Work Hard

Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because of my actions today?

These are good and important questions, and I was asking myself them only today. My answers were not so good if I am being honest. I didn’t share my faith outside of the blog. I did not pray nearly enough. I saw no impact on God’s Kingdom through any of my actions. Unsurprisingly this left me a little discouraged.

Thank the Lord that He is so kind to us though, and the very bearer of the gift of encouragement!

He reminded me that I had done a full day’s work, earning my pay which I would later receive. He then reminded me of this verse from Ephesians.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)

I am blessed to be able to say that I enjoy my work. That has not always been the case, but my present employment is fulfilling and although not Christian ministry, it does serve the wider society.

At the end of the day, even if I fail in a number of ways, I can know that the day’s work will result in a payslip, and that I can use that money to give to those in need. For the most part, that may be giving to the church or ministry in order to enable others to share the Good News. If I am not in the position to share it widely myself, I can at least support others who can.

Perhaps you are in secular employment, and like me wonder how your life contributes to God’s Kingdom. Let me suggest you do not work merely for yourself and to pay your bills, but also so that you might have something to give. I have met people whose ministry it was to be successful in business and to offer their entire profit margin to the Lord. That is no small thing.

Jesus taught of the Shrewd Servant in Luke 16, who misused his master’s money on himself and came under threat of losing his job. Instead of using that money to help himself, he then began to use it to win friends of the master’s debtors. Both ways were misusing the master’s money, but Jesus praised him in the second way because at least he used the funds for a future purpose.

Jesus pointed out the lesson in verse 9:

Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

Luke 16:9 (NLT)

The lesson is clear. Use your earthly resources to benefit others and win friends. Notice that final phrase though, “to welcome you to an eternal home.” This suggests not only that we use our money to meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too. We can use our earthly money – which we cannot take with us – to fund the preaching of the Gospel, and that one day when we reach our eternal home, there will be people there to welcome us.

If you work a physical job, a secular role or something that seems disconnected to the Gospel, use the money you earn to spread God’s message throughout the world. It is not a waste of money, and rather an eternal investment. One day, someone will swing past your heavenly mansion and thank you for what you gave.

Work hard, as if working for the Lord Himself, because you are!

Buy Dirt

In my younger days, I was never much of a fan of country music. In more recent times though, I must admit to enjoying it much more. Not all of it is particularly edifying of course, so I’d advise you be selective (as with all things) if you tune in to country radio.

I heard a song the other day called “Buy Dirt” by Jordan Davis and featuring Luke Bryan. I will put a link below in case you are not familiar with it.

The song is about a younger man sitting down and sharing a coffee with an older gentleman, perhaps a grandfather. Over the course of their beverage, the older man shares some wisdom with the younger, and I thought I’d examine the wisdom given in light of Scripture with you today.

Chasing the dollar

When the older man asks the younger what he’s been up to, the younger replies that he’s been “chasing the dollar.” This is what prompts the wisdom sharing.

We cannot deny that all of us need money, and earning it takes up no small amount of our lives. Chasing after it though is a dangerous thing.

The Bible says:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:10 (WEB)

This does not say that money is evil, but that loving it is a root of all kinds of evil. Having too much or too little money can lead us into temptation. Loving money can even lead us away from our faith, so let each of us have a proper relationship with it.

Some devote their lives to earning and having more. To do this, they can sacrifice their health, their families, their friends and even their relationship with God. The thing is, when you are on your death bed, you are unlikely to ask for your accountant. Instead, you will be wanting the comfort of family and faith.

Do What You Love, But Call It Work

The older man advises the younger to do what you love, and call it work. This is a great nugget of wisdom in my view. It has been said that if you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. This is so true!

There have been times in my life where I really did not enjoy my job, and those days were hard indeed! In more recent times, I have loved doing my job, and when that is the case, it does not feel like work at all.

We must remember it is a privilege to enjoy one’s job, as there are many who work to pay their bills and support their family, and “enjoyment” does not even come in to it.

As with all things, it is a balance. If you are doing a job you hate, then prayerfully consider a change. If you have little choice because of financial demands or to support those you love, then clearly I am not telling you to quit, do a job you love and face bankruptcy. Do what you need to do of course, but also do not feel trapped where you are. And look for opportunities to move towards a job that you love.

Throw a Little Money

At one point in the song, the advice is given to throw a little money in the church offering. While I do not want to overthink such a line, as it is clearly not a theological song, it does give you pause to think.

It is good advice to give, no question about that. The Bible is full of instruction for us to give to God’s work. Throwing a little money in the collection plate though is not the way we ought to be giving. That smacks of someone who is unprepared and just grabbing whatever they have in their pocket at the time. Our giving should be more purposeful than that.

Paul says:

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (WEB)

This instruction suggests planning on our part, and deliberate giving. Notice it is on the first day of the week, so that God is given to first and does not end up with whatever we have left over at the end.

Giving is also connected to the points above about working. We work, not for our own pleasure, but rather so that we might have something to share with the church.

In Ephesians, Paul states:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)

We work to support ourselves and our families yes, but we work primarily that we might have something to give to the family of believers.

Send Your Prayers Up and Your Roots Down

This gem of wisdom needs little explaining. Indeed, we ought to be sending up our prayers regularly. In fact, not just regularly, but at all times.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word[a] of God; 18 with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:

Ephesians 6:17-18 (WEB)

Likewise, putting down roots, in the context of the song at least, is about building your family in the community. As I write, I cannot think of a specific verse to quote here, but believe it is biblical for us to be a positive force in the place where we live. You could point to the Great Commission for instance on that one. I also feel that Christians should have a good level of commitment to the place where they live.

It All Goes By Real Quick

It sure does! Need I emphasise this point to you? Life is short, and goes by very quickly indeed! We must make the most of it, and never forget it is the preparation for all eternity.

In the psalms, we read:

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;

    the span of my years is as nothing before you.

Everyone is but a breath,

    even those who seem secure

Psalm 39:5 (NIV)

It may seem negative to point out the shortness of life, but I do not mean it to be. Even a life of 100+ years is short in comparison to all eternity. God is Eternal, unending and beyond time itself. Our handful of decades here is a mere blip next to the infinite life to come. Ensure you make the most of it while you are here, and be ready for the next!

Buy Dirt and Thank the Good Lord For It

The song is titled “Buy Dirt,” and says although you cannot buy happiness, you can buy a home and build a good life for yourself and your family. This is true, and while a nice house does not make a home, we can all do the best with what we have and make our lives worth living.

Throughout it all, when times are both good and bad, we thank the good Lord for it all. He has given us life, and our very breath is dependent upon Him.

Join me in thanking Him today for all the good things in our lives, and for what we have learned from the bad.

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Here’s the song, and I hope you enjoy it.

Don’t Be Wise (Proverbs 3:7-10)

There is sufficient wisdom in Proverbs 3:7 alone to keep us going for a lifetime! As you probably do not want to spend the rest of your life reading my blog, I will try to be concise!

7 Don’t be wise in your own eyes.

Fear Yahweh, and depart from evil.

8 It will be health to your body,

and nourishment to your bones.

9 Honor Yahweh with your substance,

with the first fruits of all your increase:

10 so your barns will be filled with plenty,

and your vats will overflow with new wine.

Proverbs 3:7-10 WEB)

Taken out of context, the phrase “Don’t be wise…” does not appear too often in Proverbs! This is heavily qualified though by adding “in your own eyes.”

Our own eyes, when used to look on ourselves, are rarely a good judge. Few people would admit to being unwise, and only by looking at ourselves soberly can we obtain a truer estimate.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says this:

For I say through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.

Romans 12:3 (WEB)

Too often we give ourselves miles of leeway, while giving others none whatsoever. We judge our own intentions, while we criticise others’ performance (irrespective of their intent).

Too often we give ourselves miles of leeway, while giving others none whatsoever. #Bible #Wisdom #Christianity

When we think we are wise, we can be overinflated and that makes us careless and prone to mistakes. Rather, we should know that wisdom comes from dependence on God and on His ways. Each and every moment we must surrender to Him, seeking His guidance and obeying His commands.

Verse 7 ends by telling us to fear God and depart from evil. That is something we must live our lives by!

Verse 8 links the fear of the Lord to our physical health. We have touched on this point before, earlier on in Proverbs 3, and will do so again later on. Being a Christian does not guarantee good health, neither does avoiding evil prevent all and every sickness. The principle here is that if we make wisdom our guide, following Jesus and steering well clear of evil, then we reduce our likelihood of ill-health. As we noted before, this is a natural consequence. It is wise to eat healthily, exercise regularly and avoid excessive stress. I do not think anyone would argue that such things will indeed bring health to our bodies.

Verse 9 and 10 instruct us to honour God with our money and possessions. This is quite right to do, and is essentially an act of our worship. We may pray, sing songs, study the Bible and attend church; all of which are acts of praise. Giving of our money and possessions is every bit as important though.

How so? Because we humans are rather attached to our money and “things.” By offering them freely to the Lord, we are rightly putting Him above all such material items. We invest much of our life trying to earn money, and so, by giving it to God, we are reminding ourselves of His rightful place in our life.

God has given us so very much! And by offering back to Him a portion of our income, we are honouring Him. Notice it uses the phrase “first fruits” indicating that we do not give God whatever we have left at the end of the month, rather we give Him the first part of our income because He is first in our lives.

Verse 10 begins with the word “So” indicating that what it says is the result of our giving in verse 9. Because we have given God first place in our lives, even with our income (verse 9), we will have barns filled with plenty and vats overflowing with wine (verse 10).

I want to tread carefully here, as many who buy into the prosperity gospel might teach this rather simply as “Give to God, and He’ll give back to you.” God is not an ATM or better still, fruit machine. We do not simply throw in a coin, crank the handle and out comes a jackpot. God is not a machine, nor a set of rules for us to decipher and “crack the code.” He is a Person, and a Father, and He is keen for us to learn a healthy relationship to money.

Like any good Father does, God wants us to use money wisely; He was us to have possessions, but does not want them to have us! By putting Him first in our finances, and indeed in every area, we are ensuring that God is number one and that nothing is competing for His place.

So do not be wise in your own eyes. Do not think you can get away with evil, ignore God and live a healthy and abundant life. God wants us to be healthy, and I believe He wants us to have good things too, but more than either of those, He wants us to be devoted to Him and His glory. We do not seek after money, nor do we consider ourselves to be God’s gift to humanity.

Rather, we should be sober minded, honest about our own wisdom, and utterly dependant on God for our physical and financial needs.

Thanks for reading!