Posts tagged ‘Work’

The Sabbath: More Than Just a Day

Credit: Pixabay / Pexels.com

One of the interesting features of the creation account comes when God rests from His work on the seventh day:

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)

This is history’s first Sabbath day, practiced by God Himself. But this seventh day breaks a pattern that is found in days one through six. Each of these days are described as having “evening and morning”:

And there was evening, and there was morning the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

And there was evening, and there was morning the second day. (Genesis 1:8)

And there was evening, and there was morning the third day. (Genesis 1:13)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fourth day. (Genesis 1:19)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fifth day. (Genesis 1:23)

And there was evening, and there was morning the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

On the seventh day, however, there is no “evening and morning.” God simply rests.

Though there is no reason to believe that the seventh day is any different than any of the other six days per se, the break in the pattern seems to indicate that this day is special. There is something more to this day than just a day.

The preacher of Hebrews speaks of this first Sabbath when he says:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

The preacher of Hebrews seems to be picking up on the broken pattern for the first Sabbath day. Though it may have been just a day, there seems to be something about it that lingered, something about it that transcended evening and morning, something about it that, as the preacher of Hebrews puts it, “remained” right up to the present day.

When God set a pattern of work and rest, He was not just setting a pattern, He was making a promise – a promise that rest does not merely need to be confined to one day between one evening and one morning. This is what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day forgot. They became so obsessed with keeping the Sabbath day, they forgot that the Sabbath was not just meant to be a day, but a gift for anyone whenever they needed it. As Jesus puts it, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

These past fifteen months have been brutal and exhausting for many people. Summer officially began yesterday. My prayer is that you’ll take advantage of God’s gift of a Sabbath during this season of time off and fun. Get some rest with family and friends. The Sabbath is God’s gift to you. And it remains for you.

It’s a gift worth using.

June 21, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Every Day Can Be Christmas

Gerard_van_Honthorst_-_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_(1622)

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

The first Christmas was a work day.

These days, Christmas is one of the few days of the year widely marked by time off.  But for the first people to hear of Christ’s birth, Christmas day was not a holiday, but a normal day:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)

There was no glistening tree, no holiday feast, no gift exchange, no melodic carols, and no time off to be with family when an angel appeared to some shepherds that first Christmas night.  There was only another day at the office of the open field, with lots of sheep milling about.  The first Christmas was a work day.

The holiday of Christmas is, of course, precious.  I love to open gifts with my family and enjoy all the traditions and accoutrements that accompany this time of year.  But if the message of Christmas is kept within the boundaries of the actual holiday of Christmas, the truth of Christmas will be quickly lost.

The heart of the Christmas message is that God became human in the person of Jesus Christ.  He “took and flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  But Jesus did not become human to give us a holiday, as wonderful as that holiday may be, but to change our everyday.   This is why Jesus poured Himself into twelve men for three years.  This is why He healed the sick and fed the masses.  This is why He taught the curious and rebuffed the self-righteous.  He poured Himself into the everyday lives, struggles, and sins of people not to give them another holiday, but to show them that He was for and with them every day.

Assuming the traditional chronology of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is correct, I find it telling that the climax of Jesus’ work – His death and resurrection – occurred between holidays.  The Thursday night before Jesus died, He celebrated the high holy Jewish holiday of Passover with His disciples.  The Saturday Jesus was in the grave was the holiday of a Sabbath.  Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday.  He accomplished His mission not on important holidays, but during two common days.

The message of Christmas extends long beyond the holiday of Christmas, for the message of Christmas reminds us that Christ is with us not just during a day full of carols, decorations, presents, and food, but “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  So, as we celebrate Christmas today, let’s not forget why need Christmas tomorrow – and all year long.

December 25, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weary from Work

It’s that time of year again.  You know, the time of year when school begins, extracurricular activities increase, social events get scheduled, and work projects pile up.  This time of year is difficult and wearisome for many – from parents right down to their kids.  When the calendar fills up, it can be easy to throw your hands up in resignation.  How does one navigate the wiles of overwhelming obligations?

It must be understood that becoming weary from a sometimes heavy workload is simply part of living in a sinful, fallen, broken world.  This is why, after the first man Adam eats of the fruit of the tree of which God has warned, “You shall not eat” (cf. Genesis 2:16-17), God says to Adam:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

When sin enters the world, Adam’s work gets hard.  He must earn his wages by the sweat of his brown and be nicked and pricked by thorns and thistles.  And he cannot escape this.  He must simply deal with this.

So where, then, is the hope for those weary from work?  The hope is in Jesus.  There’s a reason Jesus contrasts His work with our work in the world by saying:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus says this because He knows whereas the brokenness of this world’s work can drain us, the glory of His work can fill us.  Jesus’ work on our behalf on the cross and our labor under His name for the sake of His Kingdom can bring contentment and joy like no other work can.

Finally, we can take comfort in the promise that the wearisome work of this world will not go on forever.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of a time when “instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow” (Isaiah 55:13).  Rather than the thorns and thistles of Genesis 3, Isaiah reminds us that in eternity we will enjoy lush pines and myrtles.  In other words, the pain of this world’s work will be wiped away in favor of work that bring joy, peace, and fulfillment.  Work lasts forever.  Wearying work, however, does not.

So if you feel overwrought by your work right now, take heart that you will one day feel overjoyed by serving God in glory.

September 2, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Harder Than A Hard Day’s Night

Christianity promotes and celebrates the value and the glory of work.  Indeed, the famed, even if sometimes maligned, “Protestant Work Ethic” has been instrumental in engendering much of the industriousness that has marked the history of this country.  From the faith’s earliest years, Christians have esteemed work and eschewed laziness.  The Didache, a manual of early Christian practice, doctrine, and discipline from the turn of the second century, lays down this rule for those who wish to join the Christian community:

Let every one that comes in the name of the Lord be received…If the comer is a traveller, assist him, so far as you are able; but he shall not stay with you more than two or three days, if it be necessary. But if he wishes to settle with you, being a craftsman, let him work for and eat his bread. But if he has no craft, according to your wisdom provide how he shall live as a Christian among you, but not in idleness. If he will not do this, he is trafficking upon Christ. Beware of such men. (Didache 12:1-5)

With these words, we hear a call to both charity and industry.  On the one hand, Christians are to receive even strangers into their midst and assist them as much as possible.  On the other hand, if Christians catch whiffs of idleness among a person who joins their ranks, he is to be disciplined.  Laziness will not be tolerated.

Certainly such a strict and demanding work ethic has raised more than a little ire among many.  Overbearing corporate policies and malfeasance among management types is the bane of many rank and file employees.  These troubles, in turn, often lead to a spirit of idleness.  After all, the reasoning goes, if a work environment is miserable and miserly, why would an employee want to give it their all?  If the powers that be won’t treat them fairly, they simply won’t offer their best.  They’ll just do what they need to do to keep their job until a better prospect comes along.  The difficulty with this kind of thinking, however, is that it is patently unbiblical.  The apostle Peter admonishes:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:18-20)

A couple of words jump out at me from this passage.  First, the word for “masters” is despotes, from which we get our English word “despot.”  In our day and age, nobody likes a despot.  Dictionary.com defines a “despot” as “any tyrant or oppressor.”[1]  Peter says, despite the wickedness of some despotic superiors, we still ought to work hard.  Their vileness should not result in our laziness.  Second, the word for “harsh” in Greek is skolios, from which we get our medical term “scoliosis,” a condition which describes an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, or, more popularly stated, a crooked back.  Peter knows full well that many managers are crooked.  Yet, he encourages us to be faithful in our work even when these managers are unfaithful in their leadership.

The sentiment put forth by Peter’s words is certainly not a popular one.  But is a Christian one.  Peter knows and admits that our work will not always be easy.  And yet, when our work is hard and the road is long, we have this promise:  God is working in us and through us amidst even the most adverse of circumstances.   As Paul reminds us, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).  Our work, then – even our arduous work – is a place and a space for God to work.  God hides His glorious work in our sorrowful work.

Do you see your work this way?  By faith, you can.  I love the way Gene Veith puts it in his book on Christian vocation:  “It is faith that transforms suffering into a cross.”[2]  May we see the suffering we encounter in our vocations as a cross, gifted to us by Christ, redeeming our suffering for His glory.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/despot

[2] Gene Edward Veith, Jr., God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002) 153.

October 3, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – Glorious Work

Work is a blessing from God.  Do you believe this?  I have talked to far too many people who do not believe this – at least if the way they talk about their jobs is any indication of what they believe.  Complaints about the incompetence of co-workers, the ineptitude of the boss, and the inequity of one’s paycheck are all commonplace.  Granted, even Scripture admits that work involves frustration and difficulty.  This is a result of the Fall into sin.  God tells Adam after he has eaten from the fruit of the forbidden tree:  “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19).  The Hebrew word for “painful toil” is isabon, which refers to both physical and emotional pain.  And certainly this can be true of our work.  There are days at the office, in the shop, or on the site that are not only physically exhausting, they’re emotionally exhausting as well.  But it must be remembered that the isabon of work is a result of sin and not part of God’s original design and desire for work.  Work was originally created to be a privilege and joy.  Indeed, work was part of creation even before the Fall.  Immediately after God creates Adam, God takes  “the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  God has weaved and woven work into the fabric of His creation.

Such a high view of work is unique to Christianity.  Ancient pagan literature takes a much grimmer view of labor.  The ancient eighteenth century BC Akkadian Epic of Atra-Hasis has its own account of the origin of human work. The epic opens:  “Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much.”  The gods, according to this epic, were tired of having to work.  They considered it “drudgery.”  How do the gods solve their drudgery dilemma?  They declare, “Let us create, then, a human, a man. Let him bear the yoke! Let him bear the yoke! Let man assume the drudgery of the god.”  In Atra-Hasis, humans are created to do the work the gods do not care to do themselves.  Work, in and of itself, is, in this epic, an awkward annoyance, to be pawned off and passed off by any means possible.  This, however, is not Christianity’s view of work.

According to Christianity, work was not originally created to be a burden, but a high and holy privilege.  It was part of the authority God graciously allowed human beings to exercise over His creation.  God says in the creation account, “Let man rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26).  The work of ruling the earth was meant to be an awesome honor, not a cumbersome curse.

The German sociologist Max Weber coined the phrase “Protestant work ethic” to refer to the premium on which Protestants, and the Puritans especially, put on work.  Unfortunately, Weber understood this ethic moralistically, glorifying the “self-made man” and trumpeting the tangible rewards of hard work, rather than understanding one who works hard as carrying out his divinely ordained vocation before God for his neighbor, regardless of the earthly rewards.  The true “Protestant work ethic” is wrapped up in the doctrine of vocation, which sees every job, be it stately or homely, as a gift from God as long as it is not immoral in its nature (e.g., prostitution, drug dealing, etc.).  Thus, work – all work – is a gift from God to glorify Him and to help one’s neighbor.  Work – all work – is meant to impart dignity, not drudgery, to human beings.  In the words of John Milton:

Man hath his daily work of body and mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways.

Heaven regards your work well.  So praise and thank God for your work and stand honored at eternity’s acclaim.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

July 11, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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