What Does the Gospel Have to Say About Everyday Life?
Thirteen men were gathered together in an upstairs room, enjoying a meal of celebration. They had traveled far and long; finally, their journey was at an end. Partway through the meal, the leader rose from the table and located a towel and a basin of water. Then, He knelt down and began to do the unthinkable— He began to wash the feet of his followers. Nothing could have been more shocking for His twelve disciples. They had seen this man demand obedience from demons. They had heard Him teach crowds of people with authority like no one else. They had watched a life-threatening storm vanish instantly at the sound of His voice. But, now, He was doing a job that was despised by most people—a job that was normally assigned to a slave. Why would such a powerful man perform such a menial task?
Let that story sink in. Jesus Christ, the creator and king of everything, washed feet (John 13)! He was just hours away from giving His life to save humankind and finally completing his mission on Earth. But He wanted His disciples to understand that this mission was not glamorous or exciting. He was not “saving the world” like a superhero in a movie. No, He came to humbly serve others—even His enemies (Matt 10:25).[i] This is the good news of the gospel. The Son of God chose to be a servant. He cared for sick people; He comforted sad people; He made friends with dirty people; and He gave his life to pay the debt of sinners like you and me. This makes all the difference for Christians who are struggling to find purpose and value in the mundane responsibilities of everyday life. Because Jesus was faithful in his mission, we can be faithful in the mission He has given to us. The gospel means that even our humblest moments are precious.
In Christ, We Have Every Spiritual Blessing
Ephesians 1 reminds believers that God has blessed them “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3). If you are God’s child, all the glories of Heaven belong to you! As you serve tables, or clean bathrooms, or pack lunches, you are the possessor of immeasurable riches. As amazing as that is, however, every blessing is not the most important part of the verse. The key phrase here is in Christ. Without Christ, we have nothing. With Him, we have everything. This theme runs throughout the entire chapter. God’s gifts include adoption “through Jesus Christ” (1:5), blessings “in the Beloved” (1:6), redemption “through [Jesus’] blood” (1:7), and knowledge of God’s mysterious will “in Christ” (1:9). God offers us unity (1:10), an inheritance (1:11), salvation, and the Holy Spirit (1:13)—all through Jesus. What a list!
Have you ever read the book A Little Princess? The story tells of a young girl who endures menial work and harsh treatment by pretending that she is a princess. She holds her head high and performs even the lowest tasks with grace and dignity because she imagines that she is royalty. We, however, do not have to imagine anything. We are royalty! We are chosen, holy, called by name (2 Pet 2:9). We are citizens of the kingdom of light, with the beloved Son as our king (Col 1:12-13), and nothing can change that fact. Sure, we might be cleaning up poop or enduring insults from an angry customer, but we possess every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places because Jesus died and rose again for us.
In Christ, We Have a Sympathetic Lord and Leader
With all the blessings the gospel gives, we sometimes take for granted the most beautiful blessing of all—Jesus himself! He willingly stepped into the grittiness of human life so that He could walk with us in every tedious moment. Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (2:7). Remember, this is the Son of God we are talking about! He created everything for himself, and he holds the entire universe together (Col 1:16-17). But he did not think it beneath him to engage in the mundane, everyday life of a human being. He got hungry and thirsty and tired; he felt joy and sorrow and anger. He learned how to resist temptation and obey his father. And because of that, He is perfectly able to help us in our struggles (Heb 2:18).
Jesus is not just our Savior. He is also our example and leader. If the Son of God took time to wash feet, it must mean that such tasks are worthwhile and important. In fact, Jesus even commanded His apostles to continue the tradition of humbly serving each other (John 13:13-15). So, even in the dirty, disgusting parts of life, we are following the example of the king of the universe. Our time could not be better spent. Author Gloria Furman reminds us that even our most exhausting jobs can be counted as “privileged participation in God’s work.”[ii] She is speaking specifically to mothers here, but her words ring true for the nurse, the truck driver, the cashier, and anyone else who is seeking to follow their Savior even when life seems boring. Each and every humble duty we perform is valuable in His eyes.
In Christ, We Have the Holy Spirit
The gospel means God does not just live with his people—it means God lives in his people! Jesus promised that everyone who believed in Him would be filled with an ever-flowing, life-giving river—the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). He used the metaphor of water to highlight how limitless this gift is. Just like a river flows and flows and never stops, so the Holy Spirit is constantly infusing us with the power to complete our daily tasks. And remember, this is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11)! We might feel that our simple duties are far too small to ask for such great power. But the apostles did not think so. They searched for people who were “full of the Spirit” to serve tables (Acts 6:1-3). Just as no duty was too menial for Jesus to perform, so no duty is too menial for the Spirit to give us His strength.
One important role of the Spirit is to help Christians grow in sanctification (becoming more and more like Jesus). Even though we were saved, we are far from perfect. Through the Holy Spirit, however, we develop attitudes that would have been impossible before being saved: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). What does the Spirit use to develop these Christ-like qualities in us? Certainly not a magic wand or potion. No, He uses our everyday roles and responsibilities. Your boring job is God’s way of making you more like Jesus—and that makes it pretty valuable. How meaningful and fulfilling life becomes when we remember that our daily responsibilities are being used by God to develop the fruit of the Spirit in us.[iii]
Conclusion: All for the Glory of God
Jesus willingly chose to humble himself and serve people who should have been serving him (including us!). The fact that he washed feet is good news as is His acceptance of little children. Additionally that he fed hungry people and died for sinners is good news. And good news makes a difference—not just one day a week, or one hour in the morning, but changes our entire lives! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This verse reminds us that all areas of life belong to God, not just the “spiritual” ones.[iv] Because of the gospel, we can finally do what we were made to do. We can perform each and every unexciting obligation as a way of say “thank you” to the king of the universe for what he has done for us in Christ.
[i] Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 466. Carson reminds us that since Judas was still present at that point in the Last Supper, Jesus must have washed his feet as well. Jesus served Judas, even though he knew Judas would betray him. What “unfathomable love.”
[ii] Furman, Gloria. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014, p. 17.
[iii] Ibid., p. 21. Furman writes: “The fruit of the Spirit is far sweeter than the fruitless flowers of mere moral living.”
[iv] Fee, Gordan. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1987, p. 488.