God @ Work: The Disciple’s Ministry

Proverbs 20:4-27

A work life which pleases God’s design

A vocation (calling) is what we all have:

  • All believers are priests (Heb 7.27; 1 Peter 2.5, 9)
    For many Christians, priests are clergy who are qualified to represent people before God. They are spoken of taking holy orders and being ‘set apart’. They are called “Father” and a key role is to hear confession and offer absolution.

    Nonconformist ‘ministers’ are often seen not that differently. Pastors and ministers are thought and expected to have greater access to God than ordinary Christians. For example, the pastor’s prayer has more direct influence with God; only the minister’s visit genuinely represents pastoral care. Such is the special nature of the pastor that the Dutch have a saying, “A minister walked by”: It refers to a moment of awkward silence.

    This is seen no more clearly at the Lord’s Supper. In the OT priests offered up sacrifice. In the 20th Century, ‘new priests’ stand behind the communion table, breaks bread and hold up the cup. It’s a rare church which permits an ‘unordained’ man, or even more unlikely a woman, to do that. It is not surprising that James Dunn calls, “today’s minister is but the old priesthood writ large”.

    Of course, Jesus not only offers sacrifice but is the sacrifice. Therefore the NT writers are irrevocable, all believers are now priests (1 Pet 2.5). All Christians are priests.

  • All believers are clergy (Act 1.26; Col 1.12)
    The clergy are the often seen as the leadership caste who stand over and against the laity. They seem a third sex, spiritual specialists! Clergy were, until the 4th century, the municipal administrators, secular people in a secular role, there to provide a service for the laos or laity, the people.

    By around the 4th century, the term had been adopted by church leaders as a sacred group. Laity were temporal people. Two kinds of Christiana now existed: Clergy who were contemplative, prayerful and free from earthly things, and the laity who were compromised, worldly and generally married!

    In the NT, the term clergy (kleroa) is used. It is not an unbiblical term! It meant a share or portion. Acts 1.17 speaks of Judas as ‘sharing (kleros) in the ministry’. In Acts 1.26 we read that the ‘lot’ (kleros) fell on Matthias. But the word is especially used to mean the inheritance of the saints (Col 1.12).

    Far from meaning a distinct group, it meant the opposite. It expressed the full inclusion of all Christians in the benefits of the gospel. Were we to use the word clergy as a collective noun, it has to mean “the inheritors”, all Christians!

  • All believers are ministers (Mk, 10.45; 1 Cor 12.5-7; Acts 6.1)
    Most people thinking of the term minister, think of someone who is in the ministry, a ‘minister of religion”. We speak of going into the ministry as an honour and leaving the ministry as a shame. Terms like ‘Reverend’ reflect a super-spirituality. Michael Green in Called to Serve says, “[terms like] Reverend, Venerable, Very Reverend, Most Reverend are a hindrance to ministry. They build a wall with others. They can make a hearer just a little proud, a little pleased, a little further removed.”

    In the New Testament, the term ministry does exist. It translates the word diakonia, and can be also translated as servant or deacon.

    There is a spirit of diakonia (ministry) in Mark 10.45 and the manner of diakonia is seen in 1 Cor 12.5-7. There are many activities associated with diakonia:

    1. Apostolic ministry (diakonia) : Acts 1.17 which Judas shared with the other apostles.
    2. Food distribution: Acts 6.1.
    3. Waiting at table: Acts 6.2
    4. Ministry of the word: Acts 6.1
    5. Mission (diakonia) of Barnabus and Paul: Acts 12.25.
    6. Help or assistance (diakonia) which Paul sent to Macedonia: Acfcs 19.22. Also 2 Tim 1.18, Col 4.7.
    7. Evangelism: Acts 20.24, the task (diakonia) which Paul had been given, for example testifying and evangelism. Also 2 Cor 6.3.
    8. Overall Ministry: Acts 21.19, Paul is reporting what God had done through his ministry (diakonia). Also in 2 Tim 4.11.
    9. Administration: Roms 12.7, 2 Cor 3.5
    10. Service: Rms 13.4, 1 Cor 12.5, Col 1.7
    11. Devotion: Rev 2.19
    12. In 1 Cor 12.7 charismata is translated ministry.

    Ministry is what all Christians do. Eph 4.12 talks of the responsibilities of some people to prepare saints (Christians) for works of ministry or service (diakonia). All are ministers.

  • All believers are laity, a charismatic community in which God dwells (Duet 7.6; 1 Peter 2.9)
    Laity, lay people, is a negative word. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “people who are not in orders, as opposed to clergy.” Kathleen Bliss in We the People, say “Clergy are; laity are not. Clergy do; laity do not. Nobody wants to be an is not.” John Stott in One People is critical of its use, suggesting that the term implies “amateur, unqualified.”

    Again laity is a biblical idea. But in the NT it means God’s special people (1 Peter 2.9). Out from all people (ethnos) God calls a special people (laos). Stott says “to interpret the church in terms of hierarchical structure is to destroy the NT doctrine of the church”.

  • A calling to Christ (1 Cor 1.9)
  • A calling to community (1 Cor 1.2)
  • A calling to change (1 Thess 4.7-8)
  • A calling to concrete ministry (1 Cor 6.19)

Quantity: A work pace which reflects God’s momentum

  • Energetic (Proverbs 20:13, 26.14 -15)
  • Responsible (Proverbs 20.11)
  • Controlled (Proverbs 12.24)
  • Effective (Proverbs 12.27, 19.24)
  • Motivated (Proverbs 20.27)
  • Rested (Gen 2.2-3, Heb 4.6-11)

•Quality: A work ethic which honours God’s character

  • Insightfulness (v5)
  • Blamelessness (v7)
  • Integrity (vv10, 23)
  • Careful speech (v19)
  • Godly (v27)

Cell Outline
Read: Proverbs 20: 4-27

Which of these verses challenges you in a working situation? How can you apply them in real life? What support can your cell give you on this application.

A person’s words are the lamp of the Lord
and sheds light on one’s inmost being (20.27)

a. In a work situation, what are some of the ways that godless people can destroy another person with their words? (Proverbs 11:9a.)

b. When have you experienced reckless words piercing you (or someone else) like a sword? (Proverbs 12:18a)

c. How will knowledge (and what knowledge) allow you to be a rare jewel (Proverbs 20.15, 11:9b) Does John 8:31-32 and Romans 16:17-19 help in your understanding?

Proverbs 15:1 tells u
s of the contrast between “harsh words” and gentle words” . What are the characteristics a person must posses to speak a “gentle answer” in the midst of a heated situation at work? How well do you do at speaking with such gentleness when facing difficult situations?

At times in our lives we face different challenges – such as physical, emotional, and spiritual difficulty. When in your life would it have been especially helpful to have someone bless you with healing words? Who in your life today might be especially helped if you were to speak some loving words to them?

Going Deeper

Why would God want to put a book full of witty, common-sense maxims about practical everyday concerns in the Bible? Would some of the statements in Job or in the Psalms qualify as “proverbs”? What about statements from the New Testament such as the “golden rule (see Matthew 7:12)

Why might a number of the proverbs be repeated verbatim or nearly so (see Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10; 19:13 and 27:15; 21:9 and 25:24; 6:10,11 and 24:33,34; 14:12 and 16:25) Are they to be considered especially noteworthy?


Proverbs 16:24 says “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” How can you apply what you have learned in this study to your work situation this week?

How could you use Proverbs like these to talk to non-Christians about God’s wisdom? And how could that lead onto talking about Jesus who is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 2.7)?

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