Jesus is to be Lord of the church. The church is to embody Jesus to the world. Do we reflect the love of God in Christ to one another and to the world? How else can the world know of Him?
Work is a major part of human existence. Work can be good; yet work can become an idol, and lead to covetousness and great anxiety. If the Lord Jesus returned today, would He have been honored by our conduct at work, in our relationships at work, and with the fruits of the produce of our labor?
As discussed in lesson:
Mammon: the photo! pic.twitter.com/Gf29HAE2K6
— Good Tweetman (@Goodtweet_man) August 24, 2019
God has an eternal purpose in Christ for the church. The local church has its place in that purpose; we do well to explore it and manifest it to the glory of God.
Jerusalem was in disrepair, lowly and humiliated. Nehemiah had a heart to restore its standing. God would support and sustain them; the people needed to work; they needed to be encouraged. And they needed each other.
But it came to pass that, when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.
And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, seeing they are burned?”
Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, “Even that which they are building, if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall.”
Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn back their reproach upon their own head, and give them up for a spoil in a land of captivity; and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee; for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.
So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto half the height thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
But it came to pass that, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem went forward, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth; and they conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion therein. But we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
And Judah said, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.”
And our adversaries said, “They shall not know, neither see, till we come into the midst of them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.”
And it came to pass that, when the Jews that dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times from all places, Ye must return unto us. Therefore set I in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in the open places, I set there the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, “Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, that half of my servants wrought in the work, and half of them held the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the coats of mail; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They all builded the wall and they that bare burdens laded themselves; every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held his weapon; and the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another: in what place soever ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us; our God will fight for us.”
So we wrought in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labor in the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard that followed me, none of us put off our clothes, every one went with his weapon to the water (Nehemiah 4:1-23).
From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
The Kingdom of Heaven is a crucial element of the preaching and work of the Lord Jesus. But what is the Kingdom? Who is in it? Where is it? How is it manifest? Join us as we explore the Kingdom of Heaven in Scripture.
Work more; work harder; always be busy. Such seems to be the national mantra of America. But is life all about work? How can we live in a healthy way which glorifies God?
Jesus built His church, His body (Matthew 16:18, Colossians 1:18). Great! What is the church supposed to do? What are the collective responsibilities of the churches of Christ?
We need to grow in Christ. Great! But how are we supposed to do that? The Hebrew author points the way forward in Hebrews 5:12-14.
For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit (Hebrews 6:1-3).
Gods of This World: Work
There is one that is alone, and he hath not a second; yea, he hath neither son nor brother; yet is there no end of all his labor, neither are his eyes satisfied with riches.
“For whom then,” saith he, “do I labor, and deprive my soul of good?”
This also is vanity, yea, it is a sore travail (Ecclesiastes 4:8).
Imagine, for a moment, that you are meeting someone for the first time. What questions are you most likely to ask that person in order to get to know more about them? You will most likely ask what their name is, perhaps something about family or place of origin; you will also most certainly ask what kind of work they do.
Work represents a very important and significant dimension of our lives. A “standard” 40-hour work week consumes almost a quarter of a person’s time; many people work many more than forty hours for their job. For most of us work does not end when we leave the workplace: we may have work to do for our jobs at home or are often thinking about work projects, or we have work to do for ourselves, our families, our friends, or to volunteer for other people, causes, or organization. In many ways our work also gives our lives meaning: we are doing productive things with our time. We may feel valued for the expenditure of time, skill, and effort in our work. Likewise, if we are not able to work, our self-esteem may plummet and we may wonder why we are even here; depression runs rampant among the unemployed and those with medical conditions that render them unable to work.
Work maintains this important place in the lives of humans because we were made to work (Genesis 2:15). The Apostle Paul decreed that those who will not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10; not at all meaning those who were unable to work or those who were willing but unable to find work, but those who could work but did not). Working, making a living, and having some extra to give to those in need is everywhere commended in Scripture (Ephesians 4:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). Work is a good thing.
While man was made to work, even in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, work was also cursed with futility when man sinned (Genesis 2:15, 3:17-19). Therefore we often work hard, obtain resources, use the resources, and must work hard again; we can accumulate some wealth but cannot take it with us (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2-12:8). Work for work’s sake cannot be the ultimate good.
Especially in our modern world it has become very tempting to make work for work’s sake the ultimate good, making a god out of work and effort. This is not necessarily covetousness or greed; while many people will work hard in order to get money and make obtaining money the goal of their lives (Ephesians 5:3,5), a lot of people work and work, make far less than they probably deserve, and yet remain devoted to their work. We now call such people “workaholics,” those who seem “addicted” to work and effort.
“Workaholism” happens for many different reasons. Some people never stop working because they feel as if they are in competition with others and can only be the best if they work the most; some will even brag about how many hours they work in a given week. Others do not have strong personal boundaries established and cannot turn down requests for work or assistance. Some have a nagging feeling of insecurity and doubt, feeling as if they have never done enough even though their output seems astonishing. Some overwork themselves as a way of escaping the people and/or problems in their lives. Still others crave the attention and commendation that come from others from doing a job well done; many more think they will be able to give themselves that commendation if they just get a bit more finished. Work can even become an idol in religion: how many have attempted to do good work after good work in an attempt to atone for sin or to gain the pleasure of the divine?
All idolatrous forms of work derive from fears, guilt, perceived insufficiencies, and pain. It is easy to feel as if one’s acceptance by others and their worth is tied up in what they do; sadly, many people have experiences which seem to prove this feeling right.
Yes, man was made to work, but there is more to being human than working. The same God who made man to work also expected His people to rest (Genesis 2:1-4); not for nothing does Jesus offer people rest if they come to Him (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus encourages us to find an understanding of our value in Him: God loved us so much that Jesus was willing to die for our sins so we could be saved, and we did nothing to deserve it, and can never do anything which merits it (John 3:16, Titus 3:3-8). If work serves as our drug of choice to help us feel better about ourselves or our condition, it will become as our god; instead, we do better to believe in Jesus, find our worth in Him, and be willing to work for Him on account of what He has done for us to God’s glory and honor!
Ethan R. Longhenry
Solomon had the means to see the end of pleasure and labor: joy for a moment, but ultimately vanity and a striving after wind.
I said in my heart, Come now, I will prove thee with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it? I searched in my heart how to cheer my flesh with wine, my heart yet guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what it was good for the sons of men that they should do under heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit; I made me pools of water, to water therefrom the forest where trees were reared; I bought men-servants and maid-servants, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, above all that were before me in Jerusalem; I gathered me also silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I gat me men-singers and women-singers, and the delights of the sons of men, musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced because of all my labor; and this was my portion from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been done long ago. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man’s eyes are in his head, and the fool walketh in darkness: and yet I perceived that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so will it happen even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then said I in my heart, that this also is vanity. For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance for ever; seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. And how doth the wise man die even as the fool! So I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun was grievous unto me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
And I hated all my labor wherein I labored under the sun, seeing that I must leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he will be a wise man or a fool? yet will he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned about to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor wherein I had labored under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skilfulness; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.
For what hath a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, wherein he laboreth under the sun? For all his days are but sorrows, and his travail is grief; yea, even in the night his heart taketh no rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? For to the man that pleaseth him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that pleaseth God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:1-26).