Wisdom literature

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.

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” 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.

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” 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

Our God Reigns

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD. (Proverbs 21:30)

Beloved,

      On June 28, 2015, Time Magazine published an article by Mark Oppenheimer stating that in light of the recent Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage it is time to end tax-exempt status for churches. And Oppenheimer is not alone. There has been a loud cry throughout our nation for the church to “get in line” with the new American ideology or face continued scrutiny and persecution.

      The end of tax-exempt status would cripple many churches that would suffer in their budgets and may lose their building due to failure to pay property tax. The wisdom of the age continues to grow aggressively against religious liberty calling for a new tolerance where people must accept all ideologies as equal. The world’s wisdom will only continue to assault the church, but we shall not fear.

      There is no wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel that can avail against the Lord. There is nothing that can thwart the plans of the Lord. The church does not need tax-exempt status to survive. The church does not need public acceptance to survive. Jesus Christ will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We should not fear, but trust how God is going to use our current political climate for his glory. We,

Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Our country may take away certain freedoms, but it cannot take away our hope. Our hope will never put us to shame. Our hope will never disappoint.


      Let us take heart to know that church will not fail. The gospel will never be thwarted. Many believed Jesus failed as he gave up his spirit and breathed his last that dark day on Calvary’s cross, but God vindicated his Son through the resurrection from the dead. Jesus was, is and will always be victorious. No worldly wisdom, no worldly counsel, and no worldly understanding can stand against the Lord. Take hope our God reigns.

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.




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