Summary: A Labor Day expository sermon on the theme of work in the Bible, incorporating the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
Hillsborough Reformed Church
Ex. 20, Eph. 4
Labor Day Theme
Is work good or bad? It depends on whom you ask and when!
Ask the teen aged boy who has to mow the lawn and has put it off until now – and dad is ready to hit the roof while at the same time his friends want to play a pick-up game of football. How do you think he would answer the question of whether work is good or bad?
Or yourself – when you get back from vacation – it’s like you’ve been in another world with your family…you played hard and traveled hard and now you are back at work, and you are exhausted. If we asked you that day if work was good or bad, I know how you’d reply.
Or the mom who has changed diapers every day for almost ten years. One child got potty trained then another came along. Changing the ten thousandth diaper. Those moments of changing diapers are moments of lovely intimacy. Sometimes. At three in the morning when you have a cold and are worn out, and there is the baby crying. Ask her, is work good or bad?
Sometimes we might answer that work is a bad thing.
But it depends on whom you ask and when. For those displaced people down in New Orleans who have lost everything – their home sand their jobs – who will be looking for work to support their families. How do you they’ll answer? Or for the rescue worker dangling on a steel cable from a helicopter who lifts a frightened child from a rooftop, the only dry place around. Ask him if work is good. Or the Army Corps of Engineers who are getting little or no sleep, using their creativity and skills to repair the breeched levies, is their work good. I was in the maternity ward visiting Melissa and Darren Jones and our newest little member, Allie. As I walked out, I greeted the nurses at the nursing station. They all had these serene smiles. All was well in the nursery, you see. At that moment, no one was in labor and delivery, there were no crises all there was was the delightful routine….happy new parents and new grandparents and the quiet cries of new born babies – life is good!. Would those nurses say work is bad or good? All will answer a resounding yes, work is good.
The Bible answers “Yes,” also. Work is good according to the Bible.
Sometimes we miss something in the creation story. In reading the first chapters of the Bible, we see that when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and were punished by God, God told Adam that now he’d have to toil: 7And to the man he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
But that is after the disobedience. What about before? What did God intend? It says in the second chapter of Genesis, before the sin and punishment, 15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
We were created with a job! Grounds keeper for garden earth. And the boss? God. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Thus there is a difference in the Bible between “work” and “toil.” We use the word “vocation,” for good work. Vocation is work to which one is “called.” (consider the Latin root of vocation – as in vocal).
And for every parent who is trying to get his child to work, there are commandments in the Bible to work. Though the passage from Ephesians specifically mentions thieves, it gives us the reason we work - 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
We are to work so we can give to others. One of the deacons in a previous church was a young man who had taken over his father’s business – a dairy products distribution network. His name was Bill Fuller, Jr., and Bill was an excellent businessman. His father had built a successful business, but when his son took it over, he drove it to incredible profitability. He gave the stewardship talk in church one Sunday, and I will never forget the words of that young man. “You all know me,” he said. “You know my business makes real good money.” Then he said, “The only reason I do that is so I can do this.” Then he went on to say he only worked so he and his family could come to church and support it and do good.