What do you do most days? Do you go to work? Do you own or manage a business? Do you work in your home? Are you a student? If you do any of these things, then you’re a marketplace minister! Did you know that Jesus can relate to your struggles in the workplace?
Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Jesus, our High Priest, relates to us in every aspect of life, including working in the marketplace. When my husband, Larry, and I were going through a particularly difficult time in our business, the Lord spoke to my heart about how He understood what it means to have a family owned business. Jesus worked in one! He was a Jewish carpenter, and His father, Joseph, taught him the trade as he was growing up. Biblical scholars believe that Joseph died before Jesus started his public ministry. As the eldest of the family, that would mean he stepped into his earthly father’s shoes to provide for his family.
When we think about Jesus’ life, and read His teachings, we can see that the marketplace was important to Him. Jesus was born in the marketplace—a stable behind an inn. When Jesus was born, God sent angels to the marketplace where shepherds were in their fields working. I’ll bet you hadn’t considered that the shepherds were business guys. That was their job. And then, as a young man, Jesus began to work in the marketplace—as a carpenter.
Did Jesus talk to the multitudes about working in the marketplace? Yes, He did.
– In Matthew 7:24, He speaks of construction.
– In Mark 4, He speaks of farming.
– In Matthew 18:12-14, He speaks of ranching.
– In Matthew 21:28, He speaks of family owned business.
– In Luke 20:9-19, He speaks of hostile takeovers.
– In Matthew 25:14-30, he speaks of return on investments.
– In Luke 12:16-21, He speaks of futures markets.
– In Luke 12:35-48, He speaks of management.
– In Luke 14:24-35, He speaks of research and development.
– In Luke 15:11-16, He speaks of bankruptcy.
– In Luke 19:11-27, He speaks of venture capital in high-risk situations.
Work, in its different forms, is mentioned approximately 800 times in the Bible. That’s more than all the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined. God created work, and He is a worker. “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I too, am working” (John 5:17).
Os Hillman in his study on “Work in the Gospels” points out, “…that of Jesus’ 132 public appearances in the New Testament, 122 were in the workplace. Of the 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context.” So why didn’t Jesus clarify or address the sacred/secular divide that we currently have in our culture? Because it wasn’t in the Jewish way of thinking. That divide didn’t exist. The Jewish people understood that everything they did was to be done for the Glory of God. It’s interesting to note that Paul encouraged the believers in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Paul was writing to Gentiles who did not have the same understanding of the Hebrew work ethic as the Jewish believers. Work and worship were synonymous in the Hebrew culture. Rabbi Ira F. Stone clarifies this when he writes, “The Hebrew word for service, avodah, is the same word we use for both work and worship. This is not an accident… the true obligation is not merely to worship in words, but to do the difficult work of service.” The Jews are known for the quality of their work because they are acting on this belief. And God has blessed the Jewish people with favor. There are more Nobel Prize winners in the Jewish community than any other nationality even though they account for a very small percentage of the world’s population.
The idea that work is non-spiritual is a deception in our current culture. If you go to work, then you are marketplace minister, and your work is worship.
Wherever we are, we have a sphere of influence that the Lord wants each of us to have an impact on, in His name. Jesus set the example for us by ministering in the marketplace most days of the week. He went to the synagogue and the temple, yes, but he wasn’t there every day. He was out amongst the people, in their everyday lives, in the marketplace.