The Meaning and Joy of Work

Christ took delight in His work. Do you?

I.H.E. is editor of the Ministry.

When Christ said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," He brought upon Himself the condemnation of those who heard Him, because He had healed on the Sabbath day. Never­theless He stated an important fact, from which as Christians we can learn a good lesson concerning labor and the work we have to do. To know these divine laws would help to sweeten life, and make work a pleasure instead of a burden.

Ofttimes we think of the future state as a condition of absolute rest. We long for heaven, not because we know just what it will be like, but because we think of it as some place of re­pose and ease, where we shall no longer have to work. To those holding this view, happiness seems to be in opposition to things to be done. They speak of work as the one thing to be rid of before they can attain a state of happiness. To them heaven is a place of do-nothingness, idleness, with all bodily needs spontaneously supplied.

Now when Christ Him­self said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," how can we infer that God is an idle Being, without plans, purposes, designs, or labor? No, the very contrary is true. We cannot conceive of God, if we take the Bible record of Him, as an inactive, resting Buddha —ever in a state of absolute repose, with noth­ing accomplished and with no undertakings.

The Bible introduces us to God as a designer, a creator, a worker. The book of Genesis sets forth God as a worker, as does also the whole written Word. We often forget that before man fell in Eden, he was designed to work.

The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Gen. 2:15. There was work to be done in Eden by sinless men and women. If man had never sinned, he would have' had to till the soil, to cultivate and trim the trees, to train and direct the vines. Work was assigned him by the Lord in his Edenic home. But when man sinned, his labors were increased. The land no longer brought forth its abundance. The earth was cursed. Instead of man's being allowed to re­main amid the Edenic conditions prevailing, his labors have been multiplied to secure a live­lihood. Since the fall, man's labors have brought forth less than before. But yet labor is not a curse nor a disgrace, nor something to be shunned. It is honorable, godlike, and be­comes a Christian.

When Christ was here on earth He was a worker, a toiler. He knew hunger and weari­ness and suffered from heat and cold. He was a carpenter, like Joseph His father. You never read of His seeking the snows of Lebanon in the heat of summer. There is no record of His vacationing at the seaside, with the rich and fashionable. No; Christ was ever at His work. The psalmist represents Him as saying, "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up."

Take the record of just one Sabbath in the life of Christ in the early days of His ministry:

"They went into Capernaum; and straight­way on the Sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him. And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

"And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she minis­tered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many dev­ils; and suffered not the devils to speak, be­cause they knew Him. And in the morning, ris­ing up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." Mark 1:21-35.

What a day was this! Who can equal such a day's work?

Christ took delight in His work. To Him it was more than food. At the well of Jacob, when urged by His disciples to eat the food they had secured, He said to them, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." Now when our work is more than food, it becomes a delight. Nothing is hard in work when we delight in it, and when it affords us pleasure.

When one protests against work, and feels that it is beneath his dignity to do what ought to be done, that work becomes bondage. No honest work is belittling to any man. One kind of service is just as needful as another in this world in which we live. If someone did not plant the fields and sow the seed and harvest and market the grain, if someone did not prepare food, we should all be dead in a short time. Cotton and wool must be produced, and all the details of the long line of work must be performed, or the minister must leave his preaching and find food and clothing.

Thus the preacher is not a man who looks down upon working men and women, but one who respects work, whether it be in one line or another. Work is honorable, uplifting, health giving. It would be almost beyond conception how we could be happy if we did not have work to do. I saw a man last spring at hard physical work. He was a stranger, whom I had never seen before. His clothing was soiled by his work, but he looked happy. I said to him, "You look as if you liked your work, friend." He said to me, "If you had stood in the bread line for two years, as I have, and now had work, I guess you would be happy. This is my second day's work in two years. Yesterday, when I was assigned to this job, was the happiest day of my life."

God intends His ministry shall be workers. "We are laborers together with God." That means God works with every minister. God is not sleeping, nor off on vacation, nor indiffer­ent. When a minister will go to work, if he is true of heart, God is with that man. God will put in 365 days a year colaboring with every man.

If to you, as to the disciples of old after they had toured the synagogues of Galilee and worked hard, the Master's charge is, "Come ye yourselves apart, . . . and rest awhile," always remember that "when you are ready for the yoke, so is God." Never need you wait for Him to rest or to get ready. Our Father works—He is a master workman. When you are asleep, He still works on.

Another thing that is essential is for a man to learn to love what he has to do. It is a trag­edy to have to do what one hates. A father told me this of his son: "We wanted him to learn music, and got him an organ. The boy said, 'I hate organs; I want a piano.' So we got him a piano. Then he said, 'I hate this piano. If I had a violin, I would be glad to play it.' So we bought him a violin. Then he still refused to practice, but said, 'I want to go into the woods and never see another musical instrument.' " Contrast such an ex­perience with that of Heifetz, who practiced so much that it was almost impossible to get him to stop to eat. One loved his work, the other hated it. To love our work is to make that work easy, delightful, a pleasure. If we love our work as ministers, it will seldom wear us out. We can do more and more.

It becomes a minister of the gospel to add dignity to labor, and that of all sorts. The very influence of a minister helps all classes of toilers to get happiness out of labor if they can be persuaded to look on work as something worthwhile, and to believe that whether it be white-collar work or digging in the soil does not make much difference if all be done as an artist works—for joy in the task and love of it, and to do one's best. Then, and then only, can our work be done to the glory of the Lord.

I. H. E.

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I.H.E. is editor of the Ministry.

November 1933

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