3 Reasons God Wants His Children to Work

God created humans to work

God set an example of diligence and work in the act of creation, Genesis 2:1-3. The text says “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done.” In creating the world He mad humans to work.

Genesis 2:5 notes that there was no man to work the ground. In verse 15 man was created and given work in the Garden of Eden. When the first couple sinned and were sent out of the Garden they still had to work but it would be more challenging.

The Sabbath

Under the Old Law, the Jewish nation was commanded to observe the seventh, or sabbath, day. The sabbath was a reward for work and a time to honor God, Exodus 20:8-11. Exodus 23:12-13 describes it as a time of refreshing. After the release from Egyptian bondage it was to be a time of rest and remembrance of their freedom from slavery. God did not intend for us to work all of the time but to take rest as well.

Purpose of work

Provide for our needs

  • Proverbs 12:11 and 14: Work of a man benefits him
  • Proverbs 16:26 – Our hunger is motivation
  • Proverbs 28:19 – “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”

The worthy woman highly praised in Proverbs 31 is a diligent hard worker:

  • V.13 – works with wool and flax
  • V. 14-15 – works to find and prepare food for her family
  • V. 16 – invests in a field to make a vineyard
  • V. 18 – works late and has pride in her work
  • V. 19 – making garments for her family and to sell (v. 24)
  • V. 27 – she does not eat the bread of idleness
  • She is praised by her husband, children, the Lord, and those who see her for her faith and works

Be generous to others

Part of the reason we work is so we can have something to give to those in need. The worthy woman just discussed was generous to the needy, Proverbs 31:20. In the Old Testament farmers were commanded to leave the edges and anything that was dropped for the poor to come gather (the gleanings).

In the New Testament our work is tied to generosity. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:28 to not steal but work to give to others in need. Notice he commands them not to take anything from anyone but to work to provide for one’s needs and to have something to share with the needy. He also commanded the materially rich to be rich in good works and generous, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

We see examples of the early church in sharing what they had to help their needy brethren in Acts 4:32-37. During the Judean famine Paul observed that even those in poverty gave generously to help their Judean brethren, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 11-15. They let their abundance supply what their brethren lacked.

To honor God with our possessions

There was an important principle in the Old Law: The firstfruits and tithes, Deuteronomy 26:1-19. The law commanded that the first and the best was to be offered to God. This was a great act of faith for it is trust that God would continue to bless their harvest and herds.

The gift was to provide for those who are in need or who are dedicated in service to the Lord’s temple. The giving action was to be done with the complete heart and soul recognizing God as the giver of all things.

Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Under the New Testament we are not commanded to tithe but are to bring freewill offerings and to be generous with what we have been given. Previously we noted how God wants us to be generous with what He has given us. As the offerings paid the expenses for the upkeep of the tabernacle, and later temple, and met the physical needs of the priests dedicated to its service, so our offerings today help us to maintain a place of worship, provide financial support for those dedicated to preaching the gospel, purchasing materials for our Bible classes, and helping our brethren in a time of need.

Foolishly and Boldly Judging Your Brethren Worldwide

Before you post so confidently about what other Christians are (or are not) doing, remember these important facts:

  1. Your actual deep (detailed) exposure to Christians worldwide is limited geographically. Before you write and talk about how “all” Christians or churches are, think about how many different churches you really have deep experience with and the number of Christians about which you have an intimate knowledge of their private service, devotion, and convictions. If you have been a member of a few churches in similar areas and have many Christian acquaintances and few close brethren, consider that your sample size is too small to extrapolate about Christians and churches worldwide (technically it is narrow and statistically insignificant). If you have visited many churches in many places, understand that one or a few visits is too little exposure to really know those churches and those Christians.
  2. If a Christian is following Jesus’ principles, they are not sharing every good deed of evangelism, service to the marginalized, and service to brethren on Facebook or even talking about it at church (sometimes not within their family) because they are not “letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing” as our Lord taught. So you may be condemning the humble who are just busy about good works and being quiet about it. (“[But] 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.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
  3. You may be projecting on others what you are failing to do yourself. The speck in their eye is not the biggest problem that you should be addressing.
  4. The average Christian is not a professional counselor with unlimited resources and excessive discretionary time to serve every need. Some do nothing, some do the best they can with the situations they encounter, some wear themselves out in service. I think every sincere Christian wants to do more and those that don’t “get it” don’t want to be bothered and will answer for it.
  5. How can people proudly proclaim that Christians are humans imperfectly struggling to be more like Christ then condemn Christians for imperfections that reflect that we are not yet what we strive to be? I have failed to serve, failed when I tried to serve, and failed to serve enough. But I’m getting better and I’m learning. I think others are as well.

Your brethren need grace and the benefit of the doubt that you don’t know all the struggles they are facing within and without and what they are doing without telling you. Better to focus on your relationship with God, being what you should be in service to God, helping your local fellowship reflect God’s glory in teaching and service, and praying that other Christians in other places are doing the same.

When Your Bad Day is a Good Day

What makes a life, day, or event ‘good’ or ‘bad?” We categorize so many things into these two buckets, often without thinking. With spiritual discernment, we may see some things that seem good are bad, and some bad things are ultimately good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

Rejoice in the good days

Life is generally good and so if we live many years we should enjoy the days. For the Christian, each day is a walk with God. Even challenges strengthen us:

  • James 1:2-4: Trials teach endurance and perfects us
  • 1 Peter 1:6-9: Trials refine and strengthen us
  • 1 Peter 4:13-14: Persecution can inspire rejoicing

Trials and persecution grind down and embitter the disobedient. The way of the sinner is hard, Proverbs 13:6, 15.

Dark days will come

There will be dark and difficult days. Even the trials and persecution that strengthen us will darken our days. Paul learned to endure times of plenty and want through the strength of Christ, Philippians 4:10-13. Anyone can be content in the good time; the challenge is being content during difficult days. According to this passage Paul “learned” to be content regardless of the circumstances. God’s wisdom must change our perspective. As my friend Barry Hudson wisely said, “you want God to change your circumstances, but God wants to change you.”

Learning contentment

See God’s hand in all things

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. Ecclesiastes 7:14

Meditate deeply on the passage above. God may not cause events but He is in control and allows them to happen. Paul encouraged the Romans that all things could work out for their spiritual good, Romans 8:28. Do we trust this or do we second-guess God’s management of the universe?

God may not cause events but He can help us turn challenges an difficulties into something good. We must let God’s word and faith do its work. These blessings do not come when we whine, complain, or give up.

God made Israel hunger then give them bread from heaven to teach them that “man does not live by bread alone” but by God’s word, Deuteronomy 8:3. Israel had an opportunity to learn dependence on God, prayer for daily bread, and trust in His care. bur responded with whining, complaining, and rebellion against God and Moses. They saw disaster when they should have been filled with home and trust.

We can rejoice, our faith can grow, and we will learn contentment if we respond to trials with trust.

Realize something ‘bad’ may be ‘good’

We are so quick to say that a day, event, or life is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Consider this fable:

A farmer had only a son and his horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors pitied the farmer but he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

A few days later the horse returned with 20 wild horses that the farmer was able to tame, sell, and make a profit. The neighbors rejoiced and praised the farmer but he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

One day the horse kicked his only son and injured him so badly that he became lame. The neighbors were angry at the horse but the farmer said, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

Soon war broke out and all of the sons of the village were taken to war but the farmer’s son who was lame, and all were lost in a terrible battle. The neighbors consoled the farmer that at least his son was still alive to which he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

We are quick to judge something as good or bad although we do not yet see how it ends! Once again, we see that even the trials and tribulations can create great positive changes that we would not have otherwise.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

The affliction is working towards our glory, but if we gripe and moan about our affliction we will miss the blessing. We must look at the events of our life with spiritual eyes. We are poor judges of an eternal, all-knowing God. Will we take issue with God’s work in our life, Romans 9:19-23? Shall we put God on trial in our courtroom, Job 40?

Consider how something that seems bad might be very good:

  • Death on the cross resulted in a powerful resurrection and salvation open to all.
  • The persecution of the church scattered teaching Christians throughout the world, Acts 8.
  • Paul saw his imprisonment as an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guard and encouragement for other brethren to preach, Philippians 1:12-18.
  • Trials have the fruit of patience and perfection of character.

I’ve known people who lost a job. Was it a bad day? Many found more fulfilling jobs with better pay that they would have missed had they not lost their job. So, was it a bad day? Of course we sorrow as we do not know the future but we should trust that God cares for us and continue forward in hope.

Pray for vision

Life is good if we will see it. We need to pray for spiritual wisdom and godly vision to see the good in the bad and build our trust in God’s care. When Elisha’s servant despaired, being surrounded by the Syrian army, Elisha calmly prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes. When He did, the servant saw the Syrian army surrounded by the horses and flaming chariots of God, 2 Kings 6. We, too, can see the immediate enemy and forget the hosts of heaven that encompass them and care for God’s children.

Certainly, there will be events so tragic in our lives that we will anguish and strive hard to see any good. The vision may not come immediately and bittersweet rejoicing may be long delayed, yet the Christian can learn even in the worst situations. Christians have told me how cancer really taught them the value of a moment and deep faith and trust in God. Parents who’ve lost children have become advocates to save other children, comfort other mourning parents, and have learned profound compassion and service through the trial. These things happen to the faithful and the wicked but the faithful can learn and be stronger as the wicked become bitter.

Man pushing a giant, heavy stone, rock over the mountain. ConcepSome difficult days come from our bad choices. We may suffer great consequences of sin that endure emotionally and physically through our lives though we may repent with tears. Genesis tells us of Jacob who, for 30 years was hated by his brother for deceiving their father and stealing the inheritance, but himself was deceived by his father-in-law. His sons broke his heart by selling his beloved son, Joseph, into slavery but led him to believe that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. He had marital problems because of jealous wives. God blessed Jacob but he suffered a lot from poor decisions.

We may be abused or hurt by the wickedness of others. Joseph was almost murdered by his brothers who, instead, sold him as a slave into Egypt where for a time he was imprisoned on false charges. Yet Joseph trusted God and the family of Jacob was saved from a famine and he reconciled with his family

I have seen people in both situations rise above the evil and use the trial for good to help others avoid a sorrowful path or help those who have been hurt by evil people. Again, wicked people face the consequences of their actions or suffer at the hands of evil people. God’s people can learn from suffering, become stronger, and help others whereas the wicked often harden their hearts, become bitter and resentful, and lash out at others.

You cannot control what happens in life, but you can control how you will respond to it and what you will do with the experience.

“May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith;
At the end of my hearts testing, with your likeness let me wake.”
From “Jesus Draw Me Every Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Would You Give Two-Day’s Pay To A Stranger?

Have you put a dollar value on the Good Samaritan’s sacrifice? Would you share it with a stranger?

The good Samaritan, of the parable in Luke 10, gave the innkeeper two denarii for the care of the abused stranger he found on his journey and a promise for more money on his return if this was too little. The marginal note for “denarii” states it is the equivalent of two days of a laborer’s wage.

Two days of pay. To help a stranger.

We do not know if the Samaritan received a denarius per day of work or made more than that so the two denarii would be a smaller portion of his income.  But whether it was two-day’s pay or even less, it was still a significant amount to give for the help of a helpless stranger.

Consider this sacrifice in our dollars at 8 hours per day.

  • The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a sacrifice of $116 dollars.
  • A better comparison would be the average laborer who makes about $15 per hour. That would be $240 given for a stranger.
  • The median income average in 2016, according to the Social Security Administration would be about $23.39, a sacrifice of $374.17.

 

Obviously, the lower one’s income the greater income percentage of the sacrifice. However, even a person making the median income giving $240 (according to the laborer’s rate) is sacrificing a lot. $240 is a decent utility bill, insurance payment, or even a grocery bill for some.

It was a significant sacrifice. For a stranger.

If I want to prove myself a neighbor, am I ready to sacrifice $240 as the Samaritan did? Perhaps I need to create a Good Samaritan fund (or envelope for those who budget that way) so that I always have it ready to share and committed to the stranger I encounter on my way. Or my brethren I encounter in the aisle.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Is my heart ready to give $240 for a stranger? Will I prove to be a neighbor?

Header Image: From Freefoto.com. Free for Commercial Use

“Give Thanks to the Lord, For His Steadfast Love Endures Forever”

The phrase “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” appears exactly like this 10 times in the Old Testament but appears in part and sentiment throughout scripture. The eternally enduring love of God should inspire thanksgiving in everyone.

The Appearance to Moses in Exodus 34

Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, breaking the tablets in anger as the people worshiped idols, disobeying the command they heard from God’s thundering voice. After Moses made new tablets God allowed Moses to see His glory pass, both His presence and a description of His glorious nature. Exodus 34:5-8 declare God’s mercy and justice upon generations arising from his steadfast love and faithfulness.

What Does “Steadfast” Mean?

“Steadfast” means something firmly fixed in place or “standing fast” and immovable.  Considering the eternal nature of God, this means His love outlives our short earthly existence. Our children and future generations will know it as did  our parents, grandparents, and ancestors.

“Throughout the OT the Hebrews [word] is used most often to convey the idea of something being established…or standing firm. This quality of steadfastness or firmness often has a moral character to it; a heart that is steadfast towards God is a faithful heart that trusts Him under all circumstances.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

His steadfast love for us should produce steadfast love for Him in our hearts.

The Ark and the Tabernacle

When the Ark of the Covenant is placed in the tabernacle, in 1 Chronicles 16, David fed the people, the priests offered sacrifices, and Levites offered praise before the Ark. The steadfast love of God was the theme of the praise offered morning and evening.

David offered a song of thanksgiving, 1 Chronicles 16:8-34. As we summarize this song, note that we can pray and praise the same theme.

  • Give thanks to God because of all of His wondrous works and mighty power for His people.
  • Let those who seek the Lord seek His strength.
  • God is judge of all the earth.
  • God and His people have made a covenant together.
  • God protected His people when they were few and vulnerable.
  • The righteous should remind each other to praise God in the greatest ways for “splendor and majesty are before him and strength and joy are in His place.”
  • Let all creation give God the glory, honor, and thanksgiving due Him.
  • The saved should give thanks to the God of salvation.

The song closes with “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

Jehosophat’s battle song

The phrase arises in a darker period of Jewish history when the tribes divided into two confederations, Israel and Judah. The people of Judah emerged from a period of unfaithfulness, but soon after the reforms of Jehoshaphat enemies gathered against them. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, telling the assembly to seek God.

Jehoshaphat appealed to God’s steadfastness, listing the great deeds performed for His people in times past, expressing anxiety about the enemies but their trust in Him (1 Chronicles 20). God promised to deliver them if they remained steadfast (hold their position) and trusted in the Lord, 1 Chronicles 20:15-17. They put the enemy to flight by singing praise of God’s steadfast love, 1 Chronicles 20:20-22.

It Is The Theme of Several Psalms

Psalm 106

The psalm begins with the praise of God’s steadfast love and His works and salvation. However, the psalm confesses sin and lack of faith among God’s people, His merciful deliverance, and their quick return to unfaithfulness, 106:6-13. The psalm resounds with God’s people forgetting what He had done, their lack of trust in His future deliverance despite the past victories, and turning from God despite His mercy. Rebellion after rebellion is detailed but the psalm concludes with the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord, 106:44-48. The steadfast love of the Lord endures even when God’s people do not remain faithful to Him but is ready when they humbly return to Him.

Psalm 107

The phrase begins the psalm with an exhortation “let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” The psalm praises God’s gathering His people from times of trial and exile.

  • God conveyed them from deserted places, hungry and thirsty, to their own city.
  • Some were exiled and prisoners, enduring hard labor, because they rebelled against God but cried for deliverance when they came to their senses.
  • Those who were foolish through sinful ways repented and cried to God who delivered them from destruction.
  • The proud, distressed seeing the mighty power of God in stormy seas, and cried to God who delivered them.
  • When Israel was wicked, God made a fruitful land a desert, but when they repented brought bounty on the land and protected the livestock.
  • God punished His people, thorough love, to bring them back, humble their pride, and wake them from wickedness.
    • Proverbs 3:11-12 – “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
    • Hebrews 12:6 – “”For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Psalm 118

The psalmist opened with praise to God’s steadfast love and salvation, followed by an apparent hopeless situation as enemies surrounded him and “pushed him hard” so that he was falling, but God helped Him. Deliverance is not always immediate. We must endure trials to see if we will trust God. Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge to teach His followers to “pray always and not lose heart” especially when it appears that God is not listening or doing anything about our situation.

The psalm ends with praise for deliverance, confidently entering the gates of God,  victorious because they trusted God when it seemed hope was lost.  You are my God and give thanks for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 136

It appears the priest would say the first part and the audience would answer “for His steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm praises God’s superiority, His mighty works in creation, delivering Israel from Egypt, and conquest of Israel’s enemies to give them a home in the Promised Land.

The Darkness of Exile

Finally,  in the darkness of Judah’s exile, after God destroyed Jerusalem to punish the wickedness of Judah, the praise of God’s enduring steadfast love appears as a light. Jeremiah 33 records the promise of Judah’s escape from exile to return to their land, filling God’s house with praise and rebuilding Jerusalem. They would return because His steadfast love endures forever. This thought comforted Jeremiah even in the midst of the pain of exile, Lamentations 3:19-26.

Taking into account all of these things when should we “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”

  • In good times when food is plentiful and we are healthy.
  • In hard times when food is scarce and we are sick and in pain.
  • When our rulers are good, justice pervades the land, and the people are righteous.
  • When our rulers are corrupt, injustice prevails, and the people are wicked.
  • When our faith is strong and we are active in His service and confident in His word.
  • When our faith is weak, we struggle in prayers and service, and doubts arise.
  • When we enjoy the fruits of a faithful life to God.
  • When we have been humbled by the discipline of God and must deal with the consequences of our sin that woke us up to our unfaithfulness or spiritual sleep.
  • When, like Jehoshaphat, enemies surround us and it appears that Satan is prevailing, we can stand our ground in the confidence and hope of the Lord, praying and singing.
  • When we are at death’s door and eternity awaits on the other side.

Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”