“I want to buy a new car, pay off my house, quit my job and never work again!” So goes typical response of a recent lottery winner. I wonder how many people would like to echo those words and cast off the chains of labour.
Is that how God would have us view labour – as the dreadful punishment due fallen man? Genesis 1 paints the first picture of labour. We read that “God created… And God was moving… And God separated… And God called… And God made… And God gathered… And God placed… And God blessed.” Step-by-step, day by day, God laboured over his Creation. He wilfully, voluntarily, and joyfully brought this world into existence and when finished He said, “Yes, this is very good.” The results of His skilled work brought Him joy and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
The next Biblical picture of labour is in Genesis 2, where God told Adam to cultivate and care for the Garden of Eden. Adam didn’t complain. He didn’t ask for a negotiation table, for greater benefits, for higher pay. Apparently he accepted the responsibility joyfully as a meaningful assignment from God.
Labour was not a punishment; neither was it an afterthought. Labour was the design. It was God’s way of filling man’s days with pleasant meaningful activity. Unfortunately, after man’s fall into rebellion and sin, the nature of labour was somewhat altered. No longer could the ground yield its fruit willingly. However, in spite of sin, labour still richly rewards those who accept its yoke and still retains those elements which mark it as God’s design for us.
In His grace God designed labour as a means of helping people develop dignity. Naturally, some people, through no fault of their own, are unable to work. For them God undoubtedly provides another means of developing dignity. But to most people meaningful labour is a viable option, and to them I pose this question: Can people who deliberately refused to labour develop dignity?
Dignity does not float down from Heaven; it cannot be purchased and manufactured. It is a reward reserved for those who labour with diligence.
Dignity is available to every person in every legitimate, worthwhile profession. The farmer who plows the straight furrow, the accountant whose books balance, the executive who reads the market accurately, the factory worker who labours with speed and accuracy.
Though most of us learn a certain level of responsibility in the nuclear family and also in school, nowhere do we learn it to the degree that we learn in the marketplace. The marketplace teaches us responsibility in two specific areas.
The first area is our personal schedules. I know, for example, that if I have travel or outside speaking engagements to consider, I must adjust my schedule accordingly. I will need to eliminate something else in order to fill the requirements of my job.
Human Labour also teaches responsibility with respect to our performance. The words the marketplace ring loud and clear, “You do your job well, or we will find someone else who will.” It’s that simple. In every job assignment there are certain tasks we pursue with pleasure, and others we abhor. The marketplace says, “You will do them both or you will do nothing.” That, I contend, can be good. Because in all of life we must learn to take the bad with the good.
After creating our world, God acknowledged that it was “very good” (Gen 1: 31). He expressed and recorded for all time His satisfaction with the world which He had created, the labour of His hands brought Him tremendous pleasure.
Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. The marketplace affords us regular opportunities to launch, labour over and complete various tasks. As each of these tasks is completed, there is a brief but blessed moment that brings the payoff. Think of that salesmen who finally signs dotted line for the big sale, the mother who tucks the last child in bed, the doctor who finds the cure, the teacher who says, “class dismissed!” To these people, labour graciously affords many moments of accomplishment that can be savoured for a lifetime.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Who can love the appearing of the Lord but those who have laboured well for Him? Wether in the marketplace or in the ministry, we can labour diligently as unto the Lord, and receive the crown of righteousness, His seal of approval.