September 2008

So that was the summer. Didn’t last long, did it? How was your holiday?

We had a great time as a family in our ‘canvas country residence’ on the Atlantic Coast of France. Don’t worry, I’m not about to promote the merits of the camping holiday. I thought I’d think about work. No really! Most of us have started back at our place of employment and I suspect that we’re feeling cheesed off with that state of affairs. Of course, some of us never really stopped working because our work is our family. And so, even on holiday, we carried on working because presumably we took them along with us!

I don’t wish to be irritating, but I’ve got a renewed appetite for work fuelled by my recent studies of the subject for the CCB Autumn Bible School. I thought I’d share the fruits of my labours in the hope that you might enter the workplace this September with a spring in your step!

Let me give you four motives for your work.

1. We work so that we don’t scrounge from others (2 Thessalonians 3:7&8)

When he was in Thessalonica Paul worked hard as a tent maker so that he wouldn’t be a burden to the church. If he was to survive then either he needed to work or someone else needed to work to support him. He wanted them to receive the gospel from him rather than him receive support from them. Love demands that we don’t sponge off others. Where possible we should avoid being dependent on anyone else. We’re to work so that we can survive and provide the food, clothing and shelter that we need. On the whole, if we’re not prepared to work then we shouldn’t expect to have any of those things. So when we work we’re making sure that we’re not being a free-loader.

2. We work so that we can serve the community (Galatians 6:9&10)

As Christians, God calls us to do good to everyone. And so, we should serve the local community and not just the church community. Sure, we’re especially concerned to look after our Christian brothers and sisters but we’re not to be exclusively concerned for their welfare. God expects us to love our unbelieving neighbours. And so we ought to find a job where we can make a contribution to the common good. The odds are that we already have one but we might not have worked out how it fits into the bigger picture. It’s worth doing. How does your job make the community a more habitable and enjoyable place to live?

3. We work so that we can support our families (1 Timothy 5:3&4)

God reckons that families and not principally the state ought to be caring for one another. I guess that most unpaid work comes under this heading. For those of us that are stay at home Mums this attaches great importance to our work. It may be doing our heads in, but as we nurture and discipline our awkward toddler or we change yet another dirty nappy we’re bringing pleasure to the Lord because we’re doing what He’d have us do. We’re looking after our families. One of the things that struck me is that God’s creative work was unpaid. And whilst we may think there’s a strong correlation between the significance of someone’s work and the financial value that’s attached to it, God doesn’t agree. The free market isn’t always right! God was an unpaid volunteer craftsman and yet you’d be hard pressed to think of a more skilful and valuable work than God’s efforts in the creation of the universe!

4. We work so that we can share with the needy (Ephesians 4:28)

Instead of stealing, the thief is told to put his hands to good use so that he can have something to share with others. Our work therefore, is an opportunity to be generous to others. Whatever our views about the size and role of the Government, the principle of taxation is a right one. One way of looking at taxes is that the Government is ensuring that we fulfil God’s requirement to share with the needy! Does that help? We’re supposed to be working so that we can either earn something or produce something so that we can be generous and contribute to those who need our assistance.

Conclusion

Of course, I’ve said nothing about God’s role as a worker in which He dignifies work. I haven’t said anything about our role as God’s representatives trying to bring order out of chaos. Nor have I said anything about the frustration brought to our work by the effects of God’s condemnation on our sin. You’ll get that if you come to the sessions. But for now, I just want you to appreciate the work that God has given you to do. I have no idea how you’re feeling about your workplace at the moment. But I hope once you start to think about these principles and apply them to your own job you might feel a lot more positive about what you spend over half your waking hours doing.

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