Sunday, November 13, 2016
A company president was addressing her employees: I know you’ve all heard that we’re going to be automated, and you’re worried that these robots will take over your jobs. Well, I’m happy to tell you that not only will no one be laid off, but you will only be required to come to work one day a week for a full week’s pay. That’s right, you’ll only have to work on Wednesdays but you’ll still receive your full salary! And then a voice piped up from the back of the room asking, do you mean EVERY Wednesday? I realize that not everyone loves their work. A study asked personnel directors around the country: What is the most unusual thing to happen during a job interview? Here are some responses to that question:
Applicant offered, if hired, to have the company’s logo tattooed on his arm.
Applicant interrupted interview to telephone his analyst to talk over the answer to a question.
A balding candidate excused himself abruptly and returned a few minutes later wearing a hairpiece.
An applicant challenged the interviewer to arm wrestle.
I don’t think these applicants really, wanted to work. I realize attitudes towards work are changing. And we all know that work is part of God’s plan. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle. A few verses later he adds, we hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They’re not busy; they’re busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Surely he’s not talking about anybody in our church, especially that they’re not busy; they’re busybodies. That’s another sermon for another day. Today we want to focus on the virtue of work. Most all of us must work.
One man asked his best friend why he didn’t go to work. He asked if he were afraid of work? No, I’m not afraid of work at all. In fact, I can lay right down beside it and go to sleep. One worker went as far as saying, I don’t want to die doing something I love. I want to die doing something I hate. That way I don’t have to finish it.
Most of us must work. Of course, some of us have jobs that we genuinely enjoy. When you consider that we’ll spend nearly half our waking hours working, it’s a real blessing when we’re doing something we enjoy. I know you’ve all heard this: Find a job that you really love, and you’ll never work another day in your life. And there’s some truth in that. Some people are accused of being workaholics. The truth is that they truly love what they do and would rather be doing their so-called work than about anything else in the world.
Baseball great Willie Stargell was asked how he kept his enthusiasm for the game of baseball. Stargell answered that he enjoyed his job. Have you ever heard the umpire start a game by saying, Work ball? Of course not, they always say, `Play ball,’ and that’s exactly what they mean.
You and I are not major league ball players. Most of us have to be workers, not players. And yet, some of us have jobs that we genuinely enjoy. Others of us are not as fortunate.
I was reading about a young mother who was a full-time homemaker. She loved being a mom, but she was exhausted by some of the responsibilities. She was having difficulty managing a 3-year-old, a 1½ year old and a new born. Her husband came home one day to find five dozen diapers hanging on a line in the back yard. He said sympathetically, I saw all the white flags in the backyard. I take it that you’ve surrendered.
There are times when many of us, no matter how fulfilling our role in life, may be tempted to surrender. Some of us have occupations that are filled with drudgery with few rewards. Yet most of us understand that work is important in our lives even beyond the financial necessity.
For many of us work is essential to our self-esteem. We know that this is not a healthy way of looking at life, but for many of us, work gives us our identity.
During World War II industrialist Henry J. Kaiser was brought to Washington, D.C. to testify concerning his ship building activities. He had claimed to be able to build a ship a day. He was being cross-examined by a somewhat hostile young lawyer who said, so you think you can build a ship a day. You know Rome wasn’t built in a day. Henry looked the young lawyer squarely in the eye and answered, I wasn’t there. Do you think that Henry found fulfillment in his work? Of course, he did. It was an extension of his personality.
Work is important to our self-esteem. That’s one reason we need to help young men and women find jobs. Work helps give us a sense of identity. Work is important to our sense of personal dignity.
Work is also related to our sense of satisfaction about life. Two American prisoners were interviewed. The biggest complaint one of them had was that he wasn’t allowed to do any work. His captors knew that boredom is deadly to morale. And that’s true. There aren’t many of us who can handle days when we can’t find something constructive to occupy our time.
It’s said that Nero instigated the burning of Rome because of boredom. Alexander the Great cried because he had no more worlds to conquer. The saying, an idle brain is the devil’s playground, has more truth than we might imagine.
There’s a story about a wealthy man in Mexico who would buy two tangerines every day from a woman who operated a tangerine stand near his house. One morning he told her that he wanted to buy her entire stock of tangerines for a party he was giving that evening. She refused to sell him more than his customary two tangerines. But why? he asked. She answered, if I sold you all of my tangerines, what would I do the rest of the day? Our work is related to our general satisfaction with life.
Most of us understand that work is vital to our lives beyond the financial compensation that it affords. What we may not see, however, is that there’s a spiritual purpose for work as well. Perhaps our enthusiasm for our work would increase if we understood the place work has in the Christian life. Let me list very briefly three spiritual truths concerning work.
Work, allows us to partner with God in providing for the world’s needs. Some people think work is a curse that God put on human beings after the fall in the Garden of Eden. The Genesis story show us that from the beginning it was God’s intention that Adam should tend the garden. It was Adam’s attitude toward work that changed after his fall from grace.
A visitor in a coal mine stopped one of the miners and told him how sorry he was that he spent his time down in those dark tunnels mining coal. The miner picked up a piece of coal and said, I don’t think you understand. This isn’t just a lump of coal. This is light and heat and power. It lights a city, it warms a home or runs a train. I’m not just a miner for the company. I’m helping people I don’t even know have a better way of life.
Because of the initiative for clean energy, many miners are losing their jobs. But the principle hasn’t changed. If you feel like your work is making a difference in the world, it gives you real satisfaction. If you can see a purpose higher than a pay check, it can improve your attitude toward your work. You’re helping produce a product that will improve the quality of people’s lives. You’re helping to keep a city running.
I know that it can sometimes seem that we’re just a cog in a great machine, but what if your job wasn’t done? Would society be able to function without it? Most of us can find a purpose for what we do if we try. If we can’t, maybe we’re in the wrong place. Work allows us, to partner with God in providing for the world’s needs. Our work is one way that we can give something back. Our work is one way in which we can participate in God’s plan for the world.
There’s another thing to be said. If it’s true that work is part of God’s plan in providing for the world’s needs and that we’re part of that plan, doesn’t that mean that in all our work, as well as in everything else we do, we should strive for excellence?
If our work isn’t just for ourselves but also for God, shouldn’t we strive to give our best? There’s an old Hebrew saying that God is more delighted in adverbs than nouns. That is, it doesn’t matter so much what is done as how it’s done. Not how much, as much as, how well.
Aspiring to excellence in service to God is part of our faith heritage. God didn’t create the heavens and the earth and say, it’s good enough. Rather, Genesis says, God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Throughout Scripture, people offer their best and highest because God has given the best and highest.
Many years ago, the London Times had problems with their typesetters. Too many mistakes were being made in setting type for their daily editions. The editors thought about how to correct this troubling situation. Finally, they gathered the workers together and announced that from now on the first copy of every edition would be sent free to Buckingham Palace for the king and queen to read.
You and I need to have that feeling about our lives, not as an added burden, not out of fear, but as a joyful response to the truth: that the King of kings notices our work and responds, well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Work is part of the plan of God. Work is essential not only to our financial well-being but also to our sense of self-esteem, our feeling of satisfaction with life in general, and as therapy in times of great distress. Our work allows us to be partners with God in providing the world’s needs. It’s important then that we enthusiastically give our best, whatever our task may be.
I realize that in our fast-changing world more and more people, particularly young people, are having difficulty finding work that’ll pay them a living wage. Hang in there. Be aware of God’s presence in your life as you look for work. God wants you to be in a place where you can spread His love to others as well as provide for your material needs. Don’t give up. There’s a place for you. Keep looking.
As part of the plan of God, all work is a ministry, a mission, a sacred endeavor. Each of us want to hear those words, “well-done good and faithful servant” not because we earn God’s favor, but because He has honored us so highly by giving us a part in His kingdom. We then hear Paul’s words with joy, as for you brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.