Do you know how to work? Have you learned to apply yourself to the task at hand, no matter how lowly or unpleasant or boring it is, and regardless of how long it will take to complete–even if there is no one to help you, or keep you company, or urge you on? If so–good! This means you know how to survive.
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23 NIV)
I recently read a Facebook post describing how hard past generations had to work to survive, and it’s true–they were amazing by today’s standards–but that was because they had to be! Government programs are a relatively new invention, and for much of humankind’s history, whoever didn’t work simply didn’t get to eat. Hard work was the way to survive.
This is, actually, a biblical principle; followers of Jesus are not to be free-loaders, overly burdening another when they can fend for themselves:
“Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious. Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 MSG)
But why is it important that we know how to work–that we know how to apply ourselves to the task at hand? It is because even if we’re doing okay financially, life is work–regardless of the nature of that work–and those who learn to aggressively approach it will accomplish the most–in this life, and for Christ’s kingdom!
Our family is not poor–not by any reasonable stretch of the imagination–but right now our finances are stretched. We have one daughter finishing her third year of college, and another anticipating her second year at a private high school. We do have rental property, but between the two tuitions, the property taxes and mortgages and insurance payments and other bills–we are feeling the strain financially.
To complicate matters further, a recent tenant damaged their apartment far beyond what the deposit covered; in all fairness, it hadn’t been updated and needed a thorough overhaul to bring in fair market value rent–but the money to hire someone simply wasn’t there. As I walked through the empty unit looking at the destruction and general outdatedness, I felt overwhelmed: I needed an extra $5000 to get it fixed, but was instead losing that much in rent because of the vacancy!
My solution–like the solution of anyone who has ever found themselves in a similar situation–was to figuratively roll up my sleeves and prepare to do what I didn’t want to think about, what I hadn’t done for years, and which, quite honestly, I didn’t want to do–to do much of the work myself. I didn’t have the funds to hire painters, but I certainly could manage paint, a roller and a tray. So, I put on some old clothes and began the job…and it was discouraging.
I think many of us have forgotten what hard work is—if we ever knew. When you look at a job, it looks like a mountain—and it is—until you start working. But once you start working, it’s still a mountain, minus whatever you got done today. But if you get up every morning and aren’t lazy and don’t dawdle and put in a whole day’s worth of work every day for several weeks or months or whatever the job at hand requires, eventually you do arrive at the end, and it’s finished, and it’s good–that is, if you did the job properly as you were going along! That’s the nature of work.
And, it’s the nature of all work–not just physically difficult work like remodeling an apartment. Anything that needs doing has a beginning and an end, but you will not accomplish your goal if you do not know how to work–if you do not begin and keep at it faithfully hour after hour and day after day, until such a time as it is completed.
I don’t care if you’re building a home for recovering addicts or studying for a foreign language proficiency exam, working on a college degree or learning French, studying for a sustainability certification or reviewing for an architectural licensing exam, preparing for a high school final, writing a book, conducting research, or doing anything else that needs doing–if it has a beginning and an end, it is work and work alone that will get you from the beginning to that end!
So, do you know how to work? Have you learned to apply yourself to the task at hand, no matter how lowly or unpleasant or boring it is, and regardless of how long it will take to complete–even if there is no one to help you, or keep you company, or urge you on? Remember that “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty,” and get going!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Teach me to work–to help meet the needs of my family and for Your kingdom! Amen.