An Imperishable Inheritance
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable … Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:50
At the beginning of this week, we reviewed 1 Corinthians 7:17 and 24, in which Paul instructed the Corinthian parishioners to “lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him,” and to “remain in the situation God called him to.” Paul, it seems, was encouraging the members of the fledgling Corinthian church to view their occupation as a divine calling. And if we agree with Paul’s premise, then we are required to answer the question, “what is the purpose of that calling?”
In chapter 15, Paul reminds us that we are not citizens of the kingdoms of the earth and that the sum of our earthly achievements (our “flesh and blood”) does not afford us access to the kingdom of God. Instead, only by the gift of the Spirit are we heirs to the imperishable inheritance, and it is our calling to carry that inheritance to the world.
To be more practical, if Paul were to appear in twenty-first century America, he might juxtapose the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company and a janitor working at the same company. He might tell us that their earthly accomplishments (the “flesh and blood” titles) neither afford them access to nor exclude them from the heavenly Kingdom. Instead, he might argue, it’s more important to look at their fidelity to God’s calling. Are they steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord? Are they heirs who represent the family well? Do they share the good news of that inheritance with those around them?
Today, then, let us ask—as we go about our workaday lives, are we chasing the next “flesh and blood” title, or are we giving evidence of the imperishable inheritance? Are we living out our calling in a manner worthy of the King so that our work is not in vain, so that it is eternal?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Examine your occupation. Are you caught up in the trappings of your position? Do you lament your low position? Do you regard those above you and below you (organizationally speaking) with the same dignity and respect? In what way does your occupation allow you to engage in the work of the imperishable kingdom? Which of your coworkers most need to receive the good news of this kingdom?
PRAYER: Lord, give me steadfastness and fidelity to the work you’ve given me, and allow me to see the ways in which I can participate in advancing your Kingdom. Teach me, too, to regard the work of your imperishable kingdom over the flesh-and-blood titles of men. Amen.
What Do You Do?
If you sit with someone long enough, included in the initial small talk (“Where do you live?” “How do you know so-and-so?”) someone in the conversation will inevitably ask, “What do you do?” What are we looking for when we ask that question? And what do we hear when we’re on the receiving end of that question?
What we do is important stuff in this world, and God desires greatly to be invited into what it is we find ourselves doing every day. God takes delight in the work of our hands. But do we sometimes confuse what we and others “do” with who we are and, especially, who we are in Christ? Would our question change if we thought about it more deeply? And what about our answer? How about you? What Do You Do?