Working hard to get your fill?

2 Kings 15-16, 2 Corinthians 3, Micah 5
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While ordering my overpriced coffee this Saturday morning, the person taking my order unwittingly asked me a poignant question: “What are you up to today? Just hanging out?” On the way in, I’d observed a handful of people sitting outside and within the shop, staring off, doing exactly that: just hanging out. Those lazy people.  How dare they enjoy their weekend!

My response was that I planned on getting work done — namely, writing in some form — and I said this with the image of those people spacing out in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to be like them; I have stuff to do!

I’ve convinced myself that my work is very important.  I recognize the urgency of now, the need to accomplish, not so that I might get something in return, but so I might make some impression on this world or on the people around me before I’m done here on earth.  And this is all noble stuff, one might agree. One might call me a driven, determined-type, I guess.

After reading today, however, I concluded that my comparison between myself and the idle people is quite dangerous. Apart from the obviously unfounded judgment I passed on those hapless people upon walking in, I discovered I have a false idol: the work of my hands.

I confess that the more tense I get, the suckier my writing becomes. If I relax, the natural flow of speech and thought blend together and form actually comprehensible prose. This is fleshly liberty, fleshly freedom, to know there’s nothing to worry about. Oxygen from breathing helps as well.

The tension I’m alluding to comes from focusing on that work of my hands. This is not a new human problem — it’s been happening since the beginning.  I think all men and many women have this issue: they find their significance in the deeds and accomplishments they’ve managed to perform in a given day. And this is a false idol.

God condemns the “worship of the work of your hands” at the end of Micah — specifically, the Lord is referring to the false gods introduced by surrounding nations that began permeating Israel’s traditions. The vast majority of Israel and Judah’s kings had a serious problem with this.

But really, the idol is the satisfaction of worshiping a hand-made work, possibly representing something greater than yourself, that removes due praise unto God. For Israel and Judah, which at the time were supposed to be operating as theocracies, it created fragmented allegiances and bore corruption under the leadership. For us today, it eliminates our “need” for God, and shatters real fellowship with God.

Do you feel disconnected with God? Is it possible that your work and your pride in it burden you, that your intent is not to serve God, but to serve yourself? The start of 2 Corinthians 3 asks a question we should always ask ourselves: “Do we begin again to commend ourselves?”

If this is a struggle, know that there is liberty in Christ. We can be free of this, if we just learn to relax and let the Spirit take over. On the surface, we must stop comparing our work with others’, because God has set aside a work specifically for your purpose.  So don’t stress it! Do your work, and let God take care of the results. He has already manifested Himself in you; how much more will He work through you as you depend on His Spirit!

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3 Comments

  1. I hate my job, I have to work to pay our medical. Some days there is some light (person I prayed for comes back in to tell me that cancer is gone, praise God! Other days, most days, shopaholics looking for the best deal and then I see myself, yuck!
    Thanks for writing and posting.

    Reply
  2. In prosperous cultures, such as the US, the majority tend to measure their value by accomplishments and status…what we do for a living, how much money we make, what car we drive, what house we live in, etc. This self-worth attitude is further enforced by a culture that tells us we “need” certain things to measure up, to be successful, to make the most of our lives. Once we classify “wants” into “needs” we can justify our choices and feel that what we are doing is not only necessary but vital or for a “good cause.” We work ourselves to death for bigger houses, better cars, vacations, college educations, etc. While God does not condem ambition, the aquiring of nice things or experiencing good things in life…it is the separation of our lives from God that is the problem. We live life with God as as an after-thought, someone we run to in time of need, and even someone to justify how we are living. We often struggle to fit God into our lives instead of fitting our lives around God. We often take little time to step back and contemplate what God’s plan for our lives may really be, if the truth may require a departure from the status-quo or really set us apart from the “norm.”

    I have to admit that I am one of the majority…maybe not to the degree of some people, but still measuring too much of my self-worth and value by the standards of this culture and not willing to be “radical” and really live for God’s kingdom. Through circumstances, I have had the opportunity to look at life and ask the hard questions. What should be the real purpose for getting a certain job? How much money do I really need? What should be my focus when choosing a place to live? What should I be doing with my time outside of work?

    On my 9 month (so far) journey of being unemployed and living under another persons roof, God has gradually and gently helped me to look at things with a new perspective. I have battled against the human created idea of career…where we see a successful life of work as being consistently upwardly focused with constant growth and improvement, both in status and earnings. I have had to swallow my pride and accept that God’s plan for me may be what the world may classify as a backward step or “bad move.” I have had to change my way of thinking and see a job as something that may be necessary in this world to meet certain needs but, with God’s help, I can have a job that is enoyable, uses the gifts God has given me and glorifies Him. The bible speaks of man working but does not tie money to the work. Money is a by-product of our work and not the reason why God calls us to work. When we focus our work life on earnings we become trapped in an end-less cycle that the culture is eager to encourage.

    As I continue to patiently walk with God each day, I have broken my worldly pursuits down to three personal struggles: 1) Security, 2) Fear and
    3) Pride. At the basic root of all these struggles, I have to admit, is a lack of Trust in God. I do not “really” believe all of God’s promises. I want the Security of a high-paying job to be prepared for every circumstance and so I don’t have to struggle or worry for anything. I Fear letting go of the world’s formula for living life. I Fear setting myself apart and being unconventional. My Pride drives me to desire to live up to the standards that surround me and are communicated to me every day. My Pride wants to be able to display my success in comparison to my fellow man.

    Reply
    • Wow, thank you for sharing this! I sincerely hope you’re able to find work soon, but I am glad that God is using this time to teach you some truths about His provision and what whole surrender looks like. I am not exempt from the same struggles. But this is certainly encouraging to me!

      Reply

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