In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
As kids, many of us were big dreamers. When an adult would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would give a different answer each week. “I want to be a policeman.” “I think I now I want to be an astronaut and go to the moon.” “I want to become the next president of the Unites States.” “I want to be a doctor and save hundreds of lives.”
Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these professions. In fact, they are all honorable vocations. It’s great to dream as a child. It allows us to see the world as full of possibility. However, eventually a child grows into an adult, and with that comes a level of responsibility and maturity. At some point, a person has to do more from “mere talk” to “toil.” And for many of us, that transition is really hard.
Hard Work is Good Work
As I mentioned in the sermon on work, the word for “toil” means strenuous and painful work. The emphasis is on the idea that work requires an incredible amount of effort. Some of us know firsthand that work often requires blood, sweat, and tears. But there is wisdom in this.
Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all toil there is profit.” In other words, there is value and worth in strenuous work. It’s not a waste of time or talent. To engage in hard work is a meaningful way to spend our days. Do you believe this?
I’m afraid that one of the narratives today teaches us to seek out ways where we can be free from hard work. And to be honest, it’s alluring. I don’t know many people who love to toil. I certainly do not. But, instead of looking for an easy ticket out (think mega-million), the answer is in renewing our understanding of work.
We must see our work as profitable. Whether it’s cleaning toilets, teaching lessons, leading meetings, filing papers, or defending our nation, ALL work is valuable. Have you ever wondered what would happen if we all viewed work this way? I wonder what our workplaces would be like if every Christian believed the Bible’s perspective on work. I wonder what our families would be like if we all understood that our identity is not rooted in overworking or underworking?
Keep Hope Alive
If you are struggling with a problem at work, I empathize with you. Sometimes the challenges I face are overwhelming. Lives are messy and broken. Our world is messy and broken. There is sin and suffering at every turn. It’s easy to lose hope.
I want to encourage you to remember the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
Jesus invites us to come to him. And we don’t come to him in order to shed our labor, we come to him in order to reorient our labor. If you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior and King, he takes your heavy burdens and carries them with you. And by doing so, he infuses your work with greater meaning and perspective. As a Christian, you don’t stop working, but you do stop working for yourself. You now learn from Jesus and work for Jesus. And the good news is that Jesus can break us free from all our idolatries of work. When we work for Jesus, he will never crush us because he was crushed for us. We can keep doing physical work because he has given us spiritual rest. May we all respond to Jesus and find the rest we are longing for.