How Can I Serve God in My Occupation? (Luke 3:1-20) - God’s Word for Work, Online Video Bible Study

Small Group Study / Produced by TOW Project

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How Can I Serve God in My Occupation? (Luke 3:1-20)  

Agenda

1. Leader gathers the group in an online meeting.

2. Leader shares screen and audio.

3. Leader plays video. The video includes:

4. Leader pauses the video and the group discusses the readings.

5. Leader resumes the video with the closing prayer.

Opening Prayer

God, we invite you to speak to us through the Bible today. Show us what your word means for our work. Amen.

Bible reading: Luke 3:1-20

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”

He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”

And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”

Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?”

So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.

Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: John the Baptist Teaches Workplace Ethics

The first teaching in the Book of Luke is directly about work. John the Baptist exhorts his audience to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” lest they face judgment. When people ask specifically, “What then should we do?” John gives economic, not religious, responses. First, he tells those who have an abundance of possessions to share with those who have nothing. He then gives instructions to tax collectors and soldiers relating directly to their work. Tax collectors should collect only what they are required to, rather than padding the tax bill and pocketing the difference. 

These were radical ideas for a profession marked by entrenched, systemic injustice. Throughout Palestine governors and other high-level officials outsourced the right to collect taxes in their jurisdictions. In order to win a contract, a prospective tax collector would have to agree to give the official a certain amount over and above the actual Roman tax. Likewise, the tax collectors’ own profits were the amounts they charged over and above what they passed to government officials. Since people had no way of knowing what the actual Roman tax was, it would have been hard for tax collectors to resist the temptation for self-enrichment, and almost impossible to win bids without offering fat profits to the governmental officials.

John does not offer them the option to stop being tax collectors. Instead, he tells them how they can do their work, within their given occupation.

Imagine other occupational groups pondering the same question today:

  • school teachers asking, “What should we do?”
  • business executives asking, “What should we do?”
  • grocery store clerks asking, “What should we do?”

The text invites us to understand God’s intent for our specific work, not only for work in general. How might we, in our present occupation, respond to the call of the Gospel?   

Group Discussion

  • How does what you heard apply to your work?

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for being present with us today. Please stay with us in our work, wherever we go. Amen.