The Value of Labor – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Work Is A Gift From God

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Subtle Satisfaction

Labor was never intended to be loathsome.  It was intended by God to be something else.  Work was to be so wonderful that people would want to do it all the time.  Work was originally intended to be so joyful that it was its own reward.  The fall of man changed all of that.

Rather than joy, work became difficult and drudgery.  Thorns and briers would pollute the ground, and weeds would choke the good plants out.  Man would labor in great difficulty for that which he planted.  Moving forward in time, we now have technological advances that set the pace for our work, which is at breakneck speed.  Slow down for a mere second, and management will replace you for someone younger and a little faster, to shave a penny off their costs every hour.

And even if you become an entrepreneur, manufacturing amazing and innovative products, online shopping markets like alibaba dot com will house counterfeits of your work, being advertised with your own website’s photos and descriptions, at a fraction of the price, reaping the benefit of your hard work, sweat, and intellectual capital for pennies on the dollar, putting you out of business.

Gift of God

But work was meant as a gift from God!  For the righteous, work was meant as its own reward.  A person could see the fruit of their labor at the end of the day, and rejoice that God had given them the intellectual ability, resources, and physical skill to do the work that they were doing.

God intended work to be so pleasurable, that He added a commandment in Exodus 20 to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.  The idea was that people would enjoy work SO much, and the reward that comes with it, that they would forget that the Lord their God gave them the ability, means, and desire to work.

Wonderful Wealth

In yielding to God’s will and laboring with their hands, not working as unto men but as unto the Lord, God grants us knowledge, wisdom, and happiness.  The person laboring will be tired at the end of the day, but knowing that what they did was meaningful, had purpose, and was important.

Loathsome Labor

But for the sinner, labor takes on a different hue.  The sinner, unwilling to acknowledge God as provider and overseer of their work, labors to gain as much as possible so that they can have some measure of “safety”.  The sinner works their fingers to the bone, does whatever they can to get as much as they can to hedge against bad times, and places their trust in the work of the hands rather than the One who gave them hands.

They labor in vain, gathering and storing as much wealth and material possessions as possible, no taking into account that when God demands their very life, that the endless toil of their hands will pass on to someone else, who may squander it or use it in ways that the person who worked so hard to obtain it would find objectionable.   Work then becomes drudgery, misery, and a central focus of all time and energy, for who knows when the bad times will occur?

Meaningless Maneuvering

Work without God at the center of it is meaningless.  It has not real purpose, no real value, and no real reward.  For even if evil people come and steal it away from you, either illegally, or through lawful methods, when God is at the center of it, the person is secure in their knowledge that justice will be done.

When work is undertaken without God at the center, only grief, heartache, and disaster will occur.  Even if the person finds the labor of love, it will only provide happiness for so long, for God has placed in the hearts of men and women the desire to be in relationship with Him.  And no amount of work, success, money, or power will fill that God-placed desire.

It is for this reason that those who are so successful and don’t know God are so prone to depression and suicide.  Culture teaches them that they will find fulfillment in self-actualization.  Fulfillment, however, only comes when a person embraces a relationship with their Creator.  False advertising destroys the hope of people, pushing them to greater heights of intensity at work, only to find that they have no real peace.  And so the cycle continues…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I view labor in the same way that God does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the ability to use my mind and body to honor and glorify You.  Help me to adopt the same attitude towards work that Your holy word reveals to me that it should be.  Help me to enjoy the fruit of my labor in that I labor for You and You alone.  Help me to be content in that, even and especially when evil people and difficult circumstances strip me of the fruit of my labor.  Guard my heart against bitterness, and help me to be content in whatever You allow in my life.  Give me strength to overcome the difficulties that I find myself in today.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship and God – Ephesians 4:28

It Is Not Only Important HOW You Make Wealth, But Also What You DO With It

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Stop Stealing

Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the Earth (with the exception of Jesus Christ), provided some insight into work:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Solomon understood that there was more to life than merely acquiring wealth.  Security and prosperity come from the Lord, and not from our own endeavors.  When we take on the responsibility for trying to obtain what we believe is needed in order to live, we end up wasting our lives in vain by spending inordinate amounts of time and energy in pursuit of money and possessions that inevitably end up in the hands of others.

God has given us a Commandment to obtain our wealth through His proscribed ways:

You shall not steal

When we steal, we are coveting that which God has not directly nor indirectly provided to us.  It is a violation of His law of conduct between a person and society, as well as that person and God.  When we steal from others, it deprives them of what God has permitted them to obtain through their endeavors, whether legally or illegally.  Secondly, it says that we do not trust God to provide for us in our time of need.  Finally, it indicates that not only are we not content with what God has provided for us, but that we have greed and covetousness in our hearts.

It is better to be poor with integrity than to be rich and a fool.

Work for Wealth

Work expresses itself differently in everyone’s lives.  In this case, Paul indicates that we should all be doing something with our hands to generate wealth.  This is not a call to manual labor per se, but rather a call to use the gifts and talents that God has provided each and every one of us with in order to both do something that is legal (both in terms of man’s law AND God’s law) and that is desired by other people who are willing to trade either money, labor, or goods in exchange.

If you do not know what specific special skills God has provided to you for His glory and your monetary enrichment, seek the Lord in prayer and fasting for the answer.  Then, when God provides the insight, set your mind towards the goal of honoring and glorifying His name in that venue, giving all glory to God who has provided You with both the skill and opportunity.  Placing God first in this will surely honor and glorify His name, regardless the outcome.  And your dedication will be noticed by others who are in the position to promote you and use the abilities that you have been given for greater use and economic enrichment.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Saving and Spending

There are only four things that you can do with money:

  • Spend it
  • Save it
  • Invest it
  • Give it away

In each of these, there is value.  Paul shows us here that there is value in giving some of it away.  God provides to us, and we should share as God places it upon our hearts with those who are encountering difficulty.  And while wisdom and discernment should be used when giving to others, we should give to others.

Those who live by thievery do so from self-serving motives – whether it is the thought of self-preservation (food, shelter, clothing) or greed and covetousness, it reveals where our hearts are.  Paul encourages those who now obtain their wealth through work to not only think about themselves, but also those who need assistance.

We are told many times in Scripture to help widows and orphans.  In the time when Scripture was written, those were the two most vulnerable segments of humanity within society.  Widows had no protection of a husband, and orphans had no family with which to provide them with basic necessities, guidance, skills, and resources for opportunity.

The opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves is a characteristic that God wishes to foster in each and every one of us.  And it is unnatural to one who has been rejected by society with no prospects of earning money to be compassionate towards others as they were starving or otherwise at the mercy of the physical rigors associated with homelessness.

Saving some of the wealth that we have earned is paramount to a measure of security.  And while we do not place our trust in the money that we have, from an emotional standpoint it is much easier to do our work when we don’t have to concern ourselves with the thought that we will be unable to meet our financial obligations as we frugally seek to stay away from debt.

Sharing and Shaping

In order to share with others, we must first have something to share.  This is a secondary benefit of dedicating part of what we have earned (and what has not be confiscated by our government in taxes for their continued efforts).  Good stewardship reveals itself in how we conduct ourselves and our finances.  Setting aside “for a rainy day” is one of them. Setting aside for the betterment of others less fortunate is another.

Additionally, it develops within us the ability to control our desires.  When we say “NO!” to the voice in our heads that tell us that we need something right now, we are better able to say “NO!” when something truly important occurs in our lives that requires us to have self-control.

A good rule of thumb to use when you believe that you absolutely, positively, MUST have something RIGHT NOW is to ask yourself some questions:

  • Will I or someone else be severely impacted in my/their physical well-being if I do not purchase this right now?
  • Is this something that I absolutely need (as opposed to something that I want)?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, you may need to purchase it.  Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I live without this (forever)?
  • Can I live without this for at least a week?
  • Will I be financially indebted or exposed to financial ruination if I choose to purchase this right now?

If the answer to all of these questions are “No’, then you probably need to purchase it right now.

If your heart is still set on purchasing something that you want and do not need, then give your emotions a hiatus.  Place purchasing the item on probation for a period of time, perhaps a month, or if very expensive, six months.  You may find that after a period of time, your desire for what you want to buy may change.  And if it is something that you really desire, you will be in a better place emotionally to get it at the best price possible.  Advertising and sales try to emotionally involve you in your purchasing decisions.  “90% off offer only today!” is very enticing not only from the perspective of getting a bargain but also from the knowledge that you will have it immediately.

The principle here is self-control over our desires.  Each of us should develop this so that we can better react to the triggers that we face when in the world – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  When we can get these things under the control of the Holy Spirit, we are in a much better place to be trusted with additional resources by God for His glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to exert self-control when presented with the opportunity to be immediately gratified?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised, for You show such great self-control especially given the grievous nature of my sin.  You patiently wait for me to repent, and lavish your grace and mercy upon me.  You provide for my every need, and even some of my desires.  Help me, Father, to learn the self-control that will help me to be more useful in Your kingdom.  Keep my heart from worldly desires, and help me to fix my eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful gaze.  Remember me in my weakness, for when I am weak, You are strong.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?