Wednesday, September 05, 2007

MAN'S LABOR UNDER THE SUN


The first Monday of September, Labor Day, is a national holiday to honor American workers who have contributed to the security and prosperity of our country. It has been celebrated for this purpose since the late 1800’s. America is a nation built by the sweat of many ordinary people who demonstrated the meaning of a good work ethic, day in and day out. In my own family, I witnessed such an example. My parents and grandparents worked hard to provide for the needs of their families, and, consequently, I was never adverse to a hard day’s work. The word ‘welfare’ was never in our family vocabulary. When I became a Christian, I discovered that the Bible had much to say about the subject of man’s “labor under the sun,” as King Solomon put it (Ecclessiastes 1:3). This should not surprise anyone, since the subject of work makes its first appearance in the very first book of the Bible. Work is God’s idea. The man that God created was not idle prior to his fall into sin. We read in Genesis 2:15, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Exactly what this involved in a perfect creation, we cannot say in detail, and, certainly, his job became much harder after he was banished from the garden (Genesis 3:19); but you can be sure that Adam kept himself busy, doing tasks God had given him to do. Dr. Henry Morris notes: “It is noteworthy that, even in the perfect world as God made it, work was necessary for man’s good. The ideal world is not one of idleness and frolic, but one of serious activity and service. Even in the new earth to come, after sin and the curse have been completely removed, Scripture says that ‘his servants shall serve him’” (Revelation 22:3)[1].

Work is not merely God’s idea; work is intended by God to bring us satisfaction: A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him“ (Proverbs 12:14). I am sure that, at one time or another, you have taken delight in a job well done, even if it is as simple as cutting the lawn, doing the dishes, or sewing a new dress. No job is too small if our hearts are right and if we see it as God sees it. This leads to my next thought, which is especially relevant to the Christian: The believer’s work or vocation in life is to abound in glory to God. We read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This most definitely takes into account the menial, as well as the more significant, tasks and responsibilities of life. It takes into account every type of work we do, without thought of monetary compensation. It should also encourage us to develop the skills we need in order to do the job better than anyone else, for the Scripture says, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before [obscure] men” (Proverbs 22:29). Joseph and Daniel are just two examples of men whose good work habits brought them success and gave them a greater platform for serving God. Furthermore, the work we do should be worthy of the King of Kings. John Piper said, “… the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God's power, as a conscious quest of God's pattern of excellence, and in deliberate pursuit of God's glory.[2] Just today, a man at our monthly men’s prayer breakfast mentioned that he has had many opportunities to share the Lord with people on his job in the last two weeks. He encouraged the others to pray for such opportunities and to seize the moment when it comes.

Lastly, the Christian must be assured that what we do for God’s glory is never unrewarded: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Although we typically associate the phrase “work of the Lord” with Christian ministry, the idea of a life-calling means that our daily work is part of our ministry. A busy housewife and mother is engaged in full time Christian ministry every bit as much as the busy evangelist or pastor. It is unfortunate that we have come to think in categories which are not biblical. What Christian work is not full time? Do we ever cease to be teachers of God’s Word, godly examples, ambassadors of Christ, or careful stewards of all that God has given us? Christians are called to be shining lights in a dark world, to express the Kingdom of God in the Kingdom of this world in everything they do. So take heart brethren, the God who sees all will reward all your labors under the sun. He has the last say when it comes to the evaluation of your earthly work. I would admonish you to serve Him with all joy of heart and be satisfied where He has placed you at this time in your life. The time may come when your calling in life may change, and you will be given other tasks. The time will certainly come when our earthly labors are over, so please make the most of them. A wise servant of God “redeem[s] the time” (Ephesians 5:16).

“No labour is servile when the Lord’s approval is the paramount consideration.” -Geoffrey B. Wilson


Enjoy the work of your hands, and rest in His unfailing love,


Pastor Tom


[1] Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988. p.92
[2] “Why God Wills Work”, A sermon preached on September 4, 1983.

No comments: