If you ever feel like your work and efforts go unnoticed, you should hear what the Bible says about “lily work”.
I was doing a little Bible study on the topic of work the other day, curious to know what God says about it. Obviously, work is an essential part of our existence and was even modeled by God Himself during creation. However, I know it can all too easily become a burden to our spirits or even a god to some of us. I’ve been praying for wisdom and understanding in this area, particularly since I look forward to getting back to some kind of work when the kids are a bit older.
When I searched the Bible App for the word “work”, I read through the verses that popped up and recorded the most meaningful ones in my journal. But it wasn’t until I came across the following verse that my attention was grabbed.
“And on the tops of the pillars was lily-work. Thus the work of the pillars was finished.” (1 Kings 7:22)
What is Lily-Work in the Bible?
This verse is talking about the bronze pillars of the temple in Jerusalem, where the Israelites would offer sacrifices and the priests would intercede for God’s people. At the top of these pillars, one of Solomon’s skilled bronzeworkers fashioned details of lilies and pomegranates.
According to Ministry 127, “These [pillars] were over fifty feet tall. From the ground it would have been nearly impossible to see the beautiful detail of the lilies. This work was clearly done strictly for the glory of God and seen only by Him. This was ‘lily work.'” (Townsley, 2011).
Why It Can Be a Challenge
I think we don’t realize how much we care what others think of us. I discover new ways each day that I have a genuine “fear [respect] of man” (Proverbs 29:25). A “fear” that should be reserved for God alone. Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I used to love being a star employee, striving to be the favorite or striving to earn that promotion. This fear of man — this attitude of wanting and striving for the praise of others — came crashing down the moment my firstborn, my Lily, was born. Instead of doing well at my desk job, I was failing miserably at taking care of a baby. And when I went into work, I no longer felt like a star employee. I felt like “just a mom” (a role that is woefully undervalued) and a discombobulated mess. My idol, the opinions of others, came crashing down on me, full of accusations and shame.
What Does Lily-Work Look Like for Us?
Five years later, I still fight this battle. I still want to be the “successful” one. I dream of having a career someday. Or at least doing something meaningful with my life.
And that’s it right there. Meaningful. What do I mean by that anyway? Does our work only become meaningful when it is recognized by others?
No. It doesn’t. Because, good or bad, the recognition of others shouldn’t really hold meaning for us.
And this is the sweet message God has given me about being a mom. I don’t have an impressive career waiting for me at the moment. I don’t feel smart anymore. I don’t feel young anymore. When it feels like all the things others recognize as measures of success are blatantly lacking in my personal life, I turn my thoughts toward the truth that God has given me two of His kids — beautiful, eternal souls — to nourish, love, and lead to Him. This is my lily-work.
Sometimes this work looks big and bright and beautiful, like when we have family game nights or when I get to hear our kids pray. But far more often, it is the plain and humbling drudgery of preparing their meals, driving them to school, fixing their toys, helping them cut shapes out of paper, changing their diapers, helping them brush their teeth without getting toothpaste all over the counter, tucking them in, wiping globs of toothpaste off the counter, reading a second bedtime story . . .
All this plain and humbling drudgery that fills a mother’s day reminds me of the following quote.
Does anything get missed by God? Is there anything He doesn’t see?
My prayer is that you would be encouraged by this — even if you don’t have kids of your own. Whether your lily-work is raising little ones with dedication, serving your spouse with grace, smiling at a coworker in the office, or faithfully choosing to see the good in people around you, God notices.
May we be like that faithful bronzeworker in Solomon’s temple who undoubtedly spent countless hours using his skills, talents, and time to craft beautiful artwork, only to be seen by God.
Townsley, J. (2011). The importance of lily work. Accomplishing works that only God can see. Ministry 127. Retrieved from https://ministry127.com/christian-living/the-importance-of-lily-work