Friday, November 09, 2012

Work that lasts

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 127:1-5

TO CHEW ON: "Unless the Lord builds the house
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep." Psalm 127:1,2

These verses tell me that the things I want to accomplish—in whatever field they are—will wear me out if I try to get them done by myself. And unless I am cooperating with God there will be no lasting fruit from my efforts in any case.

Eugene Peterson comments on this psalm in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He points out how people tend to distort work, making it all self-effort (e.g. Humanism), or opting out of activity into a state of pure being (e.g. Buddhism). Christian parallels are the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) or the retirement of the Thessalonians who gave up work to wait for Jesus' return (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

But, Peterson reminds us, God worked and works:
"The work of God is defined and described in the pages of Scripture. We have models of creation, acts of redemption, examples of help and compassion, paradigms of comfort and salvation. One of the reasons that Christians read Scripture repeatedly and carefully is to find out just how God works in Jesus Christ so that we can work in the name of Jesus Christ" - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 108, 109.

So what does a proper work ethic look like for the Christian? Peterson again:
"Christian discipleship, by orienting us in God's work and setting us in the mainstream of what God is already doing, frees us from the compulsiveness of work" - Peterson, p. 109 (emphasis added).

The psalmist's example of fruitful, easy work—the begetting of children (Psalm 127:3-5)—also has a Christian life parallel:
"The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships. Children are God's best gift! We invest our energy in people .... We learn a name; we start a friendship; we follow up on a smile .... Out of numerous handshakes and greetings, some germinate and grow into a friendship in Christ" - Peterson, pp. 110, 111 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be sensitive to what You are doing, and to work with You, especially in building relationships. Amen.

MORE: Work, discipleship, and obedience
"It is the nature of sin to take good things and twist them, ever so slightly, so that they miss the target to which they were aimed, the target of God. One requirement of discipleship is to learn the ways sin skews our nature and submit what we learn to the continuing will of God, so that we are shaped through the days of our obedience" - Peterson, Op. Cit. p. 105 (emphasis added). 


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