Thursday, January 26, 2017

The work of fruitless effort

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Micah 6:1-16

TO CHEW ON: “You shall sow, but not reap;
You shall tread the olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;
And make sweet wine but not drink wine.” Micah 6:15

Have you ever experienced fruitless effort—worked hard on a project only to have it fall apart before it was finished; created a product that didn’t sell; put years into training that never yielded a dollar of return in salary?

Fruitless effort is what Micah is predicting here for the people of Judah and Israel? But why? The preceding verses of Micah 6 give us some clues:
  • Their worship had become a dead form and ritual (Micah 6:6,7). The attitude of their hearts was far from complying with the three things that God required: “But to do justly / To love mercy, / And to walk humbly with your God” - Micah 6:8.
  • Their work was characterized by evil and deceit. Notice the list of things that offended God in the way they went about their day-to-day business: “...wickedness … short measure … wicked scales … deceitful weights … violence … lies … tongue is deceitful…” Micah 6:10-12.
  • These practices seemed to have become part of their culture, a culture that developed under ungodly kings: “For the statues of Omri are kept/ All the works of Ahab’s house are done; / And you walk in their counsels” - Micah 6:16.

Could it be that some of our work failures, our fruitless effort fiascos, come about for the same reasons? We shove justice and mercy to the bottom of the priority list (aren’t they more for bleeding hearts?). Instead of walking with God we drag behind or race ahead of Him, working to our own timetables and ambitions? We mimic the work practices of the culture around us. Why not work for cash and so avoid reporting income and paying tax? Why not take a few office supplies home for the kids? Why not call in sick when we feel we need a day off? Everyone else is doing and getting away with it!

A paragraph on this passage in the Theology of Work Bible Commentary sums it up well:

“This is a reminder that the world of work does not exist in a vacuum, separated from the rest of life. If we do not ground our values and priorities in God’s covenant, then our lives and work will be ethically and spiritually incoherent. If we do not please God in our work, we cannot please him in our worship” -  Theology of Work Commentary, accessed through (emphasis added).

And if we do not please Him in our work, we should not be surprised if He withholds His blessing from our efforts.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to keep justice, mercy, and walking with you (not ahead or behind) at the top of my work priorities. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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