Work hard because of God’s retirement plan
Have you ever been stuck doing something that you didn’t want to do? My first job was at McDonalds and there were plenty of jobs that no one wanted to do. One of them was to clean and break down the grills at the end of the night. The grills themselves weren’t so bad because they are cleaned periodically during the day. But there was one task in closing down the grills that was not my favorite. In order to make cleaning during the day more efficient, there are two great big grease traps installed on the sides of the grills: about 2 inches wide, 8 inches deep and 40 inches long. When the grill is cleaned during the day, it is scraped off into the grease trap. After the grill surface is all clean and sanitized at the end of each day, it is time to empty the traps. I won’t talk about the smell or appearance of it. The combination of sanitizer, heat, fried meat char, gunk, and grease did not make emptying them a pleasing task. I enjoyed my time at McDonalds, but I don’t miss cleaning the grease traps. It was not a job I would like to retire from.
What grease trap jobs or tasks do you have in your life as a Christian? We all have them in general but what specifically about your Christian walk do you put in the category of “undesirable.” We all have jobs or tasks that we don’t want to do. Or to say it bluntly, you might say or think “I hate this job. I don’t want to do it.” Are you in it for the long haul?
Jesus understood this would happen so he wanted to encourage his disciples to work hard for a good retirement. Beginning of Luke 12, Jesus informed them that their future would be full of “grease traps.” He warned them about the opposition to their mission work. He told them to be afraid of the one who can destroy the soul. He warns them about those who will turn away from God and actively fight against him. He fully disclosed the job before they signed on. Jesus told his disciples that God will take care of them, not to be worried about their stuff as they go out. If I were heard this from Jesus, I would think, “You want me to go out into the world and not be concerned about my next meal, this is a necessity for being able to do any kind of work. You want me to do something that will actively invite trouble. I don’t want this. I’d rather avoid the confrontation. I don’t know if I want to do this anymore Jesus.”
What about our challenges here today that makes us feel more like we are cleaning out the grease trap rather than doing real service? Are you concerned with not getting what you think you need? Are you afraid of the individuals you are going to come into contact with when you do your service to God? Are you timid because you have no idea what to say in defense of your faith? Or are you afraid you won’t be able to stand against opposition, especially when we realize that Satan is up against the work of Jesus and will try to drag our soul to hell? You may experience the very evil powers of hell that war against the soul that Satan flings in your direction to bog you down. These questions express concerns about the reality in what God asks us to do. “Who is fit for such a task as this, Lord?”
Jesus knew that the disciples had concerns about what he was instructing them to do, and he understands yours. Despair no longer, because God wants to help. He won’t take the troubles away because wants to use them to draw you closer to him. He wants to make a life of service to him worth it. He does so by giving you a retirement plan. All good retirement plans come after a great deal of work, years of work.
He lays out all the benefits for you here. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our retirement plan is our motivation to keep working and is better than anything we can invest in while living because of two things: the amount and the quality. First, Jesus tells us the amount: it is the kingdom. Normally, a king would give to his subjects plots of land, portions of investment, perhaps a region to those who are qualified leaders. The Father, your Father, gives you the kingdom, and was pleased to do it. God gives you everything. If you ever feel lacking or in need now, consider how completely fulfilled you will be in heaven.
Second, Jesus emphasized the quality of it. This treasure does not wear out. It does not run out. It can’t be stolen. No earthly creation can ever eat holes in it. Or in other words, Jesus is saying that the quality of our retirement plan is “out of this world.” Everything in this world can wear out, be stolen, it can run out. And if time or use don’t get to it, then the animal kingdom will.
The Father’s retirement plan never needs adjusting or to be upgraded because it is already perfect. It is all yours because Jesus won it for you. The Father was pleased to give it to you because he was pleased with Jesus’ work for you. That helps me with the “grease traps” I don’t like cleaning. Is the kingdom work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus worth it? Absolutely! Why? because of the prize that awaits us. But this doesn’t mean we relax and wait.
With such a retirement plan as an eternal kingdom, there is great responsibility to keep working while we wait. Here is how Jesus continues. “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.”
The servants of the master didn’t have much say in what tasks they would do, whether they were easy or hard. The master chose the job and he expected it to be completed. that was it. When all the daily duties were finished, there was no great celebration. It was just another day’s work done. Anyone with a job can relate to this. Continue working. Continue driving through the challenges of difficult tasks. Create conversations about religion with the family member or coworker so you can point them to a Savior. Keep doing kingdom expansion work in preparation for a final celebration.
Jesus compared it to a wedding celebration of that time. The groom would go and celebrate with the bride’s family for a week or so, then bring her home. On return, it was time to start the after party. When the groom returns, he expected a celebration for his lovely bride. Clean house, put everything in order, prepare the guest rooms, make the beds, have a feast ready, clean the grease traps and be sure to watch the door so you are ready to open it when the master arrives. And all of the work (whether the tasks were fun or terrible) was done in anticipation of the master returning with the lovely new bride. Normally, the servants would continue to work throughout the feast and celebration at home, but not this time. The master will serve the servants. What a swap!
So we work, man our grease traps and work tirelessly because of the anticipation of the celebration that will happen when we are done. That will be the best retirement party ever. But here is the twist unlike any other retirement from our jobs here. We don’t know when Jesus will come. Jesus continues. “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Some have taken this to be a very stern warning. I heard a Christian explain when she was a child her dad told her, “Always wear your seatbelt so that if you die in a crash, you won’t go to hell.” His interpretation of Jesus was “Be ready or else!” Is the message that some have heard from Jesus here. “Keep the grease traps clean or you will go to hell.”
First, you don’t have guilt because Jesus has paid for all your sins on the cross. He forgave you and that is final. God declared us not-guilty. Second, Jesus wants you to look forward to that day with excitement, not fear of what you might be caught doing wrong when he returns. The reward of heaven motivates me to do right much more than fear.
So work hard. Remember that no great retirement plan comes after a long life of work. Work hard, not because it will earn your retirement. A retirement like heaven can’t be earned by us. It can only be given. Work hard because God has already promised you the retirement plan that will never fade or depreciate in value. Put your gloves on and empty the grease traps because Jesus is coming soon.