Solomon

The Wisdom of Knowledge (Proverbs 2:1-15)

            On May 11

th

, 1849 Mr. S. Shufelt left New York City aboard the Panama heading for the beautiful San Francisco Bay in search of gold. A year earlier, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in a river near present-day Sacramento. His discovery of the gold had spread across the country sparking the Great California gold rush of the 1850s. S. Shufelt was one of 200 men who left their families and friends in search for gold on the other coast. Mr. Shufelt departed New York City leaving behind his wife and a newborn child. He told his cousin of his motivation for leaving, no doubt similar to many who made the same voyage. He said, “I have left those that I love as my own life behind and risked everything and endured many hardships to get here. I want to make enough to live easier and do some good with, before I return.

[1]

” On his hunt for gold, Shufelt endured hunger, natural disaster, the death of friends and came very near death himself.

            History has not recorded whether Shufelt struck it rich or made enough to live easy and do good, or if he ever made it back to his wife and newborn child. What we do know was that he was willing to endure a three month difficult voyage at sea and many hardships to pursue gold. Regardless of whether we appreciate his motivation for going, we cannot fault his determination and willingness to suffer to accomplish his goal. Shufelt left those he loved and risked everything for gold. Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Men, like Shufelt, have endured extreme hardship and risked everything for gold. How much more should we pursue wisdom over gold?

            When given a choice of gold or wisdom, the decision will be wisdom, hands down!!

Proverbs 8:10

, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,

for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11) Proverbs 8:19, “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” Beloved, there are so many things we can pursue with our lives, but there is nothing better than wisdom.

The blessings of wisdom will always pay back more than gold. We must pursue wisdom. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Proverbs gives us practical advice on our money, relationships, parenting, communication and government. And yet this is not just practical advice, but wisdom given from the hand of Almighty God. Let us look at 4 aspects of our pursuit of knowledge.

The Wisdom of

Learning

Knowledge

            The beginning of our quest for knowledge is to first to realize our need for it. We need help, but we will never pursue wisdom unless we know we need it. As a dad, I have discovered one of the most frustrating times of my day is bed time. I love my children and I love having my children go to bed. Usually my wife and I look at each other right before the bed time routine begins and we know it is go time. And inevitably, my sweet little Olivia will say, “I can’t find Bla-Bla.” Bla- Bla, legally named Mr. Bubbles the Cat, is Olivia’s lovey and is the one of the most valuable things in our home. I have often joked that I would rather have someone steal my car than take Bla-Bla.  It is not uncommon to spend 10-15 minutes scouring the house, the garage, and the car in search of it. Why would we spend so much time searching for a stuffed animal? Because we see its value. We know that without it no one is going to get any rest. And because we deem it valuable we search for it.

            Do you see God’s wisdom as valuable? Solomon begins his second mini-sermon at the beginning of Proverbs 2 and I want you to listen how often he uses the word “if,”

My son,

if

you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes,

if

you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,

if

you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

All Christians want to understand the fear of the Lord and to find the knowledge of God, but that is conditioned on the promise of pursuing wisdom as for a hidden treasure (v.3).

            Do we view wisdom as Shufelt viewed gold or as I view Bla-Bla? Are we willing to earnestly and diligently pursue wisdom? There are two competing calls laid out in Proverbs, the call of the wise and the call of folly. The natural current of our world flows towards folly, so we have to be ever more diligent to swim upstream towards wisdom. There are so many resources available to set our hearts on wisdom. Podcasts, blogs, free seminary courses (biblicaltraining.org, sebts.edu, itunes University, etc.), but we cannot forsake the most basic and most powerful resource that God has given us: HIS WORD!!

            DL Moody was given a Bible by his mother which was inscribed with Matthew 6:33, “‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’ and with a warning, ‘this book will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from this book.’” Beloved, we must earnestly pursue God’s Word in our personal study, in our discipleship and for our church. Do you pray for the preaching of the Word? Do you come prepared to hear a Word from God? When was the last time you took a week and memorized a chapter in the Bible? Proverbs 2 was written so that it could be memorized with each verse beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. Saturate yourself with the Word of God.

            We will pursue God’s Word when we realize we need it. Dear friends, understand your desperate need for knowledge and give all that you have to attain it. Be like the man who finds a  a pearl of great price in a field and then sells all that he has purchase that field.

The Wisdom of

Listening

to Knowledge

            Life is more than listening, but it is not less than listening. Solomon continues to exhort his readers to listen to his words. Listening takes humility. Listening begins with a posture that says, “I need to hear what you have to say.” Of course the implication of listening is not merely hearing, but listening with the intent to obey. James says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds,

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

We must listen to wisdom and then walk in that wisdom. We must obey.

            The great enemy of listening is busyness and the clutter of the mind. How hard is it to find solitude to simply hear and listen to God’s wisdom? Don Whitney writes in Spiritual Disciplines, “One of the greatest costs of technological advancement is a greater temptation to avoid quietness.

[2]

” Progress is not always good. As our society advances technologically, we have to be careful to guard our hearts and minds. Technology has given us access to much more time. It takes a fraction of the time to complete tasks today than it did years go. We don’t have to take a 3 month journey to get across the country, but a 6 hour flight. We do not have to wash our clothes or dishes by hands, but have machines that can do that for us. And yet with all the additional time technology can save us, we still find ourselves running crazy busy lives.

            Over the last several months as we have been studying Proverbs, I have seen two worlds in conflict. There is the way of wisdom and the way of folly. God wants us to be wise while the world wants us to be foolish. The wise listen, the foolish don’t. The wise obey, the foolish don’t. Our world is set up so that we don’t listen. We have to guard our listening time. “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27) One way you can guard yourselves from straying from words of knowledge is by setting aside time every day and every week to hear instruction from God’s Word. We take time to be alone with God in studying and meditating on His Word, but we also need time to corporately gather and hear God’s Word.

            How hard is it for you to focus during a sermon? It could be because you are tired from staying up too late. It also could be that our minds are so cluttered that it is hard for us to hear because there are so many things clouding our thoughts. I pray every week our corporate time together will give you time to think and contemplate the deep things of God.

            The concept of listening is vitally important for our evangelism and discipleship. We have to be creative enough to engage our neighbors in serious thought. If it is hard for Christians to slow down to hear and listen to God’s Word, how much more for our non-Christians friends? If we are going to reach people, we need to listen to them. We need to hear where they are and what they believe. And then, we need to help them hear God’s wisdom from the Bible. Over the past year the greatest tool for discipleship that I have seen is simply taking an hour once a week and reading the Bible with people and talking about it. The Bible is powerful. Do not underestimate it. Write down 2 names of people in your life that you could ask to read the Bible together with you. Pray over those names and consider if you are able to find time to read the Bible with them. Is there anything you could cut out of your schedule to make time? We should help our neighbors take time to hear God’s Word.

The Wisdom of

Looking

with Knowledge

            I pray this series through the Proverbs has made you more aware of the importance of God’s wisdom. God’s Word is relevant to every area of life. Proverbs teaches you how you show earn and spend your money. Proverbs teaches you who to befriend and how to invest in friendships. It provides practical instruction on how to raise your kids and love your spouse. And I pray as you see God’s Word applied to these different practical areas of life, you will be able to approach the world with God’s wisdom on your mind and will be able to more readily identify folly.

            The Apostle Paul gave himself to the proclamation of the Word. He lived to help others become mature in Christ. My prayer throughout this series has been that you would desire to take God’s wisdom and apply it to your life so that you would know Jesus Christ and make him known. Colossians 2:1-3,

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in the person of Jesus Christ. To pursue wisdom is to pursue Jesus Christ.

As we face this world living out our daily lives, we should always be thinking how can I know Jesus and make Him known? Jesus Christ is the goal of life for all the world was created by him and for him. We live for the glory of Jesus Christ. Proverbs doesn’t just help us have better friendships and manage our money, but to display the glory of Jesus Christ through a life that has been transformed by His wisdom. Friends, we all have lived as fools. We all have followed our own way and experienced the harsh reality of our own sin. In the solitude of our own hearts, we know our consciences condemn us for our folly. But thanks be to God, that while we were fools, God sent Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus willingly laid his life down to pay for our sin. And after he died for our sins, God raised him from the dead accepting the payment in full and publicly declaring his Lordship over death and the grave.

Jesus who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus has promised righteousness to all who would repent of their sins and trust in Him. When we trust in Jesus Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, God declares us righteous, not because our good deeds, but because of His righteousness. So now we live as God’s righteous people, in our parenting and our finances, to display that righteousness to the world. Our lives are witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live resurrected lives. Our old lives are dead for we have been made alive with God in Christ.

This is my prayer that you would view the practical matters of your life as an opportunity to witness the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to the world. Therefore you have to approach this world on guard against the deceptive philosophy and empty knowledge of our world. Folly calls aloud, but we strive for wisdom so Christ would be exalted. After Paul encourages the church to find the wisdom in Christ, he continues,

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8)

We must look at this world with the knowledge of God so that we will not be taken captive by seemingly plausible yet deceptive philosophy which is not of Christ.

      Beloved, we are easily deceived. This is why we have to pursue learning and listening to God’s wisdom. We need God’s Word. We need’s God’s people. Following God’s wisdom in the Proverbs will give most likely give you a better earthly life, but a better earthly life should never be our goal. Our goal should be to walk with Jesus Christ, rooted and established in him abounding in thanksgiving. We must be armed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ if we are going to heed wisdom’s call.

The Wisdom of

Loving

Knowledge

            We can guard our hearts by avoiding the deceptive philosophy of our world, but I do not think that is the most effective way to walk in wisdom. The most effective way is love and treasure wisdom above all else.

My son, if you receive my words and

treasure

up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for

wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

(Proverbs 2:1-10)

We do not just want to be wise, but we want to love wisdom. We want to delight ourselves in the Lord and have his knowledge be pleasant to our soul.

            Greek Mythology illustrates this well in how Odysseus and his men overcame the foolish call of the Sirens. Sirens would sing an irresistible song luring unsuspecting sailors to come aboard their island which would lead to their death. Circe warns Odysseus of the danger and encourages him to tie himself to the mast so he could not jump overboard and to have his men fill their ears with beeswax so they would not hear the song. Many of us try to overcome foolishness like Odysseus and his men. We want to avoid hearing the world and withdraw from society. This method may be effective, but I do not believe it is best.

            There was another adventurer who overcame the allure of the Siren’s foolish call. Orphesus did not plug his ears or tie himself to the mast, he simply played more beautiful music that drowned out the Siren’s song. Lady Wisdom is far more beautiful than folly’s call. She sings a “sweeter song” for she leads us to Christ

[3]

. The answer is not to run from the world, but to run to Christ. Delight yourself in wisdom and she will guard your life.

Let’s Pray:

We bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of your glory You may grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to You who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

[1]

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/californiagoldrush.htm

accessed 7.25.2015

[2]

Whitney, Don. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. 228.

[3]

Newheiser, J. (2008).

Opening up Proverbs

. Leominster: Day One Publications. Chapter 2

The Wisdom of Politics (Proverbs 16:10-15)


Groucho Marx defines politics as, “the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Ronald Reagan states, “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” Aesop says, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” And the ever witty Mark Twain says, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” Politics is a dirty business. It is like entering a coal mine in a white suit, one cannot leave clean. Politics creates deep passion and utter frustration. 
      Christians vary in their views of politics. Some evangelicals have become so disgusted with the political process that they have withdrawn from it entirely while others are so devoted to partisan politics that it appears to overtake their allegiance to Christ. Christians can easily err on both sides of the line. As Martin Luther has said, “The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off again on the other side.[1]” So do we avoiding being like “drunken peasants,” falling on the side of total political apathy only to go to the side of total political immersion? How should Christians view politics or political leaders? What is the role of the government and its citizens? Should we place any hope in our political system?

      These questions have been debated throughout the centuries, as politics have always played a significant role in the health, good or ill, of a nation. Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs so that his readers would, “know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight and to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity.” (Prov. 1:2-3) One of the key arenas in which Solomon desires these principles to be displayed is in the arena of government and politics. Some scholars believe that Proverbs was written specifically for the young men in Solomon’s court who were responsible to help govern the nation. As we struggle to process our role as Christians within a pluralistic, secular society it would be wise for us to glean wisdom from one of God’s kings who was inspired to write about God’s world, even the messy world of politics.


The Wisdom of Political Separation

Christians are citizens in two kingdoms. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the earth. Our primary citizenship is that of heaven, for God’s kingdom is not of this world (Phil. 3:20, John 18:36). Therefore we have to be very careful to make a strongest allegiance that of our citizenship of our earthly nation. We are fundamentally aliens and strangers in this land for our home is heaven. We are citizens of the King of kings living in a foreign land.

Separation of Church and State

In 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to Baptists in Danbury, CT introducing the concept of the separation of church and state into the American political lexicon by saying,

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.[2]

Jefferson believed that it was not the right of the government to dictate matters of the conscience, but to empower people to freely express their beliefs in worship of God.

The idea of separation of Church and State has been misunderstood to mean a “religion free” public square. Jefferson never meant to limit the conversation, but to inhibit the government to dictate matters of conscience. Christians should rightly desire a separation of church and state as it was originally introduced into our country. We should fight for the government to be limited as to not infringe the conscience of believers.

Separation for the Gospel

      The church should never wed itself to a political party. Our primary mission should never be to elect someone from a certain political party into office, for our mission is far more important than the political activism. Our mission is the proclamation of the gospel. Our King has given us a task to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. The only saving message of the world is not through politics, but through a Savior. Men are going to perish for eternity in Hell if they do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Therefore the church must never waver in its primary mission to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sin in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      The keyword is “primary.” We should be actively involved in our world, but our primary mission will always be to makes disciples of Jesus through word and deed. If we extend a hope in anything other than Jesus Christ, we are putting people in danger of eternal fire. The only lasting hope is the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

The Wisdom of Political Suitability

What is the purpose of government according to the Proverbs? Solomon believes kings and/or political rulers should enforce justice. Thus a suitable government promotes justice and punishes evil. Proverbs 16:10-15,

An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. A just balance and scales are the LORD's; all the weights in the bag are his work. It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right. A king's wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.

Kings lived under the rule and reign of the Lord. Kings were to administer justice to the land which is why it is an abomination to kings to do evil. Their very purpose was to order a society that praises those who do good and punishes those who do evil. This is how a king is measured through 1st and 2nd Kings. The king either did what was right in the eyes of the Lord or he did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. They were judged well if they promoted righteousness and justice.

People often talk about president’s political legacies, but the way we should judge a successful government is their ability to promote justice. Peter echoes Solomon’s exhortation in saying, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Paul says we should obey earthly governments, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.” (Romans 13:3-4) Rulers are placed in authority by God to bring about his justice. When a government does not punish evil and praise righteousness, it has forgotten its purpose.


The Wisdom of Political Servants

      In a democratic republic we have the responsibility to elect representatives to help fulfill God’s mandate of justice. What should we look for in our political servants? Well we should first look for servants. Politicians are supposed to public servants not self-servants. We should work to elect servants of the people who:

Serve in Humility

      God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God sets up and removes kings. Daniel 2:20-21, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Kings and rulers serve because God has placed them in that position.

      Nebuchadnezzar is a great historical example of someone who had to learn this lesson the hard way. Nebuchadnezzar was ruler over Babylon. He served for himself and thought the power of his kingdom was because of his hand. He was on the roof of the royal palace looking over his kingdom and said,

“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field …until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:30-32)

Nebuchadnezzar lost his power, his palace, and his position to live on the grass like an ox. At the end of his life, Nebuchadnezzar was moved to “praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and all his ways are just and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)

      Let us choose leaders who understand that all God’s ways are right and that God is able to humble the proud in heart. “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Serve in Wisdom and Justice

      The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Rulers are given wisdom to govern justly. Proverbs 8:12; 15, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion…By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.” The state should not rule the church and the church should not rule the state, but that does not mean that God’s wisdom should not be applied to the government. The best governments are those who seek God’s wisdom in their rule.

      Proverbs 20:26, “A wise king winnows the wicked and drives the wheel over them.” A wise king understands his rule to punish the wicked and promote justice. Proverbs 20:28, “Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.” The king defines righteousness and love by the commandments of the Lord. The king’s throne is upheld by his steadfast love to the Lord.

      We have all seen political leaders in our day that have not lived under the authority of the God. And those who have not lived in and for righteousness, cause grief among the people. Proverbs 11:10, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” Proverbs 28:28, “When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.” Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The joy and sorrow of a nation can be traced to its leaders. If leaders are honorable, they will lead in justice and the people will rejoice. If leaders are dishonorable, they will extend grief and sadness to the people.


The Wisdom of Political Struggle

Many evangelicals think it is best for us to retreat from the public square and to ignore the political partisanship that dominates national discourse. They rightly believe the Great Commission is our number one priority, yet they wrongly apply that belief by retreating from politics. We are called to struggle for justice. We have an obligation to speak the truth in love. We have an obligation to command people to repent and believe in the gospel and live in a way that honors the Lord. We are called to struggle.

Struggle for Wisdom with Fools

We see Solomon pleading with his readers to pursue wisdom over folly. Lady folly calls aloud leading people to ruin and destruction. We have to battle against Lady Folly by being those who call aloud with wisdom. We believe God’s ways will ultimately be better for our neighbor. If we love our neighbors, we should engage in political discourse which will lead them to wisdom.

The spirit of the age wants everyone to accept everyone else's ideology.Islamic ideology cannot coexist with Judaism. Judaism and Islam cannot coexist with Christianity. Judaism and Islam are enemies of the cross of Christ. They do not believe in the gospel, but offer another way to salvation. If Jesus Christ is man’s only hope for salvation, it is wicked to offer hope in anything else. It is naïve to believe that the cross is compatible with any other religion. Jesus Christ says, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no man comes to the father except through me.” We can leave peaceably with others, but we cannot accept their ideology. If we accept false ideology, we are abandoning the gospel.

We are in a real battle with foolishness. We have to struggle for the wisdom of the Cross in a world of folly.

Struggle for Preservation of Morality

      Jesus has called Christians the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are called to slow the moral decay of our world by preserving it with righteousness. When we work for justice and peace, we are restraining the moral evil in our day. We cannot retreat into the shadows, but continue to be heralds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We know that God will,

Render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8)

We know judgment is coming so we must speak. We do not have the option to be silent.

Struggle for Engagement

      Non-involvement is a vote for the wicked. If Christians are silent, they allow wicked to rule. A non-vote is still a vote and God will still hold you accountable for inaction. Proverbs 24:10-12,

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we do not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay according to his work?

The silence of the church is a great tragedy while the innocent unborn children are being led to the slaughter. The silence of the church is a tragedy for those who are deceived in their sexual immorality that will exclude them from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Beloved, we must open our eyes and continue to struggle for wisdom. We must engage in the political process.

The Struggle for Honor

      We may dislike our leaders, but we must continue to walk in respect and humility. I do not love the policies of our current president, but that gives us no right to malign him. Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” The early church was called to fear Nero, who was far more brutal a leader than our country has ever seen. One way we honor them is by praying for them. 1 Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”


The Wisdom of Political Savior

      Proverbs 29:26, “Many seek the face of a ruler, but is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” God will ultimately be the one to establish justice. He should engage in political action working for God’s justice to reign, but we should never put our hope in our government. Our hope should always be in God. God promised in the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 9:6-7 that,

The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jesus has inaugurated his kingdom in his first coming and will fully establish it on his second. The kingdom of God is already here, but has not yet been fully realized.

Beloved, we were once under the domain of darkness. We were sinners in rebellion against God. We do not fear God or keep his commandments. We were destined for ruin and destruction because of our foolishness, but in God’s loving kindness he sent Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in perfect fear of God and embodied wisdom. He died as a sinner hung on the cross. Cursed by God. He was dead and buried, but God raised him from the Dead. His resurrection validated his Kingship. He ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirt into the world as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance of the kingdom of God. Jesus has begun the kingdom of God and one day he will fully establish it.

Every earthly kingdom will one day perish. America will not last forever. There is coming a day when God will shake not only the earth, but the heavens and will remove all things that are shaken. Jesus Christ offers us a place in his kingdom if we confess him as our King, for all who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord will be saved and will receive the kingdom of God. Jesus is the only forever King of a forever kingdom. Right before Jesus ascended to heaven the disciples asked,

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

Beloved, we do not know when the Lord will ultimately establish his kingdom, but we have received power to be his witnesses. Therefore, live as citizens of heaven as we await our King’s return. He is our only hope and is and will always forever be our only true political Savior.

The Wisdom of Marriage (Proverbs 18:22)


     
 Alexander Pope said of Isaac Newton, “Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Isaac Newton has been credited in discovering the theory of gravity. Many earlier scientists believed the Sun revolved around the Earth, but we now know that the sun is the center of our solar system. Every planet in our solar system rotates around the sun and is held in its orbit by the sun’s gravitational pull. The sun is by far the heaviest object in our solar system. The sun is 300,000 times heavier than the Earth. The lighter planets orbit around the heaviest planet. The weight of the sun places a gravitational pull on every other planet.
        
    The gravitational center of marriage has shifted in recent years. The new view of marriage is pulling people to a new gravitational center. People are changing their long-held traditional and historical views of marriage. We should not be surprised by this recent shift on marriage as we have seen our nation move away from a biblical worldview over the last 40 years. We are bearing the fruit of a nation that has rejected the straightforward testimony of the Bible. We talk most often about the change in perspective of same-sex marriage, but there have been many other shifts in how people approach marriage. People are getting married later and later. Most couples are choosing to live together before they get married, while divorce continues to be a legitimate way to solve marital conflict.

Our constant language of what we are against has obscured the beauty and gift of marriage. Non-Christians typically know more of what the church is against than what the church is for. They hear us being against a particular kind of marriage rather than seeing us being for godly marriages. We have been so focused on what we oppose that we have forgotten to cherish and treasure what we have in God’s gift of marriage. We must rejoice in our marriages. We must apply God’s wisdom in our marriages. The world needs it now more than ever.

The Wisdom of Marriage Choice

Before we dive into Solomon’s exhortation for a healthy marriage, we have to first establish the importance of choosing the right person. There are many marriages begin at a disadvantage because people are foolish in their choice of a mate. If you are not married, you have most likely asked, “Who should I marry?” If you are already married, you could probably help someone someday answer the question, “Should I marry this person?” As Christians, what are things that we should consider when choosing a spouse? Does God have any particular advice for Christians in choosing a spouse?

It is dangerous to preach about marriage in America. Americans love their personal autonomy. Even the Supreme Court this past week made a declaration that individual autonomy of a marital choice is a fundamental right. We are taught that our personal choices should not have any restrictions. We do have freedom to make our own choices, but those choices have consequences. We can chose to honor God with our choices or to dishonor God with our choices. The question is not whether we have freedom, but whether we are using our freedom to honor the Lord. The apostle Peter encourages the 1st century Christians to “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” We have freedom of choice, but as Christians our choices should honor God and be governed by his Word.

      First, Christians must consider if they should marry at all. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Singleness is not a curse, but should be commended, for those who are single have the unique opportunity to have a singular focus on the Lord. They are not bound by other responsibilities and can give themselves to the service of the Lord and His church. Singleness is a gift and should not be squandered with a constant longing for spouse. The desire to be married is a healthy desire, but can also dominate a person’s life, clouding them from seeing the tremendous opportunity that singleness provides.

      Secondly, if a Christian is going to be married, then they should marry a Christian. Christians singles should not enter into a romantic relationship with a non-believer. I have asked many young Christians that start a dating relationship about the spiritual state of their partner and many times they respond, “We have discussed that yet.” If you haven’t discussed it, then how do you know if you should be in that relationship? 2 Corinthians 6 is not explicitly about marriage, but I believe it is appropriate to apply to the marriage relationship. Paul writes,

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

Paul makes the biblical application from the Law that believers should not yoke themselves or intimately connect themselves with an unbeliever. This does not mean we should not be friends with unbelievers, but our closest relationships should be believers as they will encourage our walks with the Lord.

      Let me add a caveat. I know a number of marriages where one of the spouses was a non-believer when they were married and the testimony of the spouse won them to the Lord. We should praise God for his kindness for using those spouses to draw their partners to the Lord. And yet for as many positive stories we hear, there are countless others of those whose faith was shipwrecked because of the influence of an unbelieving spouse. And there are many others who experienced tremendous hardships in their marriage because they married someone outside the faith. We cannot base our choices on anecdotal evidence, but on the Word of God.

      Solomon is exhorting young men in Proverbs to choice a mate wisely, because he knows of the powerful influence of a spouse, 1 Kings 11:6-8,

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

Beloved, trust God’s Word in your marital choice.

Thirdly, Christians should marry only those who are free to marry. We live in a fallen world, so people are going to experience broken relationships. Marriages are going to end. Brokenness is woven throughout our lives. Everyone has been affected by divorce. We cannot escape its reach. It is a very present reality. There is a debate among conservative biblical scholars of what qualifies as a biblical divorce and a biblical remarriage. There were debates in Jesus day on what constituted a biblical divorce between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Although there is a debate, there are only two agreed upon reasons for a divorce in the Scriptures: sexual immorality and desertion (Matthew 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15).

Before you engage in a dating relationship, be sure you are only entering into a relationship with someone that is free to marry. If you are not careful before you enter the relationship, you may find yourself in a very difficult predicate as time goes on.

There are many other things to consider when choosing a spouse: sense of humor, physical attraction, personality, worldview, etc. Bring your friends and spiritual mentors into your life before you enter into a dating relationship. Let them help you ask the tough questions so you can honor the Lord with your choice of a spouse.

The Wisdom of Marriage Contentment

     Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” Marriage is awesome!! Marriage is a good thing. God loves marriage and wants us to delight in our marriage. One of the reasons that the gravitational center of marriage has changed is because there are a lot of people discontented in their marriages. Discontentment seeps into a marriage in many forms.

Comparison – Comparing your spouse to others breeds discontentment. Even comparing your spouse to themselves 5 to 10 years earlier. Comparison can make us long for someone other than our spouse.

Unrealistic Expectations – This is comparison’s ugly twin. We often place too much on our spouse. We expect them to meet the demands of our souls that only God can meet.

Sin – We are sinners who married sinners. We sin against our spouse which can drive them away from us. We are sinned against by our spouse which can drive us away from them. We need to see sin through the eyes Christ. Jesus did not lay his life down for perfect people, but for sinners. Romans 5:8, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We are called to treat our spouse with the grace they do not deserve. We treat them as Christ has treated us. God gives us grace to deal with the sin of our spouse. Yet there are times when the sin is so severe it cannot be dealt with alone. If you are in an abusive situation or know someone who is, please find help. We are here for you. You do not have to walk through it alone.

There are a myriad of different reasons discontentment can grow in your marriage which is why Solomon encourages you to delight in your wife. Solomon gives three long discourses in Proverbs 5-7 warning of the dangers of the adulterous woman. She is the picture of folly, inviting men into ruin and destruction. Folly’s call may come from a co-worker, neighbor, a website or a chatroom, but the call will come. How does one stand against folly’s call? It is easy to stand against it if we are delight in our spouse. We must be content with the good gift God has given us.

Marriage is a blessing. Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” God wants his people to delight themselves in their spouse because marriage is a sweet and precious gift of God. Solomon gives strong warnings to avoid the adulteress because she leads to death. Listen to the outcome of those who are lured to find satisfaction outside of their marriage.

Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:5-6)
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (Proverbs 6:32-33)
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.  (Proverbs 7:21-27)

The way of folly leads to death. Do not be deceived to think you will find satisfaction outside your marriage. This admonition is both for the married and the single. True intimacy is reserved for marriage.

The key to protecting your marriage is to cultivate contentment within your marriage or your singleness and rejoice in the good gift given by God’s hand. He who finds a wife finds what is good. She who finds a husband finds what is good. Marriage is good. Solomon makes his case in Proverbs 5:15-19,

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

Listen to the words Solomon uses to describe one’s satisfaction with one’s wife: rejoice, delight, and intoxicated. The key to healthy marriage is to rejoice and delight in the gift of your spouse. Do you realize how amazing marriage is? Marriage is a gift and all good gifts come from above.

      The key to a healthy marriage is profoundly simple and yet excruciating hard. Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The key is a healthy marriage is oneness. God desires a husband and wife to be one. Contentment is a fruit of oneness. If couples work to cultivate a one flesh union, they will be content with one another. Marriages fall apart because couples drift away from each other rather than working to remain close to one another. Analyze your marriage with the “oneness test.” Do activities promote oneness or division? Are you “one” in your finances, raising of children, communication, intimacy, time, and/or hobbies? If you are not growing in oneness, there may be gaps of discontentment growing.

      Beloved, marriage is good. Guard you’re the oneness of your marriage with contentment.

The Wisdom of Marriage Peace

      Solomon wants marriages to be at peace. Solomon spends a considerable amount of time warning young men to avoid adultery because its pull is very strong. As men may be drawn away from oneness through sexual temptation and passivity, women are tempted to divide oneness with a critical, quarrelsome spirit.

      Husbands need to take responsibility to lead their marriage in peace. Husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives to cherish and nourish their souls with the Word of God. Many wives become quarrelsome because husbands abdicate their responsibilities to lead. Imagine a husband and wife on a field playing soccer. An often typical response of a husband is take off his jersey and go sit in the stands. He stops intentionally engaging with his wife, but chooses to passively watch from the distance. Wives, on the other hand, trade jerseys with the referees and start blowing the whistle at their husbands.

      The lack of peace in a marriage is never one-sided. There is sin on both sides of marriage. And if marriages are full of strife, it will be unpleasant for both parties. Solomon writes,

A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. (Proverbs 19:13-14)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 25:24)
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand. (Proverbs 27:15-16)

It is not pleasant to live with a quarrelsome wife. God’s desires marriage to be peaceful. Wives have to strive to be at peace with their husbands. Husbands have to strive to be at peace with their wives. Solomon talks often about the quarrelsome wife, but remember both parties may be responsible for the quarreling. Paul gives two main exhortations in Ephesians 5. He tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. I believe he gives those exhortations because those are the areas that men and women need to be reminded. Men need to be exhorted to love their wives and women need to be exhorted to respect their husbands.

      A quarrelsome wife may not respect and honor her husband. Wives need to work to cultivate peace in their marriage by addressing the discontentment in their hearts that spills out to discontented speech. But a quarrelsome wife may have a husband that is passive and lazy. The main issue is the “why” a home is quarrelsome. Wives, must first ask if you they are quarrelsome. And if they answer yes, then deal with their heart before the Lord. Lean on other women in the church to help diagnose your own heart. Pray and ask God for help to reveal the reasons for you’re a quarrelsome spirit. And remember an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but it is not natural to our fallen world. If it was, Solomon would not say, “An excellent wife who can find?” (Prov. 31:10) A prudent wife comes from the Lord.

      If husbands believe their wife to be quarrelsome, they must first ask how they are contributing to her quarrelsome spirit. Wives may appear like the constant drip of the rain because husbands are not talking responsibility to lead their families in word and deed. Husbands may need to get in the game. A husband can help his wife by serving her in a manner that does not invite criticism. Husbands need to intentionally engage in family life so that the wife does not have to feel it is her responsibility to nag her husband. Husbands have to fight to lead while wives have to fight to let them lead. Be patient with each other and fight for peace.

The Wisdom of Marriage Power

        The power of marriage is the gospel. Husbands and wives have to view their spouse through the lenses of Jesus Christ. There are no perfect marriages this side of heaven, but we have the power through Christ to cultivate godly marriages. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been given the Holy Spirit to overcome the flesh and to live in righteousness. Jesus Christ died for sinners. God is not surprised by your sin. If you are struggling in your marriage, there is hope for you. If you are struggling with discontentment, there is hope for you. If you are a quarrelsome wife or a wayward husband, there is hope for you. If you have been divorced, there is hope for you. Jesus Christ died to pay for you. He is calling you to come to Him. He died that you may live. We all have failed in our marriages. We all have been discontented or quarrelsome. Our failures should remind us of the hope we have in Jesus. Jesus died for us. Our only hope in our failures is to cling to Jesus who has made a way for us to be reconciled to God. His grace is greater than our failures. And we do not have to remain failures because God gives us power to overcome our sin.

      The power that God offers sinners is His resurrection power. Christians can overcome temptation because Jesus Christ overcame the grave. Romans 8:10-11, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” God will give life to our marriages if we trust in Him. God wants our marriages to be a reflection of the gospel. He wants husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved the church. He wants wives to respect and submit their husbands as the church submits to Christ. He wants our marriages to be a fragrant aroma that leads people to the gospel of grace.

      There will be much conversation regarding the Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage this past week, but our calling has not changed. We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through word and deed. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, summarizes this well,

In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.

We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us.  Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.[1]

Beloved, God desires godly marriages. The world needs godly marriages. We have a great opportunity to display God’s wisdom to the world in our marriage. Let us cultivate godly marriages so the world will see and savor the beauty of God’s wisdom.

The Wisdom of Work (Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 26:12-16)


      The average person will spend 80,000 hours at work in their life. An article published in the Business Insider a few years ago detailed some interesting facts about the workplace.
  • 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.
  • On average, Americans work 8 different jobs before they are 30.
  • 25% of employees say work is their main source of stress and 40% say their job is "very or extremely” stressful.
  • More than 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress-related illnesses.
  • The average American spends 100 hours commuting each year.
  • 64% of Americans canceled vacations last year. One-third did it for work-related reasons even though most felt they were more in need of a vacation than the year before.
  • In the United States, workers take an average of 57 percent of their vacation days. That means most of us voluntarily give up about 50 percent of the time off we're legally allowed so we can continue to work instead.
  • 25% of people check into work hourly while on vacation, via email and phone. 59% said they check work during traditional holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Basically, work is everywhere.[1]

Work is everywhere. Everyone will be called to work in one way or another. Are we all destined to be dissatisfied and stressed during our work life? How do we approach our work? How should we understand the purpose of work? How can we approach Monday morning with joy instead of dread? How should our faith impact our work lives?

      German Sociologist and Economist Max Weber coined the term “Protestant Work Ethic” in 1905 in his seminal work, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” He argues in the book that the protestant work ethic traced back to Martin Luther redefined worldly work as one’s Christian duty that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Since the Protestant Reformation, the church has believed that one’s faith should be displayed as a sign of grace. So one’s hard work and frugality became markers that one possessed a true faith in Christ. One’s work was a picture of the grace one had received by Christ.

      Work has always been important in our culture. The Protestant Work Ethic built America’s railroads, supplied factories, and harvested crops. America grew in cultural dominance because of the people’s ability to work. Although there are many who still value work, there are others who have given their work an inordinate amount of power in their lives. Some work too much, while others do not work enough. Solomon hoped to encourage and warn to young people to have them see the importance of work while guarding against the dangers of poor work habits. Before we dig into the practical exhortations, let us first build a brief theology of work.

The Theology of Work

            What we believe shapes how we live. If we want to live right, we must first believe right. Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Work has always been part of God’s world.

God Designed Work

            Work was established in the opening two chapters of Genesis. After God created Adam and Ever he charged them to work to care for his good world, Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Adam and Eve were called to exercise dominion or to work to care for the garden. In the parallel account of creation, in Genesis 2:5, “there was no man to work the ground,” so God formed man and Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Work was created and designed by God. It is good.

God Cursed Work
            The world used to cooperate alongside humanity to bring joy to a man’s hands while he worked the ground, but after man’s sinful rebellion God cursed our work. Our work would no longer be easy, but difficult. God cursed Adam’s work saying to him,

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

The ground now works against humanity. The sweat that Adam experienced in the garden is like stress we feel before walking into the office on Monday before a presentation. The curse brought sweat and stress into our work.

God Redeemed Work

            God had pity on humanity. We were under the curse of sin and death so God sent his Son to redeem us from the curse by being cursed for us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14) Christ became a curse to reverse the curse. He came that we may have life and life abundantly. He restored purpose in our work. He restored promises from our work. We no longer live to serve ourselves in our work, but now we live to serve him.

            A key text on work is Colossians 3:22-24 where Paul redefines our work by redefining our master. He writes,

Bondservants, 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. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24)

Every day we work, we are serving Jesus Christ. This should give us purpose in any job we have whether if it is a ditch digger or a stay-at home mom, a sales rep or a CEO, a janitor or a postman. Every job has value because it is done for the honor of the Lord Christ. We get to serve Jesus through our jobs. Praise God for his kindness to allow sinners to experience joy and eternal value in our work.
           The Bible never speaks about retirement. Retirement is a modern construct. You may no longer need the money for a paycheck, but that does not mean you are not called to work. The Bible says whatever we do we are to work heartily unto the Lord. It is the Lord Christ we are serving. Many of you no longer work for wages, but continue to work diligently for the good of your family members who need care, for your community, and for your church. Whatever stage of life we are in, we must view it through the lens of Scripture. We should always live with an eye on eternity whether we are 15 or 75 years old. (I would commend to you John Piper’s Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ.)

      This 30,000 foot view of work should shape your 9-5. It should shape every minute of every hour of every day of your life. We have been purchased with a price. We are not our own, but belong, body and soul, life and death, to God, and to our Savior Christ Jesus. We want to work wisely, not only for practical benefits, but for the glory of the Lord Christ. It is from him we will receive our inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. And Proverbs has much to say about how the wise work. Although many of us will apply these principles to our jobs, keep in mind that your job is only a small part of your work. How we work encompasses our jobs, our home life, and our service.

The Wise Works Diligently

      All of the exhortations to wise work can be summed up in one word: diligence. Diligence is constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind; careful and persistent effort. This is something that desperately needs to be recovered in our society. We all have personal stories of those who demonstrate diligence in their work and frustrations of those who are slack in their work. According to God’s Word, the wise will work hard. We have to recover a healthy, robust biblical view of work. Besides honoring the Lord, there are practical benefits to working diligently.

They Have Resources

            It is easy to spiritualize work, but we cannot avoid that we work to get money to pay our bills and put food on the table. We do not work only for money, but we do work for money. Proverbs are generally true, but not always true. There are people who work hard, but are still in poverty. The majority of world is filled with people in this situation, who for whatever the reason, be it systematic problems, discrimination, or infrastructure, work hard, but have little to show for it.

Although it is true that some hard workers are poor, often those who become wealthy are diligent. Proverbs 10:4, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” The diligent hand is careful and persistent. Wealth does not come over night, but it takes long term faithfulness. My uncle worked as a HVAC repairman for years. He lived a modest life, but retired a very wealthy man. His years of diligence gave him riches. Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” A general rule is those who work harder have more in the end. Slow and steady diligent work is a picture of a wise worker.

Let us consider the ant. Let us learn from her ways and be wise for, “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Proverbs 6:7) Work hard, work steady and you will have the resources you need to live.

They Have Rule

            Not only will the wise worker have resources, but he will also rule over people. Proverbs 12:24, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Those who work hard are often the ones promoted and trusted with the responsibility to lead. It is always a poor move to promote someone who is lazy, but diligent worker will eventually rule over those with little effort. 1 Timothy 5:25, “So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Our good works will not remain hidden and we will be rewarded for them.

They Have Reputation

Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Diligence will lead to skill which will lead to influence. Frank Chodorov wrote how political figures were once required to demonstrate reputation of skill in his work. He writes,

There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the “log cabin”…In short, he had to be “self made.” The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God. Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect.

You do not work for the reputation. You work and you will get a reputation. A man in our church, Olin McKee, has the reputation as one of the finest business men in Rock Hill. He built half the city, because his work was such a high quality, he received a reputation of excellence. His reputation kept in business for over 30 years. The diligent will receive a reputation that is fitting for the God they serve. 

They Have Righteousness

            Christians are called to work hard, but they are also called to work in righteousness. A shoemaker once asked Martin Luther., “How should he make shoes for the glory of God?”  Luther responded, “Make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.” Christian should operate in the public sphere with kindness and equity. Proverbs 16:11, “A just balance and scales are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Proverbs 20:23, “Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.” It is tempting to sell things above their value or to buy things below their value. On the last day, a few dollars will not be worth it. We are living for the Lord Christ. We should work for righteousness. We bear His name so let us conduct our business in a way that fitting to the Lord.

They Have Risk

There are many blessings to work, but there also are some very potent pitfalls. Bob Schultz writes in his book, Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men,

The grand quality of diligence, which is essential when you begin working, turns a man into a workaholic if not balanced. The freedoms that bless the industrious become snares when given to selfish pleasure. The diligent are tempted to forget God, trust in riches, and look down on the poor. What once was the reward of hard work quickly transforms resources to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Be on guard. God designs the diligent to collect resources and talents with the goal to use them in an appropriate season for good. As always, Jesus leads us by His example.[2]

Diligence turns into a snare when people do not fear the Lord. Diligence must be placed under the protection of the fear of the Lord.

It is very easy to have work become an idol. Our work becomes an idol when we give it more importance than the Lord. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert write in God at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs,

For many people today, their passion is their job and all things their job and all of the things their job can provide for them – money, status, identity, pleasure and purpose. Our jobs capture our hearts and our devotion. We give ourselves to them day in and day out. They become the primary object of our passions, our energy, and our love. We may not be willing to admit it, but we worship our jobs.

Have you given your work too much importance in your life? Does you work give you ultimate satisfaction? Or does it give you a sense of meaning or value? Work is a terrible god because it can never satisfy. It always wants more: more to be done and more to be achieved. Satisfaction will always be elusive. We cannot be defined by our jobs, but by our King. The most important title in our lives is not Senior Pastor or Senior Vice President, but Christian.

Another danger to the diligent is compartmentalization. There are many who are diligent at work, but may be a sluggard at home. Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” We serve Christ at the office and in caring for the home. Diligence at work can also lead people to become spiritual sluggards. God has given the Sabbath to protect us from the snares of diligence. We rest from our labors on Sunday as a reminder to live for the eternal Sabbath rest for the people of God in heaven. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? Regularly practicing the Sabbath will guard our hearts from the idolatry of work.

The Sluggard Works Lazily

If the main attribute of wise work is diligence, than the main attribute of foolish work is sloth. The Proverbs contrast the diligent and sluggard frequently. The sluggard is wise in his own eyes and allows pleasure and ease to dominate his life. The main problem of a sluggard is that he does not see the value of work. He does not serve others, but wants others to serve him. There are great dangers for the sluggard.

They Have Hunger

If the diligent are satisfied, the sluggards are hungry. Proverbs 12:27, “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 20:4, The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” In an agrarian society, one’s food had to be cultivated from the land. A sluggard who refuses to work the land did not eat. The modern advancements in our society may mask sloth by not allowing the sluggards to experience the consequences for their slack hand.

They Have Hem-Haws

            Sluggards are full of excuses for not doing the work.  They hem and haw when asked to work. Proverbs 26:13-14, “The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets! As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” A sluggard can always find a reason not to complete a task. They put off until tomorrow what should be done today. Sluggards may do the work, but they give excuses why mediocre work is ok. When I was 16 years old, I worked in maintenance for an outdoor mall. My job one Saturday was to weed the little decorative pebble islands throughout the parking lot. The work was tedious and boring. I decided that it was easier to shift the pebbles over the weeds rather than pull them. I excused my lazy, slack work because “no one” could tell the difference. Be on guard for the excuses in your work. Serve gladly and with a cheerful heart whether at work, at home or in the church. Remember you are serving the Lord Christ.

They Have Hatred

      Sluggards do not love their neighbors. Our work is an expression of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. Sloth does not serve others and should be taken seriously. We cannot minimize the sin of sloth. Proverbs 10:26, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” Proverbs 18:9, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” If you have ever sat around a fire and had smoke get in your eyes, you know how frustrating it can be. The smoke stifles the pleasure and enjoyment of the fire. A sluggard stifles pleasure and enjoyment of others. They serve themselves and do not serve others.

Paul writes to the Ephesians how the new life in Christ should change our work habits, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28) How one worked in and for the community was a sign of their faith. Do you view your work as a way to love your neighbor and community?

They Have Helpers

            Sluggards are fools. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Sloth is bound up in all of our hearts. We all have tendencies to live as sluggards in different areas, but we cannot accommodate for sluggards. There seems to be an epidemic among young people who have an aversion to hard work. The problem is not with the young people, but with the people who enable and accept that behavior. If you serve the flesh, the flesh will grow. It does not serve our children or Christian brothers and sisters to enable their laziness. Paul warns the Thessalonians how to handle idleness,

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-15)

We are obligated to warn people of the dangers of idleness and if necessary allow them to experience the consequences of laziness.

The world may tolerate sloth, but Christ does not. Sluggards do not love the community, but love themselves. Those who love themselves do not love God and are in danger. It is not loving ignore laziness, but we most admonish the idle.

The Gospel at Work
    
        Beloved, God has redeemed our work through the gospel. Who we work for is far more important than what we do. We serve King Jesus through our work. We should approach our work as way to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. We should allow God to use our work to sanctify us and to serve our neighbors. We should approach our jobs not as a means to an end, but as an expression of our Christian discipleship for the glory of God. Paul tells Titus that Jesus Christ, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) Jesus Christ laid down his life so that we could work diligently for his glory. God’s people should care about their jobs. Our jobs matter to God. He died and rose again to purify us to work to display God’s glory. Our work does not save us, but is a sign of God’s grace in our lives. God allows us to work so let us work for good of our neighbors and the glory of God.




image credit - http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://satravelblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Festive-Fridays.jpg&imgrefurl=http://satravelblog.com/melt-your-stress-away-with-festive-fridays-at-ruimsig/&h=2808&w=4212&tbnid=euYCnCY9rojxzM:&zoom=1&docid=CWNd_gQZijjbvM&ei=ld5YVdrsE4jzggTCpYDgDA&tbm=isch&ved=0CDgQMygGMAY
http://apologetics.servantsofgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/TheologyofWork.jpg
http://www.watermark.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Diligence.jpg
https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTQvsb2SAiFwyKWV0rLdMfRIy2OHAqkhAARhP858iQl8yuV0uoL