Esther, is divided into seven acts and the first act gives us my first key point of the sermon. We can title the first portion of the book, “A new queen is chosen.”
Vashti says, “I’m not going in to see the King,” and she’s deposed. Esther is instead chosen to be queen. We see here a contrast between two attitudes. Some have said that the book of Esther is all about power, getting power and what people do with power once they’ve got it. So it’s pretty much like the modern workplace then isn’t it?
1:12 says, “Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s command.” In contrast to that we see Esther, of whom it says, “Esther obeyed Mordecai, just as she had when she was brought up by him”(1:20). Esther was an orphan and he’d taken her in.
There is a sharp contrast between two approaches. Vashti would have probably said she was just ‘asserting my rights.’ Some people talk about her as a feminist icon. We could instead conceive of this as rebellion.’ There second approach could be defined as “knowing my place” or, perhaps, what might be a better way of putting it is ‘humble submission’. This is an attitude much needed in all workplaces and should be displayed by both genders.
The old queen stubbornly refuses to fulfil the role that she has whereas the future queen learns at the feet of a wise old bird. And despite being an orphan – so hard things had happened to her – she had been well-trained, she had been discipled for obedience, she had been taught how to live. She was in a difficult situation – I don’t think she had any choice, she was taken to the palace. But once she was there, she wanted to do the best she could. It’s important that whatever your situation, you’re willing to turn it around and make the best of it.
Esther had been discipled. It’s not enough to be a convert. It really isn’t! We MUST be a disciple. No doubt many of you attend churches like Jubilee where they have a discipleship course, and that would no doubt help. But more importantly than attending a course, there needs to be an openness of heart, a submissiveness of heart that says, “Teach me, I want people to speak into my life.”
In terms of your workplace, who is your Mordecai? Who has brought you up and trained you? Who has taught you how to be submissive, how to be winsome? Who has given you advice, who has helped you to succeed? We all need a Mordecai. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same field although that can help. The lawyers can help each other. The doctors can help each other. The teachers can help each other. But often the lessons we’ve learned in one field can help and apply across other fields.
Esther could have said to Mordecai “What do you know? You’re an old man! You know nothing about success as a beauty-queen!” But Esther played her role and Mordecai played his. Esther could do things that Mordecai never did and yet they needed each other. God wants to place us in community. We’re meant to be part of a team, we’re meant to be inter-dependent on each other. The strengths of different team members will balance each other out and cover the weaknesses. But Mordecai is directing Esther throughout this book.
Some of us don’t like the thought of submission. Yet do you know who was the best model of godly submission? Jesus. He submitted to his parents. He submitted to his Father. He did what he saw his Father doing. And he had a submissive attitude. Do you have a submissive attitude? I want to say to you: If you want to succeed at work – get your attitude right.
It is not about ‘what can the job do for me?’ It’s not about my rights. It’s about my responsibilities. You know the human rights movement is great in some ways, but we should really talk about human responsibilities. What’s your responsibility? How should you be? We should be working in such a way that we make a difference in the work place – that we fulfil the call of God on our life to be different.
It’s very easy to think, “If only my work was better. If only I had a different job. If only I had a better boss.” God doesn’t call you to think like that. Esther was in the midst of a very difficult situation – it is not easy to be taken from your home and brought into the palace and told you have to perform and look beautiful. Yet she chose to make the best of it. We should also choose to make the best of our situations at work.
All this applies whether your job is to be at home looking after children, or to be a businessman, or whether your job is to be a cleaner as I once was. Do it all for the glory of God.
Do it with a godly attitude, not clock-watching.