Washing the dishes is such a trivial task, but according to Tim Chester, in his short little book The Everyday Gospel: A Theology of Washing The Dishes, “it represents countless ordinary activities we do each day.”
But though such tasks are everyday and routine, they should be informed by the gospel. This is why Chester writes The Everyday Gospel. He wants to get across that the “Christian faith is for Monday as well as Sunday mornings.” And he uses the simple task of washing the dishes to illustrate how.
For starters, one way that Chester highlights how the gospel works itself out in washing dishes, and every activity we do, is that doing dishes brings joy. It does so because the gospel changes our desires. We want to do what is right and so we now ” find joy in doing the right thing because it is the right thing.”
Chester goes a bit further, however, in explaining how we find joy in washing dishes.
First, we find joy in washing dishes because we bring order out of chaos. Remember the creations story? The earth was “formless and void,” but God brought order (see Genesis 1:1-2).
Having been created in the image of God, we are given that same task of bringing order. “The divine activity of governing chaos,” writes Chester, “ordering what is formless, bringing beauty out of mess, tidying up creation–that task is given to humanity made in God’s image.”
When we tidy up the kitchen, we should feel good about it. And the goodness that we feel is a “divine feeling.”
Second, we find joy in doing the dishes because it serves others. Chester writes that “when I wash up I deny myself. I put others first. I say, in effect, that someone matters more to me than my comfort.” It is when we look outward beyond ourselves that we encounter true joy. We were not made to look inward.
This aspect of serving others in the everyday activities of our lives is a powerful point in Chester’s book. He writes:
Christian service takes place in day-to-day life; its occasion and location is everyday life. Indeed, the church is not a building, nor is it an event. The church is the community of God’s people sharing life–ordinary life, everyday life–at any moment and in any place with gospel intentionality.
I think sometimes we forget about how the gospel permeates all of life. We know it is important for mission trips, etc…, but as Chester concludes, the gospel “does not only belong to a quiet time and opportunities to share the gospel. It affects every moment, every relationship, every activity.”
“If you do not have an everyday gospel,” writes Chester, “then the gospel will become a formula that you have to crowbar into conversations. But an everyday gospel creates opportunities everyday to talk about Jesus.”
Consider getting a copy of The Everyday Gospel. At only around 48 pages, it’s a quick read.