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Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor day parade float
Float used in Bennett's Valley Labor Day Parade about 1983

"A Biblical Perspective On Work"

Message summary: May we all work diligently at the duties God has called us to as an expression of our faith, obedience, and gratitude.

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"Six days you shall labor and do all your work" (Exodus 20:9). "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). "Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures" (Psalm 104:23,24).

Today is "Labor Day" here in the United States. Most American workers are off work today so we may have a decrease in regular readers.

For most Americans it's an extended week-end and the unofficial end of summer. But over the years we've seen it as a good time to examine what the Bible says about labor and when I pastored I often preached a sermon on that theme the Sunday before Labor Day.

It's not a very exciting subject and some may disregard it as being unspiritual, but the Bible says a lot about work.

Some 35 years ago when we were establishing a new congregation in Northern Pennsylvania we looked for creative ways to have a witness for Christ while also promoting our young church. Bennett's Valley, a string of small towns in a narrow valley near the church, always had a parade on Labor Day and we sought to get a witness for the Lord by participating in the parade.

We developed a float using the "Labor" theme and based it on Scripture. Pulling a trailer behind our church van we set it up like a working man's bedroom. Ken Ginther, a great big lumbering man in our church, volunteered to lay on the bed pretending to be sleeping. His work boots and other evidence of a laboring man were displayed next to his bed. We had a battery-operated cassette player played a recording of loud snoring and a big banner on each side of the float declared, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet." I am sure that this was the most unusual float that Bennett's Valley parade ever had to this day!

There's just no sleep as sound as the sleep following a hard day of work. I particularly recall those times in my life when I did hard physical labor such as farm work during my college years and later several elements of construction. There's indeed a special sweetness to the sleep that follows physically hard labor or a day of productivity requiring much brain activity.

In God's providential order life, as we know it, requires labor. All throughout this day and every day you are blessed by another's labor.

Over 25 years ago Chuck Colson and Jack Eckerd teamed up to write a book "Why America Doesn't Work" examining the diminishing work ethic in America.

Now it seems to us this has gone on overdrive based on a growing list of perceived rights such as:
"I have a right to the job I want or I just won't work".
"I have a right to a job that has all the conditions I want such as pay, benefits and working conditions".
"I have a right to a job based upon my education" (even if the education is essentially worthless for any type of real job).
"I have a right not to work if I don't want to".
"I have a right to have all of my expanding list of necessities provided for whether I work or not".
"I have a right to a job that protects me from being offended by anything, even the slightest matter, that I may now or in the future find offensive".

Today you may be off work and perhaps you've given little thought to labor but I hope you thank God for your job, including the hard work. I believe that's one way we please and honor God! We also consider those who are earnestly trying to find work and consider the stress and worry that results from such an experience.

Psalm 104 recounts God's works in the natural world, showing His providential care over all His creation. I find it interesting that the picture of man in this account is at work. Some see work as a curse or a necessary evil. But God has ordained work into His created order. God said "six days shalt thou work."* Solomon said, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" and Paul said (in a context concerning secular work) "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men." In the book of Revelation we read of a future time when the faithful "will rest from their labor."

Let us work diligently at the duties God has called us to as an expression of our faith, obedience, and gratitude.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the privilege of working with our hands and engaging our minds. Work is ordained by you and carried out in our homes and places of employment. Help us to make a positive difference as we live out our Christian testimony while diligently performing our work duties. There is no perfect workplace yet we, as people who seek to honor You, will be able to deal with less than ideal circumstances as we do our work primarily for You, knowing that it is from You that we receive the reward You grant to those who are diligent and faithful.  Amen.

* Of course this is in the context of the Fourth Commandment concerning a Day of Rest but we nevertheless see it as part of the command. Of what meaning would a day of rest have if people didn't work?

Here's the outline to a message I preached many years ago on the Sunday before "Labor Day"

Among the outstanding sins of our day is the desecration of the Lord's Day and the deterioration of the Bible work ethic:

1) God has ordained work. Prior to the fall God commanded Adam to "tend the garden" Genesis 2:15. Explicitly commanded in the 4th commandment "six days shalt thou work."
Labor is modeled and is foundational all through Scripture.

2)  Our work matters 
Consider the moral benefit (outcome) of your work. How does your work benefit the good of society?
Biblical example: David watching sheep, Peter as a fisherman, Paul as a tentmaker
Modern examples: Machine part that goes into life-saving medical device, mechanical repair, medical, farming and so much more.

Categories of work:
  • Sacred
  • Morally beneficial
  • Morally destructive
The Christian work ethic essentially asserts that all work, both sacred and morally beneficial is noble.

3)  We are to work heartily as unto the Lord (includes secular work).
Colossians 3:22-24 "Heartily" surely includes characteristics such as being: diligent, resourceful, honorable and so forth.

4) Our work environment is one of our mission and discipling fields.
Example in Scripture Acts 18:2-4
Modern example: Compassion shown

Zimbabwe mission team 9/2/17 (Nancy)
We have a group of friends serving on a mission trip in Zimbabwe. They are voluntarily working, as unto the Lord, in building roofs on several area churches. We have on numerous occasions referred to our Zimbabwean friends Notsen and Tho who helped coordinate the trip along with host missionary Jake Shenk who has served in Africa for nearly 60 years (seated 3rd from left).

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"We'll Work Till Jesus Comes"  Video  Master's Praise Vocal Group

"We'll Work"  Video  The Cathedrals

Finally today: Perfect timing!

Wedding limo in Mount Joy 9/2/17 (Ester)
Saturday afternoon Ester and I (Stephen) drove through Main Street in Mount Joy and saw balloons ahead of us and then this huge limo. "Take picture of that!" I suggested. What a contrast to the car at our wedding with shaving cream and crepe paper tied behind it which actually happened to be the best man's car they had mistakenly thought was ours! (Photo)

Wedding in Mount Joy 9/2/17 (Ester)
After we passed the limo there they were just departing from the tunnel of well-wishers attempting to stay dry. The groom spotted Ester and gestured toward her.

Wedding in Mount Joy 9/2/17 (Ester)
Ester felt like the Paparazzi!
(Perhaps a local reader knows this couple and can pass these photos along to them)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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