The Calling to Work

July 12, 2009 / No. 3471

Dear Radio Friends,

For the past several weeks in our programs on the Reformed Witness Hour, we have sought our strength and direction from God’s Word during these days of economic uncertainty and woe. We began by hearing God’s promise that He will give us our daily needs. As He rained manna from heaven upon Israel, so also our God shall supply all of our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Our trust, then, must be in the Lord, believing that He knows our needs and, in His faithful love and care, will provide those needs.

We saw last week that we are to view money and things as the stewards of the Lord. We looked into the principle of God’s sovereign ownership of all things and His distribution of money and things as it pleases Him. We saw that, while we do not have ownership of anything, we have responsibility in all things. We confessed that God is the sole owner of all things. Not an inch of what we possess is our own. But it is God’s possession. And we are to celebrate this. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.

When Adam, the first man, opened his eyes and looked around all the creation, there were two things that were evident to him. First of all, he knew that he did not make it. And secondly, he knew that he did not own it. It was not his bush, his gold, or his resource. But God said to Adam, “I have given it to you that you might be a steward, that you might use it. Adam, I did not make these things for Me out of some aesthetic need that I had.” For God looks upon His own beauty. And there is nothing so beautiful as God. But God said to Adam, “I made it for you, that you might manage it for Me, that you might use it for My honor, for My glory.”

So we saw last week that we are to be faithful stewards and we are to use all earthly things out of faithfulness to the living God.

Now today we want to look at our calling as a steward to work, to be diligent. We read in Romans 12:11 that we must be diligent in business. And here, as we come to the calling of work, we come to another principle. And that principle is that work for the believing child of God, redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ, has dignity. It is a calling given to us from our Savior Jesus Christ. The Bible calls us the servants of the Lord. And then, concerning the working man, we read in Colossians 3:23, 24, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men:…for ye serve the Lord Christ.” We serve the Lord Christ. Redeemed in His precious blood, we are His servants in all that we do. Whether you are in kindergarten and coloring and learning yourABCs, or whether you are in the ninth grade taking exams, or whether you are a business owner with employees, you have been given a calling. You are entrusted with work to do.

This is true because we were created in the image of God. God, our heavenly Father, works. Jesus said in John 5, “My Father worketh; He is constantly active, preserving, caring for, and directing all things.” So also we, in His image, were created in Christ Jesus to work. Work did not come because of sin. Work is not a curse. Man was made to work. When man was made, before sin entered the world, God had said, “Dress the garden, Adam, and keep it.” Yes, sin has brought a curse, made work hard. Now we work and sweat, the sweat of our face and in tears. But that does not take away from the fact that work in itself is a privilege, a calling from God. Six days, says God, shalt thou labor and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord. In that day you are not to work. We have a calling to work.

This calling to work, first of all, admonishes us against a sin. The sin is the sin of sloth. In the book of Proverbs, you will find repeated, urgent warnings against the sins of being lazy, the sins of a sluggard, the sins of sloth. In Proverbs 6:6 we read, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” There we are warned against being a sluggard. A sluggard is a lazy person. He does not want to work. He wants his own ease. He does not want to spend his energy. He has abilities, he has opportunities, but he refuses to use them—perhaps because he does not like his job. He does things only by constraint. You have to force him to do it.

The book of Proverbs, as I said, has a whole lot to say about laziness, and how laziness will bring tragedy into a person’s life. For instance, if you turn to the 26th chapter and the verses 13-16: “The slothful man saithThere is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.” A lazy man comes with absurd excuses why he cannot work. There is one great obstacle after another that prevents him from working. And verse 14: “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” He cannot get out of bed. He wants a little more sleep. He rolls over with a groan, just like a creaky door. Verse 15: “The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.” He is so lazy he cannot get his hand out of his bosom, out of his pockets. He is so tired he falls asleep. Verse 16: “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” He always knows better; he always has a reason why he cannot work; he always knows better than seven men who are telling him of the opportunities that he has for work. No, he knows better.

This sin is in our nature. It is the sin of procrastination, Proverbs 6:9-11, “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” Procrastination—when you say, “Yah, I’ll get to it. Just another minute.” And then that minute multiplies and becomes a day, and that day becomes a week, and the week becomes a month, and the month becomes a year. And soon we are ensnared in inactivity, every opportunity now has slipped by, and it is too late.

The sluggard does not finish his work. Perhaps he begins. There is a novelty about it. It is sort of exciting. But then the reality of daily work settles in and it gets boring. We read in Proverbs 12:27: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” He goes out hunting, first opening day. He is excited. Deer season, or elk. He is enthused. He sees one down in the valley. He shoots. The animal is dead. But now he has to skin it. And he has to pack it up. He has to carry it out. That’s too much work. That’s too much trouble. He leaves the meat to rot. His life is filled with unfinished projects. He cannot stick to it to the end. He comes with excuses. He reasons why he cannot do it.

And then he becomes dissatisfied. He begins to say that life is not fair. He has it so bad. He wants what others have. He wants their promotions. He wants their talents. He becomes bitter and resentful.

We read in Proverbs 21:25, 26: “The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.” He complains that everybody has it better. He criticizes everything: the job, the economy. No one thinks about him. He criticizes everything except his own laziness.

God says that this sin is in our nature, this terrible sin of sloth. And God says that we must be aware of this sin, for sloth will bring us to poverty (see Proverbs 6:10, 11). The one who traveleth is, literally, one who is an armed robber or burglar who comes in the middle of the night. He scopes out his target, he breaks in, and he takes everything away, so that when you wake up you find that you have nothing. So is sin, every sin. Sin is erosion. Sin, before your eyes, takes everything out of your life until it is gone. And so the sin of sloth.

We must learn, from a spiritual point of view, the danger of idleness. Our parents would tell us that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. We are called in the Scriptures to occupy our time with our calling. If we do not use our time, the devil will use our time. Idleness. There is so much idleness today—in the summer, perhaps, for a boy of twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old. Nothing to do. Sits before the computer day after day. Idle time. And in this idle time he gets into bad friendships, wastes his time, and uses his time for self and for fun and for friends and for all types of things. Bored out of his mind for his family, bored out of his mind at home.

We must be diligent in our work. If we do not fill our time with work, then the devil will fill our time. If we do not use our energies and talents to serve the Lord, the devil will put those energies to use.

We must apply this word to ourselves. We must apply this word to our spiritual lives. When we think about the lazy person, we need to ask, “Of whom have I been thinking? Have I been thinking about someone else? Or have I been thinking about myself?” Have you looked into your own attitudes, attitudes of procrastination, of not finishing work, of taking the easy road, of looking for the cushy job, of jealousy over what other people have and their promotions, making excuses why you could not do better on a test or on an exam? God’s word comes to us.

And then think of the spiritual application. The word of God is not speaking just about our earthly life, but of our spiritual life and of the kingdom of God. Do we give our diligence to spiritual matters? This is what the Lord meant when He said in Luke 16:8: “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” The Lord makes the observation that unbelieving men exercise greater diligence and show more aggressiveness and more foresight and more care over earthly things, than the children of light show in the eternal things.

So we run our business well. So we do on the earthly level what is necessary to get the job done. Good. But what about the soul? What about the church? What about being diligent toward the house of God, twice on the Lord’s Day? Are you a sluggard? How much effort do you put into your spiritual life? How much effort do you put into your devotions, into your relationships, into love in your marriage? Are you working at it? Are you working with your children, bringing them up in the fear of God, or do you say, “Yah, someday I’ll have to do that”? Are you witnessing of the gospel to others, or do you say, “Well, others will do it”? Spiritually we have a work to do. Are you idle?

Once again, the devil looks at our life and he says, “If you don’t use your time and your talents in the service of God, I will use them.”

Go to the ant, says the word of God. Consider her ways and be wise. You know, when the Lord calls us there to go to the anthill, that is a very humbling thing, is it not? Here we are, as men and women, and God says, “I’m going to teach you from an ant. I’m going to speak My word to you through an ant—the ant on your kitchen floor who found its way to that crumb that you missed. You cleaned so carefully and yet he found it. And now he has called all of his buddies and they are carrying that crumb off.” God is saying, “Don’t get so high and mighty about yourself.” He does not say, “Sluggard, lazy one, what I want you to go and consider is the American dream, consider the Fortune 500 Club, consider the story of the guy who started out with an electrical kit and now he’s a multi-millionaire computer man. Go to Donald Trump.” No He does not. He says, “Go to the ant, the ants who are swarming through the cracks in your patio. Pull up a chair and look and learn.” Ants teach us how we are to serve God.

We read in Proverbs 6:7, 8: “Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” The ants are industrious. They cannot stop moving. They are cooperative. They do not fight each other. They are self-motivated. They do not need a foreman, a ruler to settle the squabbles. They all know the good. They are all motivated. Now, God made you, as a child of God, to be like that ant. He does not say, “Sluggard, go to the snail.” He does not say, “Sluggard, go to the parasite that latches hold and sucks out.” But, go to the ant, the industrious ant, who works, and you work like that ant. Learn the lessons that God teaches in the creation of the ant.

We must then do our work with singleness of purpose. We must do our work with dispatch. We must not do our work half-heartedly. We must not do our work out of a resentful spirit. Colossians 3:22, 23: “…not with eye-service, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: …do it heartily, as to the Lord,” for we serve the Lord Christ.

Then we are to receive our calling knowing that it has come to us from God. And we are to do it with thanksgiving. We must not refer to our jobs as menial. We must not say, “I’m just a housewife; or I’m just a builder. I’m not a big-shot. I don’t have any prestige.” Do not talk that way. You are to say, “I am a servant of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He has assigned to me a portion in His kingdom to be faithful to Him. My heavenly Father has a counsel. Every moment of time, every detail, every event of the day in my life fits that plan. And His place that He has given me to work also fits in that plan.” Do not say concerning your work, “Well, what does it matter? It’s all going to burn up anyway. How does this have anything to do with the kingdom of God?” Do not say that. Do not say, “Well, the missionary on the foreign field and the Christian school teacher and the minister—now there is kingdom work. But my work isn’t kingdom work.” Have we never read the Bible? Do we not know the majesty and the dignity of being redeemed as the servants of the Lord to serve Him in every place in the kingdom throughout His wide domain? We are placed in His kingdom. The folding of laundry, the pouring of cement, the preparing of taxes, the direction of a funeral home—it’s all His. It is all to His glory.

Be wise in your work. God has given you not only a calling, but also a mind. Use your mind. Put your heart into your work. Serve the Lord Christ.

For the sluggard, his poverty will come, his ruin will come. It will come upon him, and it will come upon his family. By the grace of God, in diligent labor, comes the blessing of God in peace of mind. The idle and the lazy are depressed. They are stuck on themselves. They sink more and more into depression. But God gives to His children peace and satisfaction. The Lord will provide. That is the peace that the Lord gives us.

We learn that truth in the Scriptures, and thus our goal is to be faithful in everything that we have. We must keep our priorities straight. Work is a calling, but that calling is also subservient. It is subservient to our calling spiritually. We must provide for our homes. We must provide for the church. We must do our work as faithful stewards of what God has given us. And then we are to apply this to our spiritual lives. We are to be diligent stewards also of the spiritual things of God.

Do you hear the Word of God? Do you love the Word of God? Cherish it. Be a diligent worker. And may all that we do be for His glory and honor.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for this Word. And we pray that we may indeed be faithful and diligent stewards. In Jesus’ name, Amen.