Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preliminary Work: What we can learn from Joseph and Daniel

Our mission is to grow vegetables for hunger relief programs, so you’d think that that most of what we do is working with plants and distributing produce. We do a lot of that, but there is other work that is equally essential to accomplishing what God wants from this garden. We craft garden plans to make the most of the space He’s given us. We set up irrigation systems, put down plastic mulch, and install fencing to keep critters away from the crops. We write grants to have the resources we need. That shows that there’s more to ministry than meets the eye; it usually doesn’t happen unless other things happen first.

That reality is reflected in scripture, particularly in the lives of Joseph and Daniel. God had important tasks for both men. Joseph was to provide for God’s people during a time of severe famine. Daniel was to take care of later generations of those people by, among other things, influencing the foreign leaders God had placed over them. They were only in a position to do those things because they first faithfully performed other, more mundane, tasks. Joseph was only in a position to provide for Israel because he first did a good job managing a prison. Genesis 39: 22-23, 40:1-6, 41:9-16. Daniel was able to influence those leaders because he had a record of irreproachably discharging his secular duties. Daniel 1:19-20, 6:2-5.

The examples of Joseph and Daniel are not the only places where scripture reflects that principle. Colossians 3:23 instructs that “whatever your work is, put your heart into it as done for the Lord.” (New Jerusalem Bible, emphasis added). 1 Peter 4:11 similarly teaches that “if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised.” (NIV). The same principle underlies Sirach 11:20. The point is clear: We have to take care of business in order to take care of the people God calls us to serve.

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