work

An Exemplary Love

On June 28, 1919 Harry married Bess. Harry and Bess attended school together from elementary to high school, but Harry claimed he fell in love with her when he was 6 years old in a Sunday School class in Independence, MO. Sadly, Bess spurned his advances throughout school. It wasn’t until a “chance” encounter when Harry returned a dish for his aunt to her neighbor and Bess opened the door that their romance began. Their relationship of love grew for one another and after Harry’s service in the war, they married and would spend 53 years together as husband and wife. During their courtship and marriage, Harry wrote 1,300 letters to his beloved Bess almost every night he spent away from her[1]. Harry loved Bess. And Harry was a very busy man, as he was the 33rd President of the United States of America. Harry Truman wrote to his beloved Bess during times of campaigning, diplomacy and war.

            On June 28, 1948 on their 29th Anniversary, Harry was in Washington and wrote to Bess in Independence, “You still are on the pedestal where I placed you that day in Sunday school 1890. What an old fool I am.[2]” Harry Truman did not need to be told how to love his wife, for it was clear to everyone around him that he loved his Bess. There are 1,300 letters documenting various ways he expressed his love to his wife. His love was undeniable. Could the same be said about our love? Is our love undeniable?

            Love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian. If a person does not love, then they do not know God. The Apostle John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8). Love is the undeniable mark of the Christian faith. Therefore love should be the undeniable mark of the Church. Are we known for our love? Is the love in our congregation undeniable to those inside and outside our congregation?

            The Thessalonians were known for their love. If we want to become an exemplary church then we must have a love that is undeniable to others. In our text, we will see one theological aspect of an undeniable love. Then, we will focus on three specific applications on what that love will look like to those around us.

Powerful Love of Others

            Paul is closing the letter with specific exhortations to the church. He begins the final section of the letter with highlighting the importance of sexual purity. The church must have a different sexual ethic than the world. Remember the church would have been full of young believers since it was only a few months old and those young believers would need to be taught and re-taught on how to live for Christ. After addressing sexual purity, Paul makes a sharp transition to address brotherly love. 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.” The Thessalonians had been taught by God to love one another.

            The first theological truth is that true love is supernatural. It is a gift from God. We cannot love without God powerfully changing our hearts. In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We were born sinners, born in the flesh with a heart against God. Our natural desires were to serve ourselves. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:3 says that we “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” The fact that the Thessalonians love each other like a family was a demonstration of the power of God, because of the total depravity of the human heart.

            If we understand how sinful our human hearts can be, we will be amazed at the power of God’s regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. R.C. Sproul helps us understand the difference between total depravity and utter depravity. He writes,

The Bible teaches the total depravity of the human race. Total depravity means radical corruption. We must be careful to note the difference between total depravity and "utter" depravity. To be utterly depraved is to be as wicked as one could possibly be. Hitler was extremely depraved, but he could have been worse than he was. I am sinner. Yet I could sin more often and more severely than I actually do. I am not utterly depraved, but I am totally depraved. Total depravity means that I and everyone else are
depraved or corrupt in the totality of our being. There is no part of us that is left untouched by sin. Our minds, our wills, and our bodies are affected by evil. We speak sinful words, do sinful deeds, have impure thoughts. Our very bodies suffer from the ravages of sin.

Perhaps "radical corruption" is a better term to describe our fallen condition than "total depravity." I am using the word "radical" not so much to mean "extreme," but to lean more heavily on its original meaning. "Radical" comes from the Latin word for "root" or "core." Our problem with sin is that it is rooted in the core of our being. It permeates our hearts. It is because sin is at our core and not merely at the exterior of our lives that the Bible says: "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." Romans 3:10-12[3]

We are sinful to the core which is why we need conversion. We need God to teach us how to love for this is exactly what he did with the Thessalonians.

            If you are not a loving person, it may be because you have never experienced the new birth. Churches may not be full of love, because they may be full of people who have not experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in conversion. Conversion is not a mere modification of behavior, but a radical transformation of the heart. Our passions change. Our desire change. Our very core changes. We no longer are set against God, but are brought into his family. We are changed from enemies to sons and daughters adopted by his grace. We must repent of our sins and trust in Christ. And when we turn from our sins, we are transformed from the inside out.

We even see that in how Paul defines love in saying, “now concerning brotherly love,” he is redefining how we are called to treat one another. We are a family. A family of people who have been born of God whose hearts have been transformed to love another. We are taught by God to love. It is supernatural. One sign of this supernatural love is how we treat all the brothers. The Thessalonians were loving all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Jesus says,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

Do you love all? One of the marks of an exemplary church is when people love those who are not like them. When the rich love the poor and the young love the old, and the singles love the married, and black loves white. An exemplary church is full of undeniable love for all the brothers.

            So the first theological aspect of love is that it comes from God. We must be born again. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” If you want to love, you must believe in Jesus Christ who died for sinners. He died and rose again so that for whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. The first step of love is conversion. We love, because God first loved us.

Peaceful Love of Others

            There is always room to grow in our love for one another. The Thessalonians had an undeniable love, but are told to continue in that love. 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11, “But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs.” Christians are called to aspire to live quietly. This is a very interesting phrasing by Paul because he puts to opposite ideas together. We are to aspire or work eagerly to live quietly and at peace. They seem at odds, but Paul’s focus is that the church would live in such a way to make the gospel attractive. Although we could make an application from verse 11 to the church, I think the primary focus is how the church interacts with the world.

            Christianity had a bad reputation in the first century. The Jews were constantly bringing rumors before the Romans that Christians were stirring up trouble and causing dissension in society. Paul wanted Christians to strive to be at peace and lead a quiet life so they would be able to draw more attention to the gospel. Christians are called to engage in our society and live as good citizens so that we give a good witness to the world. Christians are not primarily called to transform the culture, but to be a different culture. The greatest impact that Christians will have on the world will be through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We, therefore, have to be very careful in how we engage with our culture. We are called to promote justice and truth in every area of life, but we do so with wisdom and grace. We must live well before our culture, meaning we must strive to be at peace within our neighbors so that people will listen to our message.

            Who do you think will have a great impact in their workplace for the gospel: the employee who is constantly challenging his boss to change their business practices or the one who faithfully does their job without grumbling? I believe Christians should focus much more on being good and faithful employees than working to transform their work culture because I believe the best way to transform their work environment is by being a faithful employee. Christians do not have a great reputation in our culture. We need to be wise in how we interact with others so that the gospel will be attractive. The main goal of Christians is not social revolution, but to adorn the gospel and draw people to Jesus Christ. It does not mean we should not care about society, but rather societal transformation should not be the main goal.

            The second exhortation Paul gives to the church is to mind their own affairs, or mind your own business. We should be focused on what we are called to do rather than focusing on what we think others should or should not be doing. We do not know exactly the context in which Paul gives this exhortation. It could be a general statement or referring to something specific going on in the community that he knows about from Timothy’s report. Either way, Christians are called to love others by keeping their own affairs in order without meddling into other people’s problems. We should avoid gossip and talking poorly of our brothers and sisters. The best way to enter into the affairs of our brothers and sisters is through prayer. Let us first bring our brother and sister’s needs before the Lord.

            As our culture continues to evolve and drift away from traditional Christian values, it will become even more important that Christians are careful in how we interact with the world around us. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. How should Paul’s exhortation to aspire to live a quiet life and to mind our own affairs govern our cultural involvement? We should think about the various applications of these twin truths for our jobs, our neighborhoods, and our politics. An exemplary church should be known primarily for their love for Jesus, one another and the lost rather than their love for political or social change.

Productive Love of Others

            Paul gives one more exhortation for the church to “work with their hands, as we instructed you.” There were some of the Thessalonian believers who had a heightened eschatology. They believed that the Lord was going to return very soon so they stopped working and were depending on the welfare of other Christians in the church. They were idle.  We read in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12,

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 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.

Everyone was responsible to work to care for themselves and to contribute to the needs of the church. Those who were not willing to work (not those who can’t find work) needed to be admonished to get busy.

            Greek culture degraded manual labor thinking it was only fitting for slaves. Christians viewed manual labor as an honorable pursuit. Many Christians probably were slaves and were exhorted to work hard for their master and the sake of the gospel (Titus 2:9-10). Many Christians have adopted the Greek culture’s perspective of manual labor, viewing it as a degrading task, but working with ones hands is a noble undertaking. We should not avoid hard work, but rejoice in the gift of work. 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.”

            Love should be expressed in being productive for the sake others. Lazy and idle people are not loving others. Proverbs 18:9, “Whoever is slack in his work, is a brother to him who destroys.” There were some among the Thessalonians who were depending on the labor of others and not contributing to the needs of the community. Love for others is an undeniable mark of a Christian, so one’s willingness to work and serve others is an indication of that love. One’s lack of work is an indication of their lack of love. This is not referring to those who can’t work because of physical disability. It is referring to those who have the ability, but choose to remain idle.

Proper Love of Others

            Paul provides the purpose for these expressions of love. The theological principle is that Christians love because God has taught them to love by the Holy Spirit. Those who are born of God love others. He gives three specific expressions of that love to aspire to live a quiet life, to mind your own affairs and to work with your hands. Then he gives the purpose for those expressions in 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

            There is a direct link in how the church lives to how it is viewed by society. Paul cared about outsiders. Paul gave his life so that others would come to faith in Christ. He was beaten, stoned, and suffered a lack of food so that non-believers would come to Christ. Christians have a mission. We are called to go and make disciples of all nations. We want the world to come to Christ and one of the best ways for us to make an impact in the world is to be an exemplary church. When the church is full of love,  the world will know what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world will know us by our love. It is that simple.

            And yet we have to know what love is. Love is aspiring to live a quiet life and to mind our own affairs and to work with our hands so that outsiders will see their need for the gospel. A church should have a love that is undeniable so that those on the outside of the community will realize what they are lacking and be attracted to the gospel. Jesus Christ has taught us to love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

            Let me close with a story that illustrates this principle from someone’s personal experience. Jason Helopolous writes about how the Lord used the “strange love” of the church to draw him to Christ:

As a freshman college student and self-declared atheist, I attended a campus Christian fellowship to fulfill a promise to a Christian friend. I only had the intention to go once. It was merely duty and upholding my word, nothing more. I went begrudgingly, but I went. My life was never the same.

I walked into a room full of Christians and was struck by what I observed. Here was a diverse group. They were from every walk of life. I remember scanning the room and labeling people in my mind, “There is a jock, over there is a geek, and walking in the door is a boy scout.” But what struck me was that they were together. They weren’t just together in the same room, they were together in every sense of the word. They were actually talking with each other and genuinely seemed happy to be together. There didn’t seem to be division. Even in my atheist mind, I knew what I was seeing: they loved one another.

I had no categories for this, so I kept returning to find out why they had love like this for one another. Over the course of a few months I found the answer, or more accurately stated, the answer found me. One of the best evangelism programs you can start at your church is to pursue loving one another well. At some point they will have to hear the gospel proclaimed from your lips or the pulpit, but that “strange love” will set the table before them. People will know that you are His disciples, because it is a shocking love. It has a gravitational attraction, because it is a love that is foreign to this world. A love that the inquirer, if seeking an answer, will find comes from heaven[4].

Beloved, God has given us a mission to make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  God will use the undeniable love of a local church to draw people to Christ. Beloved, let us be a church that lives out a faithful gospel witness in word and deed.  

 

 

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/history/harry-trumans-adorable-love-list-to-his-wife-bess-15753530/ accessed on 10.10.2015

[2] http://www.archives.gov/calendar/features/2004/02.html accessed 10.10.2015

[3] http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul/depravity.html accessed 10.11.15

[4] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/01/31/simple-evangelism-in-the-church/ accessed on 2.6.14

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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