1513) Don’t Bother God

Image result for funny camel images

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AN OLD STORY:

     A caravan settled for the night, and the servant tending the camels came to report to the chief.

     “Are all the camels tied for the night?” asked the chief.

     “I tied up all the camels, except for my own,” replied the servant.  “So great is my faith and trust in God that I have left my camel outside untied, knowing that God will protect the interests of those who love him.”

     The chief looked at the man with great anger and said, “Go tie your camel, you fool!  God cannot be bothered doing for you what you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself!”

Image result for camel highway images

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Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.

–Attributed to Augustine, Ignatius, Martin Luther, and others

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Philippians 2:12-13  —  Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Colossians 3:23-24  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Job 1:10b  —  You (God) have blessed the work of his hands.

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Prosper our work, O Lord, so that our needs and the needs of all may be met, and there be no complaining in our streets; and even as your Son worked at a trade on earth, so give to all that labor pride in their work, a just reward, and joy both in supplying need and serving you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Service Book and Hymnal, 1958, Augsburg Publishing House (adapted).

1423) “Whatever You Do…”

Image result for street sweeper images

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Colossians 3:23  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

I Corinthians 10:31  —  Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Ephesians 4:1b  —  …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:  So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good: and, as we seek a proper return for our labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

Image result for street sweeper images

1070) Just Do What Needs to Be Done

Civic responsibility means doing something, not complaining that something ought to be done, as in this story told by William Bennett in The Moral Compass, pages 613-614.

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     There is a story told of a king who lived long ago in a country across the sea.  He was a very wise king, and spared no effort to teach his people good habits.  Often he did things which seemed to them strange and useless; but all that he did, he did to teach his people to be industrious and careful.

     “Nothing good can come to a nation,” he said, “whose people complain and expect others to fix their problems for them.  God gives the good things of life to those who take matters into their own hands.”

     One night, while everyone else slept, he placed a large stone in the road that led past his palace.  Then he hid behind a hedge and waited to see what would happen.

     First came a farmer with his wagon heavily loaded with grain which he was taking to the mill to be ground.

     “Well, whoever saw such carelessness?” he said crossly, as he turned his team and drove around the stone.  “Why don’t these lazy people have that rock taken from the road?” And so he went on complaining of the uselessness of others, but not touching the stone himself.

     Soon afterward, a young soldier came singing along the road.  The long plume of his cap waved in the breeze and a bright sword hung at his side.  He was thinking of the wonderful bravery he would show in the war.

     The soldier did not see the stone, but struck his foot against it and went sprawling in the dust.  He rose to his feet, shook the dust from his clothes, picked up his sword, and stormed angrily about the lazy people who had no more sense than to leave such a huge rock in the road.  Then he, too, walked away, not once thinking that he might move it himself.

     So the day passed.  Everyone who came by complained and whined because the stone lay in the road, but no one touched it.

     At last, just at nightfall, the miller’s daughter came past.  She was a hard-working girl and was very tired because she had been busy since early morning at the mill.

     But she said to herself, “It is almost dark.  Somebody may fall over this stone in the night, and perhaps he could be badly hurt.  I will move it out of the way.”

     So she tugged at the heavy stone.  It was hard to move, but she pulled and pulled, and pushed, and lifted until at last she moved it from its place.  To her surprise, she found a box underneath.

     She lifted the box.  It was heavy, for It was filled with something.  Upon it was written: “This box belongs to the one who moves the stone.” .

     She opened the lid and found it was full of gold!

     The miller’s daughter went home with a happy heart.  When the farmer and the soldier and all the others heard what had happened, they gathered around the spot in the road where the stone had been.  They scratched at the dust with their feet, hoping to turn up a piece of gold.

     “My friends,” said the king, “we often find obstacles and burdens in our way.  We may complain out loud while we walk around them if we choose, or we can lift them and find out what they mean.  Disappointment is usually the price of laziness.”

     Then the wise king mounted his horse and, with a polite “Good evening,” rode away.

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Galatians 6:9  —  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Proverbs 14:23  —  In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Matthew 5:16  —  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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Lord, I give you all that I am this day.
Take away my weariness, so that I may be inspired in my work.
Give me opportunities to reveal your love to all I meet.
Keep my mind clear and focused on all I need to achieve,
And give me the wisdom to overcome difficulties and find solutions.
I look to you and trust you are with me this day.  Amen.

–Anonymous

1065) Tough Love from Abraham Lincoln

Earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken in about 1847

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Abraham Lincoln wrote this letter on December 24, 1848 to his step-brother, John Johnston.  Johnston had written Lincoln that he was ‘broke’ and ‘hard-pressed’ on the family farm in Illinois.  Lincoln denies the loan, but offers what we would call today a ‘matching grant.’  Believing that Johnston was in the ‘habit of uselessly wasting time,’ Lincoln knew that helping Johnston get into the habit of working would be far more beneficial than giving him a loan.

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Dear Johnston:

     Your request for eighty dollars, I do not think it best to comply with now.  At the various times when I have helped you a little, you have said to me, “We can get along very well now;” but in a very short time I find you in the same difficulty again.  Now this can only happen by some defect in your conduct.  What that defect is, I think I know.  You are not lazy, and still you are an idler.  I doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day’s work, in any one day.  You do not very much dislike to work, and still you do not work much, merely because it does not seem to you that you could get much for it.

     This habit of uselessly wasting time, is the whole difficulty.  It is vastly important to you, and still more so to your children, that you should break this habit.  It is more important to them, because they have longer to live, and can keep out of an idle habit before they are in it, easier than they can get out after they are in.

     You are now in need of some ready money; and what I propose is that you shall go to work, “tooth and nail,” for somebody who will give you money for it.

     Let father and your boys take charge of your things at home– prepare for a crop, and make the crop; and you go to work for the best wages… that you can get.  And to secure you a fair reward for your labor, I now promise you that for every dollar you will (between this and the first of May) get for your own labor,…  I will then give you one other dollar.

     By this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from me you will get ten more, making twenty dollars a month for your work.  In this, I do not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the lead mines, or the gold mines in California; but I mean for you to go at it for the best wages you can get close to home– in Coles County.

     Now if you will do this, you will soon be out of debt, and what is better, you will have a habit that will keep you from getting in debt again.  But if I should now clear you out, next year you will be just as deep in as ever.  You say you would almost give your place in Heaven for $70 or $80.  Then you value your place in Heaven very cheaply, for I am sure you can, with the offer I make you, get the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months work.  You say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and if you don’t pay the money back, you will deliver possession—

     Nonsense!  If you can’t now live with the land, how will you then live without it?  You have always been kind to me, and I do not now mean to be unkind to you.  On the contrary, if you will but follow my advice, you will find it worth more than eight times eighty dollars to you.

Affectionately

Your brother

A. Lincoln

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I Thessalonians 4:11-12  —  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.  You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

II Thessalonians 3:11-12  —  We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

Proverbs 6:9-11a  —  How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest– and poverty will come on you like a thief.

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O God, who has commanded that no one should be idle, give us grace to employ our talents and faculties in the service appointed for us; that, whatever our hand finds to do, we may do it with all our might.  Amen.

–James Martineau  (1805-1900)

O Lord, let us not live to be useless, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

–John Wesley  (1703-1791)

1023) Doing Good Work

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By Dorothy Sayers, British writer (1893-1957), Creation or Chaos, 1949, pages 56-57:

   The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays.  What the Church should be telling him is this:  that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.  By all means he should go to church, and he should certainly find for himself decent forms of amusement– but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry?  No crooked table-legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare say, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth.  Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made heaven and earth.  No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.

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     Martin Luther was once approached by a man who happily announced he had recently become a Christian.  Eager to serve God, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?”  The man was probably expecting to hear he should abandon his old life, go to a monastery, and become a priest or a monk.

     “What is your work now?” Luther asked.

     “I make shoes,” the man replied.

     “Then make a good shoe,” Luther replied, “and sell it at a fair price.”

     The story may or may not be true, but it is certainly true to the spirit of what Luther taught about how to best serve our neighbor.

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Mark 6:3a  —  “Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son…?” 

Colossians 3:23-24  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I Peter 4:10–11  —  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen. 

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A MORNING PRAYER FOR LABORERS:  O God, we thank you for the sweet refreshment of sleep and for the glory and vigor of the new day.  As we set our faces once more toward our daily work, we pray for strength sufficient for our tasks.  May Christ’s spirit of duty and service ennoble all we do.  Uphold us by the consciousness that our work is useful work and a blessing to others.  If there has been anything in our work harmful to others and dishonorable to ourselves, reveal it to our inner eye with such clearness that we shall hate it and put it away, even though it be at a loss to ourselves.  When we work with others, help us to regard them not as servants to do our will, but as brothers and sisters, equal to us in human dignity, and equally worthy of their full reward.  May there be nothing in this day’s work of which we shall be ashamed when the sun has set, nor in the evening of our life when our task is done and we to go our long awaited home to see your face.  We pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.

–Walter Rauschenbusch (alt.), For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening, 1909

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O Lord, give your blessing, we pray, to our daily work, that we may do it in faith and heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.  All our powers of body and mind are yours, and we devote them to your service.  Sanctify them, and the work in which we are engaged; and, Lord, so bless our efforts that they may bring forth in us the fruits of true wisdom.  Teach us to seek after truth and enable us to gain it; and grant that while we know earthly things, we may know you, and be known by you, through and in your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

–Thomas Arnold (1795-1842)

683) Whatever You Do…

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Colossians 3:23  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

I Corinthians 10:31  —  Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Ephesians 4:1b  —  …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:  So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good: and, as we seek a proper return for our labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

509) Labor Day Meditation on Work (part two)

     The Angelus by Jean-Francois Millet  (1859)

     (…continued)  This isn’t all the Bible says about work.  The Bible is a practical book, and when it comes to work, it commands us to simply work hard and do it right.  Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” and Ephesians 4:1 says, “Lead a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

     Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was an English writer who thought and wrote a great deal about the Christian’s work in this world.  In this quote she uses the example of a carpenter to discuss a Christian approach to work (paraphrased):

The Church’s approach to a carpenter us usually limited to telling him to come to church on Sunday and to not get drunk or disorderly in his leisure time.  What the church should be telling him it this– that the very first demand his religion makes upon him is that he should build good houses.  Of course he should go to church, and certainly he should find decent forms of amusement.  But what use is all of that if at the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God (and hurting his neighbor) with bad carpentry?  I dare say that no crooked cabinets or ill-fitting drawers ever came out of that carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.

     Our work in this world is sacred because by it we are serving God by serving our neighbor, and so it is our Christian duty to do our best at it.  We work to get money, of course, and with that money we support ourselves and anyone else God has given us to serve and support.  But we also work to get something done, something that benefits others.  God has made our lives intertwined with others, and we obey his command to serve God and our neighbor even as we do our daily work.  Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord, and not only people.”

     Martin Luther once summed up the Bible’s teaching on work with these words:

Work should be done to serve God by it, to avoid idleness, and to satisfy God’s commands.  Your work is a very sacred matter.  God delights in it and blesses you through it.  God could support you and feed you without work.  God could make a fried chicken fly into your mouth if he wanted, and he could make vegetables grow on your table.  But God will not do this.  God wants you to work and to use your mind and your hands.

     There is one more thing that the Bible has to say about all this.  While the Bible tells us to work, it also tells us to rest.  There are some people don’t know enough to get to work and keep at it; and, there are other people who don’t know when to quit working, and they ignore rest, worship, family, and everything else in life.  The Bible calls on us to keep a balance in our work and rest.

     The Biblical command to remember the Sabbath Day has two parts to it– to remember to worship and to rest.  Deuteronomy says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall not do any work.”  Some Jews have been very specific about what one can and cannot do on that day of rest.  Christians, for the most part, have not been so specific.  There is always some work that must be done on Sundays.  Even Jesus acknowledged that.  So while we may have different opinions on the specifics of obeying the Sabbath rest, the basic command cannot be ignored.  We are commanded to work and we are commanded to rest.

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Ecclesiastes 9:10a  —  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…

Ephesians 4:1b  —  …Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Colossians 3:23a  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…

Dueuteronomy 5:12-14a  —  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work…

Luke 13:14-15  —  Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work.  So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”  The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites!  Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?”

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:  So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good: and, as we seek a proper return for our labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

508) Labor Day Meditation on Work (part one)

   

     I frequently visit people in care centers who are near the end of their lives.  Many of the residents just sit all day with nothing to do and nothing more to look forward than their next meal.  But if they have enough health and strength, some folks find things to do and a purpose for living even there.  One day I had completed my visits and was on my way to the exit.  I was about to push open the door when I heard someone say in a weak, but very emphatic voice, “Stop!”  I did as I was told, and just to my left I saw a frail old man in a wheel chair.  He had positioned himself by the big automatic door opener button.  As I waited, he slowly reached over, pressed that button and opened the door, saving me the effort of pushing the door open myself.  I thanked him, and he looked at me proudly and said, “That’s my job here.”

     People in their working years, especially if they are working too much, will often look forward to not working.  We look forward to weekends and to vacations when we have time off from work.  Many dream of retirement (or winning the lottery) and not having to work at all anymore.  There is a even chain of restaurants called TGIF, Thank God It’s Friday, celebrating by its name the end of the work week.  There is something is us that doesn’t want to work.

     There is also something in us that makes us want to work.  Care center residents don’t have to work at all, and many of them cannot do anything anyway; and that is a huge sadness and frustration for them.  This lack of purpose is even more difficult for some folks than their aches and pains.  These people used to be hard-workers and useful, and are now disheartened by having to just sit and do nothing.  That ‘official’ door opener at the care center had found in that little job something that still made him feel like his life was worthwhile.  He was still able to contribute something, and he was proud of his ‘job’ and the work he could do.

     Resting and relaxing is a pleasure only if you have been working and need to rest.  But if you only rest and relax, it is no longer a pleasure, but becomes a burden.  Have you ever been on a vacation that lasted just a little too long?  It is not uncommon for people to look forward to getting back to work just as much as they looked forward to going on vacation.  

      There is something in us that doesn’t want to work.  There is also something in us that has to work.

     In the first three chapters of the Bible there are two important references to work– one positive and one negative.  The second chapter of Genesis describes God’s perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden; and there was work to be done there.  Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and take care of it.”  Work has been from the beginning a part of God’s perfect plan.  That is why we want to work.  That is why that little old man at the care center needed to sit by the door all day to do ‘his job.’  We were created to work.  Work is good, and we feel worthless and lost and useless without it.  And this ‘work’ need not be limited to our jobs, but can also include our work at our hobbies (like gardening), or volunteer work to serve others, or working in our homes as we do things for our families.

     But as much as this desire for and need to work is a part of what we were created to be, we do not love every aspect of all our work with our whole heart– do we?  There is something is us that doesn’t want to work, and for good reason.  Work can be difficult, frustrating, useless, pointless, dumb, and stressful.  Worst of all, you often have to work with other people, and that can drive you crazy– if you are in charge, or, if you are taking orders.  Work was at first a part of God’s perfect creation– but then Adam and Eve sinned.  They rejected God and chose their own way, and God sent them out of the Garden of Eden.  And, as part of our punishment for sin, the work we do is now under a curse, as God said to Adam and Eve:  “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you and by the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread.”  The ‘thorns and thistles’ apply not only to farm work, but are symbolic of all the troubles we have as we do our work.

     I am always amazed at the depth of truth and meaning in these ancient texts.  Here, at the very beginning of the Bible, we have the reasons for our love-hate relationship to our work.  We were created to work and so in our hearts we want to work; but because of our sin, the work that we do is under a curse and the source of endless frustration.  (continued…)

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Genesis 2:15  —  The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 3:17b-19  —  (The Lord God said), ““Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

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Lord, give me life until my work is done; and give me work until my life is done.  Amen.

268) Hints as to Thriving

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher and author, John Ploughman’s Talks: Plain Advice for Plain People, 1869, Chapter 19

     Hard work is the grand secret of success.  Nothing but rags and poverty can come of idleness.  “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” says poor Richard.  Believe in traveling on step by step; don’t expect to succeed in a jump.  Slow and sure is better than fast and flimsy. Perseverance, by its daily gains, enriches a man far more than fits of fortunate speculation.  Every little helps, as the sow said when she snapped at a gnat.  Brick by brick, houses are built.  We should creep before we walk, walk before we run, and run before we ride.  The more haste the worse speed, for haste trips up its own heels.  Hasty climbers have sudden falls…

     Even crumbs are bread.  Better half a loaf than none at all.  A crust is hard fare, but none at all is harder.  Remember, many men have done well in very small shops.  A little trade with profit is better than a great concern at a loss.  A great deal of water can be got from a small pipe if the bucket is always there to catch it.  A sheep may get fat in a small meadow and starve in a great desert.

     Make as few changes as you can; trees often transplanted bear little fruit.  If you have difficulties in one place you will have them in another; if you move because it is damp in the valley, you may find it cold on the hill.  Where will the ass go that he will not have to work?  Where will you find land without stones, or meat without bones?  Everywhere on earth men must eat bread by the sweat of their faces.  Alteration is not always improvement.  There is a proper time for changing, and then you must do so, for a sitting hen gets no barley.  But do not be forever on the shift, for ‘sticking to it’ conquers.  He who can wait long enough will win.  In one place the seed grows, and in one nest the bird hatches its eggs.

     Do not be above your business.  He who turns up his nose at his own work quarrels with his bread and butter.  There’s some discomfort in all trades.  If sailors gave up going to sea because of the wet, if bakers left off baking because it is hot work, if plowmen would not plow because of the cold, or if tailors would not make our clothes for fear of pricking their fingers, what a pass we should come to!  Nonsense, my fine fellow; there’s no shame about any honest calling.  Don’t be afraid of soiling your hands, for there’s plenty of soap to be had.  All trades are good to good traders.

     You cannot get honey if you are frightened of bees, nor sow corn if you are afraid of getting mud on your boots.  Until the Lord returns, we shall have to put up with things we don’t like.  We had best bear our present burdens, rather than run helter-skelter to somewhere else where we shall find matters a great deal worse.  Plod is the word.  Everyone must row with such oars as he has; and as he can’t choose the wind, he must sail by such as God sends him.  Patience and attention will get on in the long run.

     Fools ask ‘who cares about the clock?,’ but wise men know their time.  Harvest when the sun shines, and if you don’t, do not blame providence.  God sends every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.  He gives us our daily bread, but it is through our own labor.

     Never ruin yourself for the sake of money:  it is like drowning yourself in a well to get a drink of water.  Better walk barefoot than ride in a carriage to hell.  The mouse wins little by nibbling the cheese if it gets caught in the trap.  Clean money or none, remember, for to gain badly got will be an everlasting loss.  A good article, full weight, and a fair price bring customers to the shop, but people do not recommended the shop where they are cheated.  Even if all you aim at is profit, deal uprightly, for it pays the best.

     Look most to your spending.  No matter how much comes in, if more goes out, you will always be poor.  The art is not in making money, but in keeping it.  Little expenses, like mice in a barn, when they are many, make great waste.  Hair by hair, heads get bald.  Keep within boundaries.  A fool may make money, but it needs a wise man to spend it.  Fare hard and work hard while you are young, and you have a chance of rest when you are old.

     Do not be greedy, for covetousness is always poor:  still strive to get on, for poverty is no virtue.  Earn all you can, save all you can, and then give all you can.  Giving to God is no loss; for lending to the Lord is always a good investment.  Giving is true having, as the old gravestone said of the dead man, ‘What I spent I had, what I saved I lost, what I gave I have.’

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Proverbs 12:11  —  He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Proverbs 20:4  —  A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

Colossians 3:17… 23  —  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

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O God, who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired, should be sought by labor, and who, by thy blessing, brings honest labor to good effect; look with mercy upon my endeavors.  Grant me, O Lord, to do only what is lawful and right, and afford me calmness of mind, and steadiness of purpose, that I may so do thy will in this short life, as to obtain happiness in the world to come.  Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day I may discharge part of the task which Thou hast alloted me; so that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my soul.  Bless my endeavors as shall seem best unto Thee; and if it shall please Thee to grant me the attainment of my purpose, preserve me from sinful pride.  Take not thy Holy Spirit from me, but give me a pure heart and humble mind, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.
–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) (adapted from three prayers)

212) A Christian Understanding of Work

     To many people, work is a necessary evil.  The goal in life is to put in only enough time to retire and relax.  But that attitude and that goal are contrary to a Christian perspective on work.  Christians honor the fundamental dignity of workers, for we worship a God who labored to make the world, and, who created human beings in His image to be workers.  When God made Adam and Eve, He gave them work to do– cultivating and caring for the earth. 

     In the ancient world, the Greeks and Romans looked upon manual work as a curse, something for lower classes and slaves.  But Christianity changed all that.  Christians viewed work as a high calling– a calling to be co-workers with God in unfolding the rich potential of His creation.

     This high view of work can be traced throughout the history of the Church.  In the Middle Ages, the guild movement grew out of the Church.  It set standards for good workmanship and encouraged members to take satisfaction in the results of their labor.  Later, during the Reformation, Martin Luther preached that all work should be done to the glory of God.  Whether ministering the Gospel or scrubbing floors, any honest work is pleasing to the Lord.  Out of this conviction grew the Protestant work ethic.

     Christians were also active on behalf of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, when factories were “dark satanic mills,” to borrow a phrase from Sir William Blake.  In those days, work in factories and coal mines was hard and dangerous.  Men, women, and children were practically slaves– sometimes even chained to machines.  Then John Wesley came preaching and teaching the Gospel throughout England.  He came not to the upper classes, but to the laboring classes– to men whose faces were black with coal dust, women whose dresses were patched and faded.  John Wesley preached to them, and in the process, he pricked the conscience of the whole nation.  Two of Wesley’s disciples, William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury, were inspired to work for legislation that would clean up abuses in the workplace.  At their urging, the British parliament passed child-labor laws, safety laws, and minimum-wage laws.

     Here in America we’ve lost the Christian view of labor.  Much of our culture has a distinctly Greek view of work:  We work out of necessity.  But, you see, we are made in the image of God, and as such we are made to work:  to create, to shape, to bring order out of disorder.  All labor derives its true dignity as a reflection of the Creator.  And whatever we do, in word or deed, we do it all to the glory of God.     –Chuck Colson, on Breakpoint, #030901

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     THE HANDS OF JESUS:  Will you notice, in the first place, that they were toil-worn hands?  The soldier would have noticed it– that soldier who nailed Him to the cross.  As he stretched His arm along the cross-beam, and pointed his nail into the palm, it struck the soldier– this was not the hand of some sedentary worker.  This was the toil worn hand of a working man.  Jesus was a working man.  You may not realize the wonder of that until you think yourself back into the Greek and Roman world and consider their attitude toward manual work.  They despised it.  It was the occupation of slaves.  Plato and Aristotle were both great and clever men, but to both of them manual work was a thing of near-contempt.  It was not an occupation for free men.  It was a task only for the slave.

     And this was God’s answer to that;  His reply to the ancient world’s contempt for manual work.  Peep into the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth and see the incarnate Son of God bending his back at a bench; see him working ankle-deep in the shavings and perspiring as he toils.  This is the answer of Almighty God to those who despise manual work. — Westminster Sermons, (vol. 1), page 90.

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     Work should be done to serve God by it, to avoid idleness, and to satisfy God’s commands.  Your work is a very sacred matter.  God delights in it and blesses you through it.  God could support you and feed you without work.  God could make a fried chicken fly into your mouth if he wanted.  He could make vegetables grow on your table.  But God will not do this.  He wants you to work and use your hands and your mind.   –Martin Luther

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Deuteronomy 5:13-14a  —  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

I Corinthians 3:9a  —  For we are God’s fellow workers…

Colossians 3:23-24  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

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God give me work
Till my life shall end
And life
Till my work is done.
–An old prayer

Seen on an old gravestone in Germany:  When Thou callest me, Lord Christ, I will arise. But first let me rest a little, for I am very weary.