. Keeping the motivation focus is vital. I must do all things, including daily chores and spiritual disciplines, in service to the One who came and died for me.

Lord, forgive me. I’ve never wanted to operate at either extreme; too heavenly-minded to be useless here, or so worldly-minded that I am no use to You. But I know this is not about balance, but about the why of what I do, regardless of the category it falls into. If I love You, I will do all things heartily, in Your name and for You and Your glory, whether it is cleaning a bathroom or praying, cooking dinner or leading a Bible study. Lord, You are the central power in my life and Lord of the broom closet as well as the prayer closet. Help me to be motivated always by that reality.  

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