November 28, 2004
Thanks for your last letter and the good news of what God is doing at Grace Fellowship Church! Praise the Lord for these pleasant days of growth in numbers and in spirituality.
I don't feel very qualified to address the topics you have sent me, seeing that I am not a very educated man, but I will try and do my best. Like the wise man said, "Even a fool when he keeps silent, appears wise," and I am afraid that by writing you my thoughts I will blow my cover! Oh well, you have asked and there are few things I like to think about more than how to live like a Christian.
Now this subject of work or having a job is a very good one to consider. First off, everybody has to do it, from the badger to the prime minister and that is no mistake. It seems to me that part of the reason for our brains and our brawn is to be busy at something. Adam wasn't getting a suntan in Eden from what I can tell - and more than likely his sinless back knew what it was to break a sweat and feel tired at night.
Sure, sin made that work a lot tougher and that too was no mistake. I could just be whistling Dixie, but that curse God delivered seems to have cut right to the part of a man's life that takes up most of his time and energy. What I mean is that it was "thorns and thistles" not "a bad hair day" that would always remind a man of his need for God. I wouldn't expect anything less!
Now, as for work itself - it's not that bad! At least, Walter doesn't think so, but I have known many who do not share my convictions! The Bible talks a lot about the sluggard and I don't know if the two words go together, but I have seen how fast a slug moves... and what they are good for!
I have known men who can spend heaps of energy figuring out how not to work that, had they just put the same into a shovel for an hour, they could have dug 4 miles of ditch. Some men move so slow you'd think their wife fed them led pancakes for breakfast and poured concrete in their shoes! The sluggard gets himself to the table, but never gets his hand from the bowl to his mouth - that's too much work! (Pr 19:24; 26:15). He squeaks like a rusty hinge, but for all his noise he only goes back and forth, never forward (Pr 26:14).
Solomon said, the "idle suffer hunger" (Pr 19:15 ) and "hunger drives a man to work" (Pr 16:26 ), but the sluggard would rather sleep with a growling stomach than work for a full one. If Saul had ten excuses for not destroying the Amalekites, the sluggard has 100 for not going to work. The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!" (Pr 26:13). And I know that lion's Latin classification: occupationale avoidest
O, he is always full of grand ideas and elaborate schemes of how he is going to make some easy money, but in the end he will be shown for what he is. The man committed to sleep over work will wake up poor and lonely one day. That's what wise Solomon said:
Proverbs 24:30 I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
What I've never been able to figure though, is how they can stand looking at themselves when they shave in the morning? Always craving more and in love with pleasure, they get neither (Pr 21:25 -26)! These men are the most foolish of all, I think, for they try to live contrary to nature - to the way God made them. The ant must have a small brain seeing how small in stature he is, but at least he does what he was made to do - "Go to the ant, O sluggard!" (Pr 6:6-11)! A man who does not work is worth nothing and should be avoided like an angry skunk. I side with the able Apostle who told those Christians in Thessalonica:
2 Thessalonians 3: 6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
On the other hand, there are some men who just work too much! Even the ant stops and rests once in a while from his steady trek back and forth. I am sure that some men overwork partly because of nature - rabbits like to hop, cheetahs like to sprint and some men aren't happy unless they are busy at something! But my guess is that the brunt of over-workers are merely coveters in disguise. Once a dog tastes blood, there's no way to keep him away from your sheep. Some men turn into pit bulls once they taste a little money. You all don't need me to tell you what that will get you. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes did just that when he wrote:
Ecclesiastes 2:18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
Living for money and things is like lassoing a cloud - you may think you have it, but that rope will fall on your head sooner or later! Solomon called wealth a bird, if I am not mistaken... and I've never seen a winged thing stay in one place very long! He said,
23:4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
No, I say the best way to live is to get up regular every morning and do the tasks God has given you. I liken my prayers after Agur, son of Jakeh :
Proverbs 30:7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, "Who is the Lord ?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Now there was a fine bit of wisdom! Some men get rich too fast and find they spend it just as fast. I had a boyhood friend who spent over 1 million dollars in two years with nothing to show for it but a nice car. Mind you, he soon had to sell the car as he had no money to pay for the insurance! I am not opposed to being taken care of and even having a few loonies in the bank, but I'd rather mine came slow and steady than fast and furious. Haste makes waste as they say, " but whoever gathers little by little will increase wealth" (Pr 13:11b). Now, as I said, wealth is all fine and good and makes a man's days seem brighter, but riches bring with them their own snare.
Many a rich man in hell is regretting the comfort he felt on earth!
18:11 A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.
11:28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
And all that from one of the richest men ever to live! I have seen many a rich man think he was something when he was nothing. The Bible never says you can't be rich and be a good Christian, but it sure warns the rich to watch out!
1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good , to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
So, over-working just to get rich doesn't make much sense to this pilgrim. I think there is a bit more to life than that!
At the same time, I am all for hard and steady work - whether that's driving fence posts into the ground or driving ideas out of the brain. As for me, I'd take the fence posts any day. I recall old Martin Luther saying in a book somewhere:
"Sure, it would be hard for me to sit 'in the saddle.' But then again I would like to see the horseman who could sit still for a whole day and gaze at a book without worrying or dreaming or thinking about anything else. Ask ... a preacher ... how much work it is to speak and preach ... The pen is very light, that is true ... But in this work the best part of the human body (the head), the noblest member (the tongue), and the highest work (speech) bear the brunt of the load and work the hardest, while in other kinds of work either the hand, the foot, the back or other members do the work alone so such a person can sing happily or make jokes freely which a sermon writer cannot do. Three fingers do it all ... but the whole body and soul have to work at it."
Now, that was for free! But the just Lord is faithful to reward hard work - that is my point. It is true "in all labour there is profit" (Pr 14:23 ), or, as he said in another place "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." (Pr 10:4)
So a man needs to learn to do his work. A clean barn means no cows (Pr 14:4). That might make a Mrs. Martha Stewart happy, but it won't do anything to feed you in the winter! No - hard work usually means a bit of a mess. If I look to the services of one of the men in town, one of the first things I do is look at his desk - too messy and he is probably incompetent.... too clean and he probably doesn't do anything at all! Every trade has its tools and most of them involve sweat of one kind or another.
A good man learns to work when it is time to work.
10:5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
20:4 The sluggard does not plough in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The man who works will know something of His Maker's pleasure and part of that smile is almost always bread on the table and beer in the mug (or, Adam's Ale if you prefer).
That man will "know his flocks and herds" (Pr 27:23-27) and always have enough for his family and his church. He may not live in gold and thousands of square feet - but he'll live with a content heart and clean conscience. That's something all the gold in the Royal Mint can't buy!
If a man paid more attention to what he learned in grade school, he might do some good in this world. I recall one little rhyme:
Work while you work,
Play while you play,
One thing each time that is the way!
All that you do
Do with your might
Things done by halves are not done right!
When it comes right down to it, I think the heart of the matter is described in the faithful Apostle's letter to the Colossians. Listen to that again:
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
If a man can get in his head that his boss is Jesus - he'll figure out just the right way to work! After all, that boss sees everything and knows every thought! That's the whip, if you like. But most good horses I've had work harder for the apple than the whip. And we aren't so very different. That must be why Paul tells those Colossians that they really are working for Jesus. Most of them, as I understand it, were bottom of the barrel slaves! Yet, here Paul is telling them they are servants of the Creator of the Universe! Now, that is something! He tells these slaves that while working for some unfair owner they are actually working for Him!
Well, if a slave can work for Jesus, I am sure there is room for Walter (and anyone else who cares to humble himself) at the courts of heaven. Give me a man who understands his true Employer and I will work with him or for him any day! It's one of those things that really causes me to praise the Lord, that whether behind the desk or behind the plow a man can worship. I won't say I've got that all figured out, but the more I understand it, the more my life makes sense.
Isn't that the conclusion of old Solomon when he writes:
Ecclesiastes 5:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil--this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Well, I am sure I have written more than I ought, but let me encourage your folks to work hard, do it all as unto the Lord and seek His glory in everything. After that, leave the rest to the Lord!