I stood in the line at Costco. I was buying a handful of things, including a big 10kg bag of flour which was in my shopping cart as it’s a bit heavy to lift onto the belt.
‘Is this yours?’ the cashier asked the lady in front of me.
As I opened my mouth to say. ‘Oh no, it’s mine.’ The lady got there first and replied, laughing, ‘No, no, not mine – that looks like work to me!’ She looked sideways at me as she said this.
I was a little shocked as I’d never think to comment on what someone else is buying in that way, let alone try to make a joke about it. For a moment I felt really small. It got me thinking though.
When I was figuring out our budget for the week, I’d wondered whether I could even justify going into Costco. In the line up I was feeling happy and grateful about getting these few things, and especially the big, bag of flour.
‘I like a bit of work, ‘ I said to the cashier once the other lady had paid and left.
A big, bag of flour doesn’t look like much work to me though. It looks like a bag full of potential. It looks like cake, scones, cookies, bread, brownies, muffins, crumble and pastry. It looks like conversations in the kitchen while I bake, or while one of my daughter bakes. It looks like pancakes on a weekend morning. It looks like sharing and joy. My husband may say it looks like washing up, but hey, more time for conversation.
Some things take more work than others, a little more planning, it’s true. I don’t subject myself to making croissants on a daily basis for example.
What’s wrong with work anyway? I suppose it’s the attitude we have to it. What we see as the benefit and outcome of it.
Of course baking is something I enjoy, not everyone else does which is fine. We don’t all have to. For me, it’s pretty easy to see the potential in a bag of flour. When I look at flour, I’m imagining all the things I’m going to do with it, all the things it can be when I add the other ingredients, how great it will be to share – it may sound a little crazy, but it’s true. I’m sure the lady before me in the Costco line up has other things motivating her. If you love knitting or crochet you’re going to look at a ball of wool and see the scarf, sweater, blanket, it could be. If you paint you look at a blank canvas and see the picture you will paint there.
There are lots of things we do which may look like work to others, but we enjoy them so they are not a chore to us. Other things we don’t do, because they ‘look like work’, and maybe we’re missing out because we’re too concerned with comfort and convenience. Our focus can be on what we have to give up to achieve something rather than the outcome at the end which makes it all worth while. Maybe I miss other opportunities around me, particularly when it comes to taking time with people.
There’s a bigger picture here too. I believe God sees us in the way I look at a bag of flour. We’re not even available at the front of a shelf waiting to be picked up. We’re hiding from Him, not even wanting to be found. He chooses to pick us out and make us something new. He finds us. He makes what’s dead come alive. He sees the potential, he sees the good He can make of our lives, He sees the joy He can bring when He works in us for His purpose.
Jesus himself put in the work for us. In Hebrews it says of Jesus, ‘for the joy that was set before him (he) endured the cross, despising its shame’ (Hebrews 12:2). God’s love led him to a plan of salvation for us (John 3:16). It’s His motivation. He also saw joy beyond the cross, not only the prospect of reconciling us to himself, but he saw the end result of glory.
He has a plan, He makes a way for us to be reconciled to Him, and then He makes us into something. Through His Spirit’s work in us we become something beautiful, even in our brokenness.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
When I bake and share my bakes, people are kind and give me compliments. They don’t say, ‘Wow, can I just thank the flour for being so great.’ They say (hopefully most of the time), ‘Thank you Emma, this is delicious.’ (This is not why I bake, by the way, I am not after compliments!!)
When Jesus works in us the glory goes to him. In the gospel of Mark, after healing a deaf and mute man, the people ‘were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well”‘ (Mark 7:37). In Ephesians, Paul says,
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
Just as flour doesn’t remain alone, but needs ingredients added, we too don’t remain alone as Christians. We’re made to be with other ingredients. Once you’re a Christian you’re joined to the body of Christ, joined by the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to work this out alone. We’re made to be part of the Church. It’s not a building, it’s a people God builds together. Some of us have a distorted view of what this is due to bad experiences of church, because people get it wrong, which is a huge shame. It’s heartbreaking.
Church is supposed to be more like this,
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2 42:47 ESV
The New Testament describes the church as Jesus’s body here on earth, making him known to every nation. God could look at us all and say, ‘That bunch looks like work.’ He doesn’t shy away though, because in the mystery of His will, the church is His plan to bring His kingdom to a broken world in need of His love.
He sees the end result, the final picture,
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12 ESV
There’s something to be said for having your eyes on the end result. It makes the work easier, the struggles lighter, the challenges easier to face, the sacrifices easier to make, because we know it’s temporary and it’s achieving something. It enables us to take up our cross and follow, whatever it takes. It’s a joy, not a burden. It’s not earning salvation, as that is already secure. There’s eternity ahead (2 Cor 4:18). It’s a great hope to have. It helps to motivate us to live for and honour Jesus in every area of life. We get to be part of this.
In His power and in His strength, let’s get to work, together for His glory.