Life in Proverbs: My Work Before God

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MOTIVATE

  • Work is where we spend most of our time. About 8 hours a day, 5 days week. If you were to multiply this time: 40 hours x 50 weeks x 40 years = 80k hours; that’s 4 million 800K minutes or 288 million seconds. Anyone counting? That is a lot of time!
  • Yet, as much time we spend at work most Christians do not understand how faith connects to their work.
  • Many Christians view a divide between Sundays as sacred and the work week as secular. There is little understanding to how faith is connected to one’s employment.
  • Worse, our work is seen as a burden rather than a blessing from God. The phrase “TGIF”: Thank God It’s Friday is popular; just as the song says, “everybody’s working for the weekend”.
  • The book of Proverbs will help us understand the significance HOW work.
  • Before we examine HOW, we should examine WHY.
    • The person who knows how will often have a job but will often work for the person who knows why.

lifeInProverbs_SPBC

EXAMINE   Proverbs                                  Title: My Work Before God

Our work is a worthy and wise act of worship unto God.

In our talk God is often discussed as a worker. We say that He’s the Great Architect who designed the world; the Great Artist who carefully crafted each sunrise, sunset, and season; God is the Great Physician who heals our sicknesses, diseases, wounds, and offers us the eternal cure for death; God is the Great Protector from our enemies. Some even say God is the Great Maintenance Worker who cleans away germs and dirt and refreshes our lives to make all things new.[1]

The Bible presents God as a worker and one who values work.

  • In creation,
    • Genesis 1-2, God works by speaking creation into existence. God creates with words but there is a sense of successive movement throughout the narrative of creation to show work. Genesis 2:2 states “God finished his work that he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”
    • Humanity was intended to work as a reflection of God. Genesis 1:26; 2:15 “Let them have dominion… over all the earth. … And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The world began as undeveloped and humanity was called to cultivate and develop from the earth’s natural resources. Theologians call Genesis 1:27-28 the Cultural Mandate. God is mandating the establishment of culture. Adam and Eve will produce children. Those children will create families, and those families will band together into cities and social networks. Those networks of human beings will reflect all the aspects of human culture – language and art and music and food and philosophy and theology. Remember, this design and command was before the Fall.
    • The Fall of humanity caused our work to be hard and unhappy (Gen 3:17, 19; Romans 8:20). The curse is not that we must work but that our work will cause undesirable pain and perspiration.
    • Following the Fall are examples of contrasting work as worship with Cain & Abel (Gen 4:5); Noah (Gen 6); Babel (Gen 11:1-9); etc. If our work does not include God then we fail and fall.
  • Jesus
    • Jesus was a worker (builder – carpenter) for about half his life before public ministry.
    • Jesus’ ministry affirmed work
      • Jesus said, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17
      • Jesus’ parables often included a working or marketplace context (farming, baking, fishing, shepherding, investors, vineyards, real estate).
  • Acts & NT
    • 39 of 40 miracles in Acts are done beyond/outside the temple (J.D. Greear).
    • Church grew in the midst of cities, towns, villages where workplace and life were front and center.
    • The NT prominent missionary was also a tent maker.
    • Work regulations for servants (employees) and masters (bosses) were provided (Ephesians 6:59; Colossians 3:22-4:1).
    • Work ethic & provision
      • “labor, doing honest work with your own hands, so that you may have something to share with anyone in need.” Ephesians 4:28
      • “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” 1Thessalonians 2:9
      • “But we urge you brothers… to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1Thessalonians 4:11
      • “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 2Thessalonians 3:10-12
      • “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1Timothy 5:8
    • “Whatever you do” (1Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)
    • Pastors were to labor diligently in ministry for wages; as a soldier, an athlete, a hard-working farmer (1Timothy 5:18; 2Timothy 2:3-6)
  • In heaven
    • Work will be present in God’s restored new kingdom.
      Isaiah 2:4 “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”
    • It is no accident that the ultimate biblical picture of redeemed humanity involves a city (Rev 21:2). A city reflects human culture in its most developed and complex forms. God’s purpose for humanity started in a garden, but it culminates in a great cultural center. So work was God’s design from the beginning. And the ultimate goal was for every aspect of life and culture to be saturated with the beauty and glory and love of God
    • In heaven, my job as a preacher becomes obsolete! Also, missionaries, medical, and other emergency professions will need new job training since God’s kingdom is perfect without any physical or spiritual disabilities. Yet, artists, builders, and other craftsman will likely already have a skill useful for joyful work in God’s kingdom.

~ Our work is worship. All work is God’s work. Our English word vocation is the Latin verb voca, which means “to call.” The wording suggests that at some point in history, people actually thought of every type of work/vocation, not must ministry related roles, as a “calling.” Every job as a calling from God affirms Christ’s supremacy throughout the whole world. As theologian Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

  • We can be glad for doctors and healthcare workers who don’t quit job to enter church ministry so they can care for our health.
  • Glad for mechanics who make and fix cars that we can drive.
  • Glad for construction workers, architects, and engineers who don’t quit job so they can build houses and beautiful places of worship… the very pews you sit in.
  • Glad for clothing designers & fabric seamstresses who make clothing so we do not have to sit before each other bare and bashful.
  • Glad for farmers who understand how to steward soil types and seeds, along with the care for animals to produce food to grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Glad for chefs who cook delicious food and inspire me to cook and eat.
  • Glad for recycling and garbage collectors who remove unwanted items from my house and to relocate these items in an isolated community.
  • Glad for security and law enforcement who protect from harm serve to help our community, and our nation.
  • Glad for scientists and innovators who create, cultivate, and utilize technology for the advancement of human flourishing.
  • Glad for airline pilots who can safely fly and land planes.
  • Glad for teachers who educate children and future leaders.
  • Glad for accountants, bankers, realtors, lawyers, retailers who produce business and entrepreneurship.

Essentially, the book of Proverbs provides us at least four ways our work can be worshipful to God.

 

  • Our work is an act of worship when we work to the highest capability of excellence (magnificence)

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skilful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”

As those who believe in God’s majesty and beauty, we are called to worship and work with excellence.
My utmost for His highest! The God who created constellation of stars, the sun to rise and set, salsa to snack, soft pillows to sleep, reeses to devour and so much more, is a God who is not chintzy. Seriously, God is worthy and deserving of all our devotion. This means we are faithful and give our full effort. We do not cut corners (shout out to Ledo’s Pizza).

MLK Jr. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” (Quoted in Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.)

 

~ Excellence does not mean perfection. There comes a time when you need to let it be and walk away.
    Do your best in God’s strength and trust God with the rest.

 

  • Our work is an act of worship when we work with a pure heart (morally)

All that we do is “coram deo”, before the face of God. Proverbs says, “a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord and he ponders all his paths” (Prov 5:21); “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov 15:3). Therefore, we are to work with a pure heart and with good morals.

Honesty

Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”

à Do you waste company time with extracurricular activity: conversations in break room, computer internet surfing, laziness?

à Does your company expect you to make profits by falsifying information?

à Is there a culture of manipulation of employees and customers or one that values kindness and truth?

Dishonest: According to World magazine, skipping work just got a lot easier. “Millions of Americans work dead-end jobs, and sometimes they just need a day off,” reasons John Liddell, who helped found Vision Matters, which sells notes as part of its Excused Absence Network. “People are going to lie anyway,” he said. Dishonest employees can buy from him a fake jury summons, forged doctor notes, or a funeral program with their name listed among the pallbearers. <http://www.worldmag.com/2007/11/quick_takes_0; http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-10-24-4079569189_x.htm&gt;

Gracious to others, especially the needy and poor.

Proverbs 14:21, 31 “blessed is he who is generous to the poor… whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Proverbs 31:16, 18, 20 “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard… She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night… She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

à Does your company treat all persons equally, regardless of race, gender and economic status?

à Does your organization exist to serve or to seize from others?

  • Our work is an act of worship when we work hard with diligence of our hands (might)

Previously it was mentioned that we work magnificently and here we say work with all our might. The former relates to our motivation whereas the latter relates to our dedication.

Several Proverbs speak to diligence rather than laziness. Laziness leads to loss, diligence leads to reward.

Proverbs 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”

Proverbs 12:14 “From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.”

Proverbs 12:24, 27 “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor… Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” [roast game = complete tasks]

Proverbs 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Proverbs 14:23 “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

Proverbs 16:26 “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” [If you like to eat you should like to work.]

Proverbs 18:9 “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.”

Proverbs 19:15 “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”

Proverbs 20:13 “Love not sleep, let you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.”

Proverbs 24:33-34 “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber and want like an armed man.”

Proverbs 28:19 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”

 

  • Our work is an act of worship when we work with the intelligence of our head (mind).

You have heard the saying, “work smart and not just hard”. Proverbs speaks not only about diligence with our hands but intelligence with our head.

Proverbs 6:6-8, 10-11 “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

Proverbs 10:4-5 “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”

Proverbs 24:27 “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”

à Strategy can overcome struggle.

à Planning and prayer require perspiration too; do not discount working with one’s mind. 

à Area our church may be weak… like to play & perspire but not so much plan & pray. <–

 

APPLY/THINK

Summary: Work is worshipful when we work to our highest capacity, with a pure heart, diligent hands, and an intelligent head.

So what next?

à Grow in faith intentionality:

Many go to work without goals for their job or much more a plan to share their faith. In sharing your faith, I’m not referencing the super holy and happy Christians. Christians must be authentic – when you miss a quota, lose a client, or get reprimanded by your supervisor – you show your true character. Remember, the curse is thorns and thistles and all work is affected by the fall. But Christians must have a plan to show the grace of God in all things. Here are several examples

  • Serve your company faithfully and radically. Serve in ways that no one else would, as Jesus did.
  • Relate to co-workers & especially those on fringe – custodial, mailroom clerks, interns, not talented or unsocial…
  • Model generosity and teamwork among all
  • Eat meals with co-workers
  • Pray for your company & co-workers success & integrity
  • Pray for co-workers needs and their families (recognize highs & lows)
  • Speak about Christ and the gospel in your everyday, regular conversation
  • Place Bible on desk to identify yourself as a Christian. Be ready for questions & discussion.
  • Encourage & Equip families
    • Men to be labor in work, love family (husband, dad)
    • Women to share in work, shape family (wife, mom)
  • Organize a Bible study at work (lunch break or post work) with permission, or off company time in public setting.
  • Invite co-workers to family activities, service projects, including faith related
  • Be incarnational, live as Jesus among your co-workers, love people and lead them toward growing steps of faith in Jesus Christ.

 

à Guard against idleness:

  • Some are not diligent but idle. Typically these are not overtly saying “I do not want to work”, but they are not actively or urgently pursuing employment. Their actions speak louder than their words.
    • Proverbs 26:13-15 “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.”
      • Excuses are empty or Complacency is costly
      • A door turns on hinges and a sluggard rolls in bed – movement without going anywhere; activity without production. The sluggard’s value is sleep, missed opportunity, and failing to finish what is started.
  • Parents, help your children learn the value of work by taking them to work with you; volunteer in service projects together as a family, serve the church as a family (greeters, ushers, nursery with teens, b&g projects, etc.). Provide chores at home that are normal responsibility, most not paid but as they get older perhaps that is something to consider depending on circumstances.
  • Those who are tempted toward idleness because they do not like their job, remember that some of work’s irritations are a curse of the fall. Every garden has weeds that need tending. We have to transition from seeing work as a burden to a means of blessing (God’s provision). Perhaps also is that you are not working in the career field you should so your passion is diminished. Do not be afraid of talking with a career counselor, pastor, or friend to help assess your strengths and weaknesses to achieve the most out of your work calling. vocation diagram
    • See vocation diagram 
  • Discover & develop your competency (skill, talent, proficiency).
  • Discover & develop your contentment (satisfaction, joy, passion, affinity).
  • Discover & develop your circumstances (needs, opportunities, prospects).
  • Ultimately, you have a command from God and a craft to serve God’s world. Use them to make disciples, steward creation

à Guard against idolatry: For every idle person there are also those who are making work more meaningful than it was designed to be. Further, some people work just to stay busy w/o Sabbath and spiritual renewal. Being a workaholic doesn’t make you important, it makes you an idolater. We can either worship our work or worship God through our work. Performance and production are never supposed to be our identity. In Christ we have nothing to prove. Our hope is in Christ’s work as sufficient for our security and salvation. Work honorably with your heart, work diligent with your hands, work intelligently with your head; and then rest.

 

– – – – –

Pastors are to equip the saints… How can I equip you in your work as a follower of Jesus?

“Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 15:58). 

PARTNER & PRAY

Social: work with people

stay-at-home-mom, childcare, teacher, counselor, health (doctor/nurse), human resources, hospitality,

law enforcement, military, ministry

Service: work with provision of goods, products, service

food/restaurant, travel, landscape, repair, mechanic, construction, drivers, real estate, retail, sales, skilled laborers,

Strategy: work with plans, numbers, business, computers, technology

accounting, economics, finance, engineer, science, analysts, insurance agents, legal, government

Special: Retired still work (especially if married) J; or any other

Additional Resources & Articles on Work/Labor and the Gospel

 

 

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