Labor Day 2020: A Working Man – Rev. J. Engelsma

Col32324The latest issue of the Standard Bearer – Sept.1, 2020 – includes a valuable and timely article by Rev. Josh Engelsma on work. It is part of a series he is working on for the rubric “Strength of Youth,” in which he is developing the biblical idea of godly manhood. In this installment he writes on the place of labor (work) in the godly man’s life, tracing the concept from the threefold viewpoint of creation, the Fall, and redemption.

On this Labor Day holiday in the U.S., when there are so many distorted voices calling for our attention on the place and value of work in our lives, it is good to reference this article and hear what God’s Word says about it. I can only quote a portion of it, so we will go to the end of the article and quote from his section “work and redemption.”

Thankfully, as Christians we have hope in the face of sin and the curse. That hope is in Jesus Christ and His work. He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, condescended to dwell in this world under the curse, and came to work. His work was to do the will of His Father and redeem His elect people. His earthly ministry was one of constant work: preaching and teaching and performing countless miracles. In reading the gospel accounts one gets the sense of constant activity and busyness with very little opportunity for rest. Especially did Jesus spend Himself in His work at the end of His life as He suffered the wrath of God at the cross and gave His life to atone for our sins.

As men, our confidence may never be in our own working and busyness. Rather we trust alone in Christ and His perfect work. On the basis of His finished work, we are forgiven of our sins with respect to our work. And by the power of His work in us, we are strengthened to fight against our sins and to work out of thanksgiving for His work. And we look forward in hope to the removal of the curse when in perfected bodies and souls we will serve God forever in the new heavens and earth.

Keeping this always in mind, we seek to determine what work the Lord would have us to do. We take stock of the unique gifts and opportunities God gives us (cf. Rom. 12:3-8). We seek out the wise counsel of parents, friends, teachers, and fellow saints. And through prayer we fill out that job application and strike out on that career path. As Christians we have a vocation, a unique calling from God. The idea of a calling is not just for pastors and teachers, but for electricians and salesmen as well.

In the work we are given to do, we strive to work hard. There are few things worse than a man who will not work hard. It ought to be the case as Christians that we are the best, most-desired employees. We respect our employer, give an honest day’s labor, make the best use of our abilities, are faithful and trustworthy, seek the good of the company, and refuse to cheat and cut corners.

In working hard, we seek to do so with the right motive in our hearts. We are not laboring to be rich. We are not seeking greatness as the world counts it. We labor as grateful servants in God’s heavenly kingdom. God does not need us, but He is pleased to use us as instruments in His hand for the advancement of His kingdom. That means that our labor is not empty and meaningless, as 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Even the lowliest ditch-digger has an honorable, necessary place of service in the kingdom.

The way this kingdom-focus often comes to expression is in our giving. We work hard not for materialistic purposes, but so that we might use the money God gives to support our family, send our children to a Christian school, feed the poor, provide for the ministry of the Word, and promote the various labors of the church (evangelism, missions, seminary instruction, for example).

Finally, we work not for our own glory and the praise of men, but for the glory of God. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

Let this prayer be yours as you leave for work in the morning, and as you lay your weary body to rest at night:

So let there be on us bestowed
The beauty of the Lord our God;
The work accomplished by our hand
Establish thou, and make it stand;
Yea, let our hopeful labor be
Established evermore by Thee,
Established evermore by Thee (Psalter #246:3).

If you are interested in receiving this Reformed periodical, visit this link to the Standard Bearer website, where you will find subscription information – for both print and digital copies.

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