In Praise of Work

We live in economic times that are hard in some ways. They are not as hard as The Great Depression, but nearly ten percent of people who are eligible for work do not have jobs. Hundreds of thousands if not several million houses have been foreclosed. Retirements have been lost and savings wiped out. In addition to those who are officially unemployed, there is some number of people who are under-employed. The under-employed have jobs, but the work they do is far below what they are qualified for and capable of doing. Let us begin this discussion by admitting that there are many innocent victims out there. These are people who have lost jobs through no mistakes of their own. Some--perhaps many--of the jobs that have gone away, apparently permanently, were held by people who were making little to no difference at what they did. The downturn in the economy gave their employers reasons to close their positions because the employers knew that the people in them were not making a difference. Part of the reason for the economic malaise that now exists is that not enough people are doing work that produces anything or makes any real difference.


The Bible speaks to lazy attitudes. Gen 2:15 "And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Some today would look at that passage and say that God was already punishing man before the first sin had occurred because God expected man to work. Work is not punishment. It is not demeaning to man for God to expect mankind to work and to be productive while he is upon the earth. In Proverbs 6: 6-11, God said "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no chief, Overseer, or ruler, Provideth her bread in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as a robber, And thy want as an armed man." Bad things happen to people who won't work! Each of us must be productive if we are to justify our stay upon the Earth. Proverbs 10:26 "As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, So is the sluggard to them that send him." Lazy people are a bother to the busy ones around them. Laziness can be contagious to others--therefore employers do not want to hire people who are lazy.


The essence of laziness is selfishnessness. Selfishness is the putting of self first. There are some people who somehow think that they are too good to work. So many people seem to think that the world owes them a living. We went through a period of this in the 1970s when the welfare rolls became swelled with people. Thankfully we mustered the political will to put people in our government who would wean most of the freeloaders off of the public dole. But today we have people who think that they cannot get their hands dirty. There are others who seem to think that the only kind of work they should ever have to do would be supervisory, administrative, artistic, or political. We have people in public office, some of them in very high offices, who have never experienced manual labor of any kind and who do not respect honest toil. In fact some people disrespect folks who work hard at honest toil and are careful stewards of their money.


When Jesus wanted to typify the kind of person that would not be going to Heaven, he talked about the wicked and slothful servant. Matthew 25: 14-30 describes the three men with the talents. The one-talent man who was lazy took three times as many words to tell his master about what he had not done as the five-talent or the two-talent man who had produced 100 percent with what they had. "Wicked and slothful" were the words Jesus will say to the lazy man in the last day. Laziness is not a Godly attitude.


What is the life of the lazy person like? Pro 24:30-34 " I went by the field of the sluggard, And by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, The face thereof was covered with nettles, And the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I beheld, and considered well; I saw, and received instruction: Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep; So shall thy poverty come as a robber, And thy want as an armed man." I did not know it when I was growing up--in fact I would only make the connections in 2009 as I was researching and writing a family history--but I grew up in a family whose extended history bore out the truth of this proverb. The Womacks of Jones County, Texas, were once fairly wealthy. Over the space of two of the past eleven generations, they lost that wealth and I was born into a family of poverty. Things are much better with me in my generation because I learned the value and usefulness of work and because I was taught the value of education. If I had not been willing to change from the ongoing direction of my ancestors, truly poverty would have come upon me as a robber and want as an armed man. My family and I might well be living under a bridge today if there hadn't been a change.


The church at Thessalonica in the New Testament had run into some problems with laziness and slothfulness. The possible second coming of the Lord had become an excuse for not holding down a job and not working. It finally got so bad that Paul told them "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you: not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you, that ye should imitate us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing. And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." 2 Thessalonians 3: 6- 15.


In the same passage that in the New Testament speaks so powerfully of the grace of God, the inspired apostle Paul said "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2: 10. From Adam onward, God has always wanted man to be engaged in work of some kind. For those of retirement age, it may not be the paycheck-work that they once did. It may be spiritual work. It is through work that man self-actualizes, that he experiences the fulfillment of his purpose for being here on earth. "And be ye not weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6: 9.

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