Monday, August 6, 2007

6 August 2007: Work and leisure

In Genesis 2:15 we are told that YHWH placed man in Gan Eden to cultivate and care for the Garden. In other words, man is created to work, even before the fall. It is only after the fall that work becomes something disagreeable. It is very important that we understand the nature of mankind. Mankind is created to work, and not only to work, but to work according to God’s purposes, which is why it is so important for us to seek the Lord’s help when preparing for a vocation, whether it be secular or religious.

In our popular culture today, work has become a four letter word so to speak, which is very said. Today, many people work to play. In my Father’s generation, most people worked to survive, or to take care of their family. Some lucky people actually work because the like it. I have a cousin, who plans on working as a dentist until the day he drops dead, because he loves his work. I myself intend to keep proclaiming the Gospel in one way or another until I day, and even my funeral sermon is an exposition of the Gospel. If I become unable to preach the Gospel, then I hope to slow down and train others to do so. Do you enjoy your job? I can honestly say, I have never had a job that I didn’t like. I’ve had some that were no so fun, and I have had some with disagreeable people, but in general I like to work, and in times past was usually able to combine work with sharing the Gospel.

The next generation coming up seems to have a different viewpoint. How many I have heard say, they will not marry because they do not want to work hard and share the benefits of that work. Many of that generation work to party, which seems to be a changing of God’s purpose, not that leisure is bad. In fact YHWH worked leisure into the Bible. YHWH rested on the 7th day of creation. The 4th commandment commands us to have a day of rest, which in fact seems to be one of the most frequent injunctions in the Torah. In fact God even programmed about three weeks of vacation a year for everyone in Israel.

The question is how do we view work, or vocation. If we are just surviving, and our work is drudgery, then we need to look at our lives. Bro. Lawrence in his book, Practicing the Presence of God, tells us that in our work we should do everything as if we were doing it for Jesus, not only in our attitude, but also in our quality of work. Imagine if everyone in the world would practice this. Brother Lawrence himself practiced this. He found himself washing dishes (not his favourite job) and he learned to wash each plate as if Jesus was going to use it himself.

Whatever your work is, wouldn’t your attitude change if you worked as if you were doing the job for Jesus. Wouldn’t you have more joy and enthusiasm. And when people ask why you are smiling and joyful at work, you can tell them why and witness for Jesus. IN other words, your work will become less a means to an end, but an end in itself, and end that will give you true joy.

But this means that we need to reevaluate our leisure time as well. First, leisure time should not be an end in itself. Leisure time and partying have become the end, in other words an idol for many people, which is a big shift. My day off in Honduras, was truly a day of rest. After visiting 3-4 churches by horseback or canoe, a day of rest was in order. What did I do? I read books, both the Bible and Christian related books, but secular books as well. Was my leisure time my end? No it was a means to an end so I would be refreshed to do my work in the week to come. Many people spend so much effort on their leisure, that they need a mini-vacation to recover so they can return to work rested. Isn’t that defeating the purpose of leisure. We have turned Holydays (holidays) into activity days, instead of learning to relax in the Lord. In other words, leisure has become an idol to our society. Leisure becomes a problem for older people, forced into retirement at 65 or 67 years of age, some of whom live another 20 years. I have noted, those people who retire and have no hobby are often gone in 5 years or less. Those who give themselves work, will last and have happy lives. My grandmother sewed (wedding dresses, pillow covers, etc) until close to her dying day. All of her grandchildren had pajamas made by her (of course with the buttons on the wrong side), but we still loved them. After all, how many kids in the 60’s or 70’ had custom made pj’s. In passing, my grandmother died at the age of 92. She lead a productive and happy life.

So let us look at our attitudes. Learn to serve Jesus in your work. In you leisure time, actually do something restful and refreshing. If you are retired, find some work. That work could even include visiting shut ins and praying for the sick and missionaries. Don’t make leisure an end in itself, and don’t let your job cause you misery by being your idol either.

Shalom b'Yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus

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