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 (Manna 66: Family Focus)
Rejoicing in Our Labor
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Based on a sermon by Steve Hwang—USA

In times of economic uncertainty, many people experience hardship in their jobs. Some may lose their jobs; others may have increased work pressure. These situations often create much stress in us; as a result, we may complain or worry unceasingly about our job. In light of this, how can we find joy in our work?

As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor--this [is] the gift of God.

(Eccl 5:19)

Among the many blessings of God for man, one is for us to rejoice in our labor. From the verse in Ecclesiastes, we can learn three points.

PURSUE LOVE INSTEAD OF WORK

In the world, people pursue jobs, and this is natural. We seek after different types of jobs according to our interest or skills. Having a job is an important means for us to survive in the world. But even more important for us Christians is to pursue love. In fact, Paul encourages us to do so:

“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1)

Where there is love, there is joy. This statement holds true even when one may not be living a life of luxury. The Bible gives us this exhortation to remind us that a life with love brings about joy and is infinitely better than a life filled with negativity:

“Better is a dinner of herbs (vegetables) where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.” (Prov 15:17)

Pursuing love in our work is something that comes through learning. We may need to put in effort and discipline to love the people we encounter at our workplace, but it is something that we definitely have the ability to do.

Consider Jesus’ teaching on the greatest commandment, where He taught us that we ought to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. If we relate this to our work, we are exhorted to serve our earthly masters, as if we were serving the Lord. So when we have this mindset, we understand that our role in our earthly job is to serve our employers to the best of our abilities. For as long as we are working, we work as though it is unto the Lord. When we do so, we will receive blessings from the Lord (cf. Eph 6:7–8).

In a practical sense, this means that in whatever job we do, we can do so with love and bring some form of encouragement to others. If you are a bank teller, serve your customers with a smile. If you work in an office, treat your colleagues sincerely. When we learn to do so, we bring some beauty into the world. Furthermore, we will find meaning in our work because we are doing it unto Christ.

When we learn to pursue love in our work, we also actively avoid murmurings. Our mindset changes as we seek to create joy and beauty in our work environment. As we do so, we allow the love of God to shine through in our work place and we bring about hope to those around us. In this way, we gradually discover that we will no longer pursue riches nor will we care only about the pay cheque at the end of every month. These things fall off our priority list when we pursue love in our work.

SETTING OUR PRIORITIES RIGHT

When we show love at our workplace, we also love God. Admittedly, it is not always easy to do so. Sometimes, this requires us not only to change our mindset, but also to make certain rearrangements in our lives. From Isaac’s example, we can learn how to set our priorities right.

After Isaac’s servants had successfully dug three wells in Gerar despite external problems, he went to Beersheba and “built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well” (Gen 26:25).

As Isaac moved on to Beersheba, we see three actions. The digging of the well is akin to his career, and the pitching of the tent is akin to his family life. But above all, the building of the altar symbolizes his pursuit of a life of faith. And in the pattern of things, he chose his faith first. Consequently the Lord blessed him in his work (cf. Gen 26:26–33).

The lesson here is very clear: we need to first and foremost have a life of worshipping the Lord. Isaac’s example also teaches us that once we put God first in our lives, it becomes easy for us to pursue love and find joy in our work—for God is the source of love and joy. We can then spread the fragrance of Christ in our own work even in the face of challenges.

ENTER THE GARDEN OF EDEN

When God allowed the first man, Adam, to tend to the garden of Eden, that was a form of exercise (cf. Gen 2:15). His work enabled Adam to exercise both his mind and his body. Since all things were good in the eyes of God then, this was truly a grace for man. In fact, Adam and Eve led a simple life and found rest in God’s garden.

However, when sin entered the world, man was driven out from the garden and had to toil for his daily bread. This caused a change in the way man perceives work in the world. Admittedly, most jobs today exert certain pressures on us, which can be stressful.

Despite our busy work schedules, we need to enter into the spiritual garden of Eden today. Only then will we have true peace and joy in the Lord. Yet how do we enter this spiritual garden?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mt 6:33)

We enter into the garden of Eden when we choose a life that places God as our top priority. As we seek first the kingdom of God, He gives us the assurance that all these things – be they food, clothing, or necessities – will be given to us.

Most people reverse the order of things and toil and labor for the sake of material needs. They live a life “under the sun”, which is the norm for the people of the world. But as the chosen ones of God, we are called to lead our lives above the sun. We can do so by placing God first in our lives, knowing that our daily work is but a means to our temporary survival on earth.

Today, just as we have entered into Christ, so too must our hearts enter into the spiritual garden of Eden to find rest and blessings. It is inevitable that we face pressure and worries as we work. Nonetheless, let us take comfort in knowing that God will surely not allow His people to starve or face lack of daily necessities (cf. Prov 23:5). As far as testimonies in the church go, God shows His love to our fellow brethren. Seldom do we hear of brethren who love God but suffer from need. Let us have faith in Him and put God first in our lives. When we trust in His word, we will receive this blessing from Him.

RELY ON GOD, NOT ON WORK

Realistically, our source of income is our work and it is unsurprising that many of us regard our work as very important. We live in the world and we have real world issues to handle. Mortgages, loans, and other monthly premiums are necessary overheads and financial realities for us. It is therefore natural that we rely heavily on our work to pay these bills.

Concurrently, another reality is that our work will not always stay with us regardless of how much importance we place on it. In times of economic uncertainty, there is always the risk of losing our jobs. As much as no one likes the thought of it, troubled times can occur to anyone. Even in the Bible, the people of God had to experience seven years of famine after the initial seven years of plenty. This is the very reason why we need to rely on God; only He does not change.

God certainly will not allow His chosen ones to go hungry, and Abraham’s life is a testament to this fact. Despite his times of weaknesses and spiritual lows, the father of faith pursued God throughout his life. While living in Egypt, Pharaoh unexpectedly gave him much livestock to enable him to return to Canaan a rich man. When his possessions grew to the point that he could no longer live in the same place as Lot, he allowed Lot to choose first where to settle. Although Abraham ended up dwelling in the poorer land, God still blessed him and he remained bountiful.

In contrast, Jacob was a man who spent much of his youth grasping for things. Yet after serving Laban many years, he ended up with nothing. Only after God inspired him to crossbreed the goats did he gain possessions for himself.

From such examples, we learn that God’s blessing is the most important. If God desires to give us wealth, He will do so. And if He decides not to, He has the prerogative as well. Nonetheless, He will still grant us contentment and happiness, if we truly rely on Him.

Finally, the question arises again: How do we find joy in our work? King Solomon’s wisdom sounds out to us again:

As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor--this [is] the gift of God.

(Eccl 5:19)

We find joy by pursuing love, by entering the spiritual garden of Eden, and by relying on God above all. Our work is but a means for us to lead our lives on earth, and ultimately our possessions and wealth are blessings from God. According to our individual portions in life, God blesses us with the ability to work and to sustain our livelihood. No matter what type of job we have, we ought to rejoice in this blessing from God.

As we go about our daily work, let us always remember that we should rely on God wholeheartedly, for He alone truly has the power to sustain us, bless us, and cause us to rejoice. Amen!

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Author: Steve Hwang
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