God Values the Ordinary

As I Was Saying

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Whenever I need to wash the dishes, sweep the floor or fold the clothes, the first thought in my mind is how this is a waste of time. I could be sharpening my skills or get some needed relaxation. That’s my pride talking. The Bible is bursting with examples of God valuing the ordinary.

When we think of heroes of faith, the mind usually gravitates to the astounding: giant slayers, prophets who call down fire from heaven, or saving the Jewish race from annihilation. However, these are the exceptions. A careful read of God’s Word reveals how much our Lord values common people living faithfully.

Our first clue about how God values the ordinary is the life of Jesus. For someone who is God in the flesh with the power to heal ailments, feed thousands and unlock the deepest truths of heaven, why did he wait until age 30 to begin his ministry? He clearly had an awareness of who he was and his mission at age 12 when at the temple. What was he doing for the next 18 years? The Bible does not say. We are left to believe that Jesus was an ordinary guy living an unremarkable life. He worked a regular job, took care of his family and simply fulfilled his responsibilities. When Jesus returned home after beginning his ministry, the people who knew him for 30 years took offense, mentioning how ordinary he was (Mark 6:2-3).

During his ministry, Jesus continually showed how God values what we consider common. The one who could raise the dead did the job of a lowest servant when he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13). He taught that the last will be first and the first will be last (Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30). He demonstrated how the greatest will be your servant (Matt. 20:26; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; Luke 22:26-27). When the disciples ask him who is the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus calls a child to stand among them, saying, “Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). Considering that children’s activities usually have minimal importance to the adult world, this is a striking declaration of how God values what we consider ordinary.

Time and again in Scripture we see God choosing what the world considers weak and foolish to shame the strong and wise (1 Cor. 1:27). So many of the biblical heroes of faith were just regular people minding their own business before God called them to special tasks. David was watching sheep (1 Sam. 16:1-13). Gideon was threshing wheat (Judges 6:11). Esther was a young girl raised by her uncle (ch. 2). The first disciples were fishing (Mark 1:16-20). The great prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven is described as “a human being, even as we are” (James 5:17). Their special tasks from God only highlight their common beginnings all the more. God selected ordinary people for his biggest roles. Those who are faithful with little will also be faithful with much (Luke 16:10).

In a world that prizes power and wealth, titles and corner offices, achievement and victory and all sorts of reasons to boast, our God is different. In the Bible, we are not told to chase our dreams, look our best or climb the corporate ladder. On the contrary, we are told to do our work quietly (2 Thess. 3:6-12), care for our families (1 Tim 5:4-8), pay our taxes (Mark 12:14), respect the authorities (Rom. 13:1-5), dress modestly (1 Pet. 3:3), be content (Heb. 13:12), submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) and be rich in good deeds (1 Tim. 6:17-19). God desires excellence in our activities (Col. 3:23), but he is simply not interested in the headline-grabbing flashes in the pan that dazzle our eyes.

Jesus spent 18 years doing ordinary work, helping his family and small town. The despised work of servants is work that is for the Lord (Col. 3:22-24). God sees value in the ordinary tasks of the day. Making lunches for the kids. Washing dishes. Finishing homework. Fixing dinner. Scrubbing the toilet. Walking the dog. If we are faithful with the ordinary responsibilities, we will also be faithful with what is heavenly. Godliness is in the mundane work we do every day.

About the Author

Rev. Aaron Vriesman is pastor of North Blendon Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Mich.

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Pastor Aaron, thanks for this wise reflection.

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