Friday, September 02, 2005

Lord of Our Labour

A young man approached a group of men who were working diligently and silently on a construction site. As the project was in its initial phase, and had no sign apparent, it was nearly impossible to determine the type of building which would be constructed there. The young man - a passerby -looking at the project commented to himself, "I wonder what they are building here?" Deciding to find out, he approached one of the workers and asked him, “Sir, I am not from this area, but I see that your company is constructing something. Can you tell me what you're doing?" Irritated by the interruption, the construction worker stopped, looked at the visitor sternly and said briskly, “What does it look like I am doing? I am laying bricks!” Taken aback, the young man thought, "although he answered my question, I still don't have any idea what they are constructing -- guess I'd better ask someone else." So, upon thanking the workman, he stepped away. Still curious, the young man approached a nearby workman looking for a better response. Having overheard the previous conversation between the young man and the other construction worker, this worker replied, "I'm putting in the supporting structural beams." Still curious as to the type of building being constructed, the young man moved on. Spotting another worker some distance away, he approached and asked the question, "may I ask what you are working on?" Smiling, the older worker responded, "I am building a cathedral." At last the young man walked away thinking, "this is simply amazing, one building project, three different answers, and only one of the three knew what he was really doing." And indeed it was true, for of the three men, two had answered based on the narrow focus of the job itself. Only one saw the big picture and responded as such. In hearing this story, I wondered, "is this how I'd respond if I'd been working there and was asked about the work I was doing?" So my friends I ask you too, "how would you have

So what is work anyway, and why do we do it? Its quite likely that the majority of us view it as something to be done to make a living, and believing this, we do it in exchange for a salary, paycheck, stipend or profit. Yet, if we turn to Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15,19,20, we see the Godhead not only agreeing to create Adam -- the progenitor of the human race -- in Their own image, but commissioning Adam to his work. It is not until after the fall, that work becomes cursed and laborous. In Genesis chapter 3, we see the extent of the curse. But prior to this curse, 'man did not eat by the sweat of his brow, the earth did not yield thistles and thorns, and neither did man have sorrow.' According to Romans 8:23, "... the whole creation (all creatures) groan and travail together in pain... ." So for those of us who've believed that work is a necessary evil as a consequence of the fall, we've been deceived. Work was given to mankind before the fall, and from what we read in Genesis, it seemed pleasurable. (See EGW Notes for this lesson, p. 68).

Before the fall, Adam and Eve had their work, just as the Godhead, and the angels had their work (for heaven is not a place of inactivity). And on the Seventh-Day, all rested. Why, were they weary from the burden of heavy labour? No, of course not. Rest on the Sabbath was not a cessation of labour due to weariness, for there was none. In heaven and on earth there existed perfect balance and completeness in the cycle of work and of rest. What a wonderful concept.

After the Fall, the principle of unconditional (Agape) love died in man, and the principle of "self" reigned instead, degenerating and enfeebling the nature of every living thing. Thus work became irksome and tiring, and we began to think of it as a curse. Men and women no longer worked for the benefit of others, but grudgingly because they had to. Men schemed to work less and profit at the expense of others' labour. Mankind became bound to work in order to eat; 8, 10, 12, 16 hours of labour became the norm. There was no regard for age. If you were old enough to walk and talk and feed yourself, your life became one of unceasing toil. Then the Lord in his mercy enabled not only the passing of child labour laws, but the almost worldwide legislation of other laws to prevent the abuse of common labourers. Given the history of work, it is no wonder we've thought of it as drudgery!

Yes work is tiresome, for if it weren't Christ would not have said in Matthew chapter 11:

Matt. 11:28 Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matt. 11:29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Matt. 11:30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

At the Cross, Christ redeemed us from the real curse, which is the second death--'or good-bye to life forever.' Thus we belong to Him twice, once by creation, and once by redemption. All that we have is His by right of these two grand acts. The principle of the Kingdom of God is unconditional, self-denying love, and it is opposed to the principle of "self" -- selfishness, self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement. As we follow Christ, the Word changes our priority. No longer seeking our own, we seek His righteousness, and all (these) things are added unto us (Matt. 6:33). When we understand the love of God as displayed on the cross, its principles will actuate us in all our undertakings. What does this mean? It means that we work as He worked, with the bigger picture not only in view, but stamped on our hearts and minds (and I will put my law in your hearts and minds--(Heb. 8:10). What is the law? It is the law of love (for all the law hangs on these two principles, namely -- "Thou shalt love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and that ye shall love one another as I have loved you" Matt. 22:37, 40 & John 15:12).

"So what does this have to do with work," you say? Just this, much of our work and earning money is really about covetousness, and not about love. We want the things we see around us and often feel that if we've worked hard, we deserve them. Yes, some save for their expenditures, and others borrow; but both alike feel that they are within their right to make purchases as they will. They've paid tithe, and offerings (perhaps), so now the other 90% or so is theirs to do with as they please. Christ has said, "Take heed; and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or What shall a man give in exchange for his soul" (Matt. 16:26)?

As followers of Christ, we will do the works that He did, not our own, and not for fear of reprisal nor desire for reward. Jesus said that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, and that of Himself, He could nothing. In light of this, how disappointing it must be to Him that we think "I can choose to do whatever I put my minds to - as long as I'm not hurting anyone," and still call ourselves Christian? Whatever happened to the big picture we're to keep in mind -- that we're strangers and pilgrims passing through on our way to the kingdom of heaven?

Friends, where our treasure is -- whether it be work itself, or the money, perks and benefits we derive from work -- there will our heart be also (Luke 12:24). Christ saw the big picture. He said of His life here on earth, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me...," and "My Father works and hitherto, I work" (John 4:3, John 5:17). Considering His claims of love, can we really choose to do any less than He has done? It is merely unbelief that causes us to think that
Christ does not mean us good. Mary Magdalene stands in stark contrast to the measly gifts of love we offer our Saviour. In purchasing that "ointment" which cost her one years' wages-- and pouring it out on His feet, she gave her all to the Master whom she loved. She knew she was forgiven much, and therefore loved much. So, the question comes to us today, will we choose to let the Master show us the big picture, and work His work of love in us, or will we continue to work as we have?

Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz

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