Summary: Jesus not only dignified labor by His life but by His choice of disciples, for He picked them, not from idleness, but from the labor force. He called them from their jobs. He wanted men who were prepared to work.
It is probably a fictitious story, but a wife who had her husband cremated was asked if she wanted
his ashes in an urn. She said, “No. I want them put in an hour glass to set on the mantel. That lazy
rascal never did a day’s work in his life, but I’m going to keep him busy from now on.”
George Bernard Shaw said that an eternal vacation is a good working definition of hell. We
won’t stop to debate his theology, but simply accept the truth of the idea that he is conveying. Man
needs a vacation, but his greater need is for a vocation. God made man to work. The first thing God
did with Adam was to give him a job. Gen. 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in
the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Man started with no sin and no unemployment. Some feel
we have made a lot of progress since then since we have many people who do not have to work.
They think of work as degrading, and they consider utopia to be where there is universal
unemployment, and all you do is loft and enjoy life. The next best is to keep enough people working
to meet your needs. Like the man who said it will be some time before his leg is well enough to go
back to work. When his friend asked why that was, he replied, “Because compensation has set in.”
You hear a lot of talk among workers about how they loathe to work, and many practice what
they preach. Many talk of the day when they were retired as if they at last will be free to live. A
good number of such men are bored stiff even on vacation. There seems to be an ambivalence in men
at this point. He hates work and loves work at the same time. We know where the love of work
came from, for God made man in His image with the capacity to create and the love of doing so. The
historic Protestant viewpoint is that there is dignity in manual labor. Jesus spent the greatest portion
of His earthly life as an carpenter. When Peter said of Him that He left us an example that we should
follow His steps, he was not referring to His manual labor, but there is no reason to doubt that this
aspect of our Lord’s life also has an important lesson for our life. William Torrent wrote,
My Master was a worker with daily work to do,
And he who would be like him must be a worker too.
Then welcome honest labor, and honest labors fare,
For where there is a worker, the Master’s man is there.
Jesus not only dignified labor by His life but by His choice of disciples, for He picked them, not
from idleness, but from the labor force. He called them from their jobs. He wanted men who were
prepared to work, for He says in John 5:17, “My Father worketh heitherto, and I work.” Work was
at the very heart of God’s plan. The kingdom of God, like Eden, was to be without unemployment.
It was not His intention to call men out of darkness into light so that they could relax and do nothing,
but that they might see the need to labor in bringing others out of darkness. Jesus was a worker, and
He chose workers to be the means by which He would build His church.
The question remains of why men hate work in spite of the fact that God has ordained it, Christ
dignified it, and the church has honored it from the beginning. The answer appears to be that it is
because the world has perverted it. The world philosophy has a knack of turning good into evil. It
has created a moneytheistic society in which the almighty dollar has determined the course of
industry. Men who have studied the problem of modern industry are saying that the worker is
dissatisfied with his work life because it has lost its meaning. His work is often boring because it
seems so routine, useless and uncreative. The only motive that keeps him at it is his wages.
It has been proven that work that is meaningless is not just neutral but positively harmful to the
worker. Dostoevsky, the Russian author, has pointed this out in the House Of The Dead in which he
describes his reflection while in the prison camp in Siberia. He writes, “I have sometimes thought
that the way to crush and annihilate a human being completely would be to set him to do an
absolutely senseless and useless thing. If her were condemned to poor water from tub to another and