Summary: Labor Day sermon, Calverton Baptist Church: God is able to deliver us from work we do not like and which is focused only on the bottom line. Work faithfully but do not let work consume you. Believe that God is at work even in financially difficult times
We have a love-hate relationship with our jobs. If we do not have jobs, we are anxious, because no job means no income, and no income means trouble, so we want to work. But when we get those jobs, we begin a love-hate relationship.
We say that we love our work, but then we want to take as much vacation time as possible, we invest in the retirement program and count the days until our Social Security kicks in, and we take delight in holidays like tomorrow. Labor Day! That means there’s no labor. We like that, because we have a love-hate relationship with work.
In our world, work defines us. What you do for a living becomes your identity. You not only get a paycheck; you get status, you get accolades, and you get the thrill of investing yourself in something that matters – if you have certain kinds of work. But the down side is that sometimes we work at things that do not matter, just to put bread on the table. Sometimes we labor over things we do not like, just to stay alive. Sometimes work drags us down, and we hate it. But we can’t leave it. We can’t leave it either because there is no opportunity to do something else or because we have chained ourselves to our work. It’s a love-hate relationship, you and I and our work.
But God is able to deliver. God is able to deliver us, even from labor that does not satisfy, from work that we do not love. God is able to deliver.
The story of our deliverance begins in a brickyard. It’s a brickyard where men and women are being put to hard labor, making bricks for Egypt’s king and for his dreams of glory. Imagine those huge pyramids, those immense temples that you can still visit in Egypt. Calculate how many millions of bricks it must have taken to build such places, and then imagine, if you are Pharaoh’s engineers, how you will get so many bricks. It will be lots of work for somebody, hard and unyielding work. Who will do it?
They turned to the children of Israel and put them to forced labor. They enslaved the Hebrews. Day after day, month after month, under the broiling sun, with no reward but a whip when you are slow or a shove to the ground when you stumble, the Israelites made bricks.
One day through Moses and Aaron, their leaders, they made a simple request: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh, may we have a brief holiday, please, so that we can worship our God? That request would set off a chain of events that resounds even today. That request would inaugurate God’s deliverance for them and for us.
For God is able to deliver. God is able to deliver us even from labor that does not satisfy and from work that we do not love. God is able to deliver us from among the bricks.
Notice, first, that the world in which we work values nothing more than the profit motive and the productivity count. We are living, as did the children of Israel, in a culture where the bottom line is the bottom line, and human needs and spiritual concerns and ethical matters count for very little in the marketplace. Our workplaces are very much like Pharaoh’s brickyards. It’s about the stuff and not about the spirit.
When they asked Pharaoh for a little time off to go to worship God, Pharaoh thundered back, with a sneer in his voice, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go!” No, I want my bricks and I want them now!
For many of us work feels oppressive because the things of the spirit are ignored. The human factor is overlooked. The Lord is not known. It’s all about management getting what they want, and the devil take the hindmost.
When I was a college student, thinking I wanted to be an engineer, I did an internship with a prominent company in North Carolina. Along with the tasks I was doing, I watched the way the place was run. At the end of my three months my supervisor called me in and asked me what I thought of their operations. I told him that I was troubled that the only African-Americans working in the building were either cleaning the floors or serving food in the cafeteria. I had seen only whites in management or in the professional ranks. His answer was that the purpose of the company was to make money for the shareholders and not to dabble in “social issues.” In other words, we don’t care about what is fair, we don’t care about what is right, we don’t care about giving someone an opportunity. We just want our stuff made and we want it now.