So, what did you do this “Labor Day” weekend? We spent today putting shingles on a neighbor’s roof! For the past week we have been helping reroof their house and today got one side shingled. We recently finished helping put new siding on the house as well. Oh, we also squeezed in a trip to get firewood, made some campfire wood bundles for Rosauer’s grocery store, taught some tennis lessons, mowed lawn and worked in the garden. And we are supposed to be retired! The thing is, nowhere in the Bible does it speak of “retirement.” As long as we are physically able, we enjoy labor and helping others and continuing to minister as God provides opportunities. I also filled the pulpit at Faith Bible Church a week ago.
In Scripture we see that God created us to work. In Gen. 1:28 it says of Adam and Eve, “…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Later, in Gen. 2:8,15, we read: “And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…He put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Sin, by the way, had not yet taken place. Work was not part of the curse. Having to labor for one’s living was not a divine punishment for man’s sin as people sometimes interpret it, but rather a divine benefit for man’s good. Work, however, did become much harder as a result of the curse on the earth because of sin (See Gen. 3:17-19). In Exodus, the Israelites are commanded to work as well as to rest: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:9,10). Clearly God designed us to work and to rest.
Similarly, even in the new earth, when sin and suffering will be gone forever, there will still be work to do. In Rev. 22:3 we read: “And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him.” We don’t know what our assignments will be there, but they will somehow be commensurate with our faithfulness in serving the Lord here (See Rev. 22:12). It is, therefore, a God-given privilege to be able to do useful work, whether that work consists of preaching God’s Word or improving God’s world. “Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might…” (Eccl. 9:10). A false separation of the secular and sacred has arisen throughout Church history. During the middle ages, monasteries and nunneries were built to house those who wished to separate themselves from secular society and do “God’s work.” They believed their sacred callings to be exalted above those who stayed to work in the secular world. Even today many view those in “full-time ministry” to be answering God’s call to a more “sacred” occupation. But, biblically, all Christians—be they parents or physicians, carpenters or plumbers, janitors or nurses, or whatever—are in “sacred” occupations. We are each called to live for Christ in the sometimes mundane, ordinary work-a-day settings of our lives. No matter what the job may be that has provided for us to do, it is important to remember to obey the admonition given by the Apostle Paul in Col. 3:17,23,24: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
So, pleasing God doesn’t mean that we must busy ourselves with a set of “spiritual” activities. As the Puritans said, “Whether cleaning house or preaching sermons, shoeing horses or translating the Bible, any human activity may constitute an offering to God.” That truth is to guide everything we do. Caring for an elderly parent, cleaning up after a child, helping a neighbor on a project, checking out customers at a grocery store, filling out a patient’s chart at a nurses’ station, sitting in traffic(!), cutting firewood, sawing lumber…should all be acts of worship, which they are if done as unto the Lord and for His glory. Pascal wrote a remarkable prayer that can help each believer in facing the routine tasks of life: “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.” The Apostle Paul exhorted: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).