Concerning Christian behavior and choices, the question typically arises of “what would Jesus do?” or “What would Paul do?” This proves useful in matters of good and evil and other such moral choices. In those situations, any Christian should do as Jesus did! But when it comes to more unaddressed areas such as one’s career, automobile preference, travel plans, kid’s names, choice of major; the question of “what would Paul do” seems less helpful.
All the 12 apostles, the 72, the martyrs, the Old Testament saints, the church fathers, so on and so forth are big names. Christianity though, is a religion of smallness, mundaneness in many things. While I occasionally fantasize of being a world class missionary who leaves a legacy like the Elliots, or an exemplar preacher who casts an influential shadow over the 21st century, I don’t see such things as to be expected. The Bible gives the most ink to the most prominent players, but it is written and addressed to the underdogs, to the diaspora, to the tribes scattered abroad, to the nameless martyrs under the emperor’s foot and the lonely and abandoned in the forgotten wilderness.
Paul’s name lives on 2000 years after the fact; Epaphroditus, not so much. Though he would have been prominent in Paul’s mind. He was the representative sent from Philippi to comfort Paul during his house arrest (Phil 2:25; 4:18). Paul loved him. But we barely remember him. Those who cooked warm meals for the disciples and put them up in their houses get little recognition in the text. Yet their reward is great in heaven. There is no telling how many forgotten and anonymous Christians gave a cup of cold water to a little one in Jesus’ day. They were those who worked the ancient 9-5. Not prominent missionaries, just simple folk. But as our Lord says, “they will by no means lose their reward” (Matt 10:42).
So I do wonder how much God wants us to lust after the prominent and famous occupations, the poster-child positions, and the history book occupants. For every Paul of Tarsus there is an Ananias of Damascus who helped him see again after the Lord blinded him (Acts 9:10-19). For every house arrest and potential ministerial burnout, there is an Epaphroditus who comforts and heals. For every fish Jesus ate, there was a fisherman. Behind every fisherman was the man who wove the nets. Timothy suffered from stomach pains and Paul told him that a little bit of wine would help (1 Tim 5:23). Behind that advice was a forgotten winemaker. Saint Paul traversed the Mediterranean seas multiple times, but not without a captain. For every captain there was his crew. For every stumble heading to Golgotha, there was a Simon of Cyrene. For every Simon there is his lowly wife. Somewhere back in the shadows of antiquity is their child, and his child, and his child, who exist not on the pages of Scripture. These forgotten and unmentioned characters may have asked themselves, “am I useful to God if I am not a prolific gospel author, or a fearless nautical missionary, or one who breathes her last for the sake of the faith?” These questions would have easily hindered their calling and made cloudy the forgotten, but important occupations God designed them for.
O’ believer take heart! You are so needed in the economy of our Triune God. O’ teacher of the youth, Saint Matthew, though he likely spoke Greek, brought his gospel to the Jews by writing it in Hebrew. He could not have known this second language without the sacred calling of an educator to teach him. And take heart reader, there are many, many more occupations in this world which no hero of the faith ever held. Still, those lofty characters could not have existed and done their work without those teachers, boatmen, farmers, construction workers, small town preachers, bankers, writers, accountants, secretaries, officials, hospital workers, mechanics, coaches and others. The Bible moves and operates on the work of those unseen occupations that are so needed, important, useful and sacred.
A clock has but one clock face. Only a single hour hand. One minute hand. One second hand. Behind those select few features which are seen every day, there are hundreds, thousands of cogs which make the machine run. Time does not go on without those minute screws and bolts, yes? David doesn’t slay Goliath without someone making slingshots.
Friend, one day the Master of the house will return. He will care very little whether history remembers us or our work. There is no question of net worth or whether your occupation matched the great Christian figures of history; whether you did the vocation Paul would do. He will wonder whether you did your part to help the gospel move forward.
So today and this week as you sit at your desk perhaps perfectly tweaking an Instagram promo post that less than 100 people will see, or meeting with an individual who history will soon forget, or typing numbers into excel, or constructing a normal meal for a normal customer you’ll never meet, or correcting a child who won’t remember what you said, or grading the test of an apathetic student, or picking up a kid from a typical and boring school day for an unremarkable ride home, remember you stand with the forgotten servants of the faith, in innumerable ranks invisible behind the pages of scripture. Don’t ask “what would Jesus or Paul or Peter do?” But ask “am I doing what God wants me to do to advance the mission?”
Because the Kingdom comes small and blessed are the meek (Matt 5:5).