August 6, 2021
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In the sections of his letter leading up to chapter 2, verse 10, Paul uses the words “we,” “our,” and “us” almost 30 times. His opening greeting is to “God’s holy people” — unlike his individual letters to Timothy. Clearly he is addressing a group of people, which is a small but critical difference in how we read verse 10. You see, our tendency, especially in America, is to think individualistically when reading or hearing the word “you” — a word Paul also uses frequently in these verses as well. Similarly, if something is true for “us” we often believe it is true for each of us individually. But it can also mean it’s true only when we’re operating as “us”. It’s true for the group when we’re acting as a group. What if Paul, in these verses, is referring to us collectively as the church? What if his use of the word “you” is equivalent to “all y’all”?
Wiktionary.org says, “All y’all’ is used in the Southern United States when a speaker wishes to include everyone being addressed. Y’all may refer to an indefinite set of members of a group, but all y’all definitively includes everyone in the group.”
It’s no great leap, knowing Paul’s affection for describing the church as a body, to hear him emphasizing:
(Together), we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (all of) us to do.
How does your interpretation of this verse change if you receive it as a call to engage in a relational, communal act of good, instead of an isolated one? How does it feel to be tasked with a group project instead of individual research? For some, this might be a liberating perspective. It’s not up to you as an individual to write wrongs and do what’s right. You need to find a team and a family, working together instead of alone. To be clear, you still have an individual obligation, which is to find your community and find your place. It’s a different call, but a call nonetheless.
Some might dread the idea of working on a team. Depending on others might cramp your style and navigating relationships is exhausting. But even if you choose to ignore the communal interpretation of this verse, let this stand as a reminder that you still need to labor and pull with others. You need to learn to love the limits of working together.
My prayer for you today is that you find your team, your family, your community, and embark on a collective work of good, one which far surpasses what you could have ever achieved alone.