Labor for the Meat Which Endureth

January 18, 1998 / No. 2872

What is the goal of your life? What drives you? What is the reason for your getting up in the morning? What are you pursuing in your life? Are you pursuing something in terms of the earthly? Or are you pursuing something in terms of the eternal, that is to be found only in Christ, which is able to give peace to your soul?

The Lord spoke of this in John 6:27, and last time we looked into that verse. There the Lord said, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Today I would like to return to that passage (as well as to all of the Scriptures) and set forth some principles which will guide us in pursuing the everlasting bread in Jesus Christ. The first principle is this: We must learn, as Christians, more and more to hold before ourselves that the goal of our life is that we be rich toward God.

The Lord spoke of that in Luke 12 when He warned us of the rich fool, the man who would build his barns bigger and greater and would believe that he could feed his soul with corn. The Lord called him a fool and said, “So is everyone who is rich only in terms of this life; but is not rich toward God.” The goal of a Christian’s life is not simply a high-paying job. The goal of a Christian teenager is not simply to know what will benefit him in terms of becoming a successful and functional person. The goal of life is not simply how you get another dollar into your back pocket. The goal of life is not finally to be termed, “the person who’s got it all together.” The goal of life is not even being a wife or husband and having children. But the goal of the Christian’s life is that he be rich toward God.

If you are rich toward God it will not harm you to be rich in this world’s goods. Then you will subject all things to God, and those things will not harm you. If you are rich towards God and you are poor in this world, then, too, you will be content and happy. But if you are poor toward God and rich toward this world, then your whole life is a total negative, it is a loss, it is a false show, it is a swimming in the devil’s sea.

Do you know what it is to be rich towards God? Imagine for a moment that everything you call yours in this world is taken away from you. Imagine yourself not only deprived of all that you have, but also abandoned and forsaken of all. Imagine yourself in utter isolation with your own heart-all that you have is yourself and your own heart. Now ask, What do I possess now? What do I have? When you die, you will come to this. In the solitariness of your soul you must go to eternity. What will you carry with you? You must part with your body and all things. You can retain nothing. Now, how will you go? Will you go poor or rich? It cannot be the riches of this world. It can only be spiritual goods. You will die either poor or rich toward God. Examine yourself. What do you have now, what do you possess? Do you have anything in the hidden places of the heart which gives worth, which is significant? Or do you have nothing?

This applies to all of our life. This must apply also to our education and our understanding. Today the goal of education is considered to be this, that we must develop the powers of our personality and character; or we must enrich our spirit; or we must learn how to use our talents to improve our own contribution or worth in this world; or we must get refinement; or we must get an education which will enable us to earn more than the guy who simply has grease under his fingernails.

But the Word of God says that education, without being rich toward God, is vanity. The Word of God tells us that there are strong intellects, developed personalities, cultivated talents, gifted artists in hell. The Word of God tells us that those things, too, of themselves bring nothing. There is no blessedness to them unless they are in subjection to Jesus Christ. You are rich, you actually possess something, you actually know something when what you know and what you possess can be used in heaven and make you feel at home there. When what you know increases your fellowship toward God; when you know that you are reconciled to God, and every thought is brought into the captivity of Jesus Christ-those are the riches which are inward, of the heart. Then, in the words of II Corinthians 10, you press all things into the service of Christ. You have a holy campaign to take all that can be known (and you want to know all that can be known) and press it unto God.

There is another way that we learn to labor for the things that are eternal. We labor for the things which are eternal when we are constantly aware of the terrible danger of covetousness or materialism, which the Bible calls idolatry.

Jesus saw covetousness as the great enemy to His kingdom, a great power which would be able to debase and to shame. Covetousness is living as if things are the chief good, as if things are the standard of achievement, as if things are the source of pleasure. Covetousness, says the Word of God in Ephesians 5, is idolatry, that is, it is to make of an object (any object) the goal, the thing which is needful. It is to give to that object the place that God alone may have. And then, to worship it. There is no deity which has more worshipers today than mammon.

The idea that one’s happiness, one’s worth, is in proportion to one’s wealth and possession, home and dress. What we read in I Corinthians 6-the idea that one would suppose that gain is godliness. This is paganism. We are at the heart of the biblical ethic here. Religion is not simply a living. Religion is a trust in God. It is a use of God’s things for God. And at the heart of true religion is contentment.

We must warn ourselves of covetousness, of the insidious danger of covetousness. Covetousness is shameful. Covetousness makes a man a brute beast. Can a man’s soul eat and be satisfied with possessions? In the world, covetousness makes men as beasts. They crawl over each other. They scratch their way to the top. They do not care about the other.

When we labor for that meat which perishes, then we think that the only reason to know something is that it will advance me in terms of this life. Then I can only think of things (if I am ruled by covetousness in my heart) in terms of their material benefit to me. And when something which requires the mind, something which is not tangible, a concept, comes to me from God’s Word, I find that my mind is very dull. I find that my mind begins to think like a cow (when and how is the next feeding), and I cannot think in terms of right or wrong. I lose discernment. Covetousness takes away discernment from the soul. It makes the mind that of a cow.

Labor not for the meat that perishes. That will bring you into bondage. That will get its grip upon your feelings, upon your affections, upon your sensibilities. So powerful are the treasures of the earth that they will claim mastery over the whole person. And they will affect the soul-the whole being, the heart, the mind, the will. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. He cannot serve God and mammon.” Why can you not? Because both make a totalitarian demand. Both say, “Serve me alone!”

We labor for the eternal meat and food of Jesus Christ when we fight against the great danger of covetousness. But we also labor for the meat of eternal life when we train our mind and our affections to regard everything as the Lord’s. Genesis 1 (which is debated today as to its historical accuracy), which is the historic, real, truthful Word of God concerning the creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days, is an indispensable building block for all true thinking. It is essential, if you are to have the right understanding of things and of money and of your relationship to them. If you do not believe in the literal truth of Genesis 1, God as the Creator of all things in six twenty-four hour days, you cannot come to a right understanding of your relationship to earthly things.

In that chapter we have the record of the fact that almighty God, who existed in all self-sufficiency and the wonder of His trinitarian fellowship, created all things. He was not lonely or empty, but out of a will of His own He created and made all things. And He concludes that creation in verse 29 by saying, “Behold, I have given you every herb….” So Adam, as he came into consciousness, found himself looking out at a beautiful creation which God had called him to subdue unto God. There was one thing that Adam knew: nothing that he looked at, nothing that he touched, nothing that he tasted, smelled, or heard had its existence due to him or by chance. Adam did not come and say, “My bush, my garden, my wife, my plant.” But everything shouted to him that it was the Lord’s. The Lord had created it and given it to Adam. Adam, said God, you are my steward. I have entrusted all of this to your care. And I have entrusted this to you for your good. I have given it to you. Adam, you did not make it. Adam, you do not sustain it in its life. I made it for you. I did not make it for Me, Adam. There is nothing in Me which needs the aesthetic beauty of a tree or a garden. There is nothing so beautiful as God, Adam. I am beautiful. I have made this for you in order that you might learn about My beauty.

Now, God has never relinquished His ownership of the creation or canceled man’s call to be a steward. Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.” Matthew 5:45: “For he maketh his sun to shine upon the just and the unjust.” Jesus did not say, “For God maketh the sun.” No, no! God maketh His sun. It is all God’s. All of its resources, all of its wealth, is God’s. Any man is a fool to think that in the use of God’s world he has come to possess what he has in any other way than that God put it in his hands.

There are educated men who will say, “Well, my skill, my industry, my shrewd investments have given to me what I have. You see, I have this golden touch.” This person is not only a boaster, he is a raving fool. Any thinking that begins apart from this point is folly. God made the world. God gives the things of the world to whomsoever He wills. And anybody who departs from that is a fool. Even our body, our talents, our time are not ours. You must learn to think that way. All I know is a created reality. God alone is uncreated. Thus everything that I have is given to me and it is not mine. If you think of it as your own, you are a pagan. You must learn to see God’s name on it. And your affections must gladly consent to that reality. You must be transformed by the renewing of your mind, not conformed to this world.

There is one more thing that we must have if we are to live as those who labor for the meat that Christ will give to us. We must make conscious choices in our lives as stewards. What does God want me to do with my talents? Where are they best employed in His kingdom? The greatest sin of any person, the greatest sin of a child or young person, is to bury a talent or to use it for merely self-serving ends. In determining your occupation you must look into the needs of God’s kingdom on earth. That is to be your consideration. It is to be weighted with the abilities and dispositions that God has given to you. There is a call to service in His kingdom, whether that service be in the home as a wife and mother or father and husband; in the church as pastor, elder, or deacon; in the school as Christian school teacher; or in business as a Christian; or a farmer as a Christian. But you must remember that the end, the purpose, of your life is not what you will have to show in terms of earthly things, but what will your days and your years of life say in regard to heavenly things. Will they say, This man (woman, child) was a professing Christian who used everything as God’s steward? Or will they say, This man (woman, child) was a practicing pagan?

It ought to be anathema for us to answer the question “Why, for what, are you living?” in terms of earthly things-money, dollars, cents, homes, and cars. You are speaking then in terms of the meat that perishes. The world is not out there for you so that you can be all that you can be. The world is not out there for you to make your way and to earn a bigger buck and to make a bigger splash than the next guy. The world is there for you to serve God by using honestly and joyfully the things that He gave you.

Are you laboring for the meat which the Son of man shall give you? Are you laboring for the meat which the Son of man shall give you as a parent? Are you bringing up your children this way? You are teaching your child and your child will say, Don’t tell me; show me. Your own position that you assume towards earthly things is the most important thing for your child’s education. Watch out for your heart. We rub off on our children. We know that.

Paul was able to say to Timothy, his spiritual son, Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, and patience (II Tim. 3:10). Timothy, you know my doctrine. I have taught you. But you know something more. You know my manner of life. You know my purpose in life.

Now your children are with you when you eat. They are with you day after day. Do you secretly labor for the meat that perishes-for honor, for esteem, for earthly things, for credit of men, for the opinion of people? Or are you laboring to be rich toward God? Is your heart detached from the world and mammon, and are you resting in the riches that are in Jesus Christ? Then you can say to your children, to yourself as a young person, to yourself as a man or a woman, Here is something that is worth it. Here is something worth laboring for. Here is something worth losing everything to gain. Here is joy. It is the bread that Jesus gives. It is to live to the glory of God and to enjoy Him for ever.

Is that true of you?

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that Thou wilt direct us in Thy Word that our hearts may not be snared in covetousness; that our hearts may acknowledge all from Thy hand; that we might have one, simple, pure desire that we might use it as Thy steward to Thy glory and honor; and that we may desire more and more the riches that the Son of man shall give us. In His name do we pray, Amen.