Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: labor

Work and a hobo’s paradise

The Big Rock Candy Mountain was a song made famous by Harry McClintock in 1928.  Every few years, it finds its way back into pop culture; with some versions a little more cleaned up than others.  The gist of the song is a hobo singing about his version of paradise – a land of ease, described in fanciful terms.  There are cigarette trees, lemonade springs, and hens that lay soft-boiled eggs.  The cops have wooden legs and bulldogs have rubber teeth, and if you happen to get caught doing something you shouldn’t, then don’t worry about it – because the jails are made of tin and you can leave just as soon as you get there.  I think my favorite line is hobo’s boast that in the Big Rock Candy Mountains “there’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too, you can paddle all around it in a big canoe.

While it is a cute little song, no one would take it seriously when considering their eternal destiny.  However, there is one line in the song that stuck out to me when I first heard it.  Out of all the cartoonish imagery, there was one sentiment that made me think: “Wow.  That’s kinda funny and would be nice.”  Here’s the line:

I'm goin' to stay, where you sleep all day, where they hung the jerk, that invented work, in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Because work is…well, “work”…right?  It’s often a pain.  We view it as some “necessary evil” that we must endure because we like to eat food and have working light switches.  Given the choice between going to work and not going to work – I’m pretty sure that 99% of us would not go.  Throw in the idea that someone, somewhere may have invented the concept of work?  Yeah…nobody would care much for that guy.

But is work really our problem?  And who invented it, anyway?

I think most Christians and Jews would place the blame solely on Adam.  After he and Eve blew it, here’s what God had to say about Adam’s curse:

Genesis 3:17-19
And He said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’:

The ground is cursed because of you.  You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. 
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it.  For you are dust, and you will return to dust.

Adam and Eve sinned by eating – from here on, they would suffer in order to eat.  Notice that God didn’t hand out working assignments.  He didn’t have to explain what “work” was; instead, God said that work would now become painful labor.  While his efforts would be able to feed his family, Adam would have to contend with thorns and thistles.

We have to go a little further back in Adam and Eve’s story to find the origin of work:

Genesis 1:27-29, 2:15
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He create them male and female

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.  Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”  God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree who fruit contains seed.  This will be food for you…

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

To fulfill these directions from God, Adam and Eve would have to do some work!  But since this was before sin corrupted everything – including the ground – what do you think their work was like?  What would you do if all creatures and plants cooperated with you and your efforts? 

Don’t think of the garden of Eden as being a little vegetable plot.  This “garden” was more like an arboretum.  So in addition to their responsibility to rule over the world, Adam was also God’s official landscaper…and there wasn’t a weed, thistle, or thorn to be found.  Imagine what a master gardener could do if they didn’t have to fight off the weeds!

This was how paradise started – not with lakes of stew and all-day sleep-fests, but with Adam and Eve partnering with God.  They worked and managed creation.  They walked and talked with God.  The land readily produced food for them.

I look forward to the day when Paradise Lost becomes Paradise Restored.  In Eternity Future, we’ll be able to live and work without sin and selfishness thwarting our efforts.  Just like we were created to do.

Keep Pressing
Ken

Worth the effort

We usually have a rather negative understanding of the words “struggle” and “striving”.  Maybe it’s because of our risk-adverse mentality…we don’t like pain, so we want to avoid difficult situations.  Maybe it’s because of our egos…we don’t want to appear inadequate, so we skip out on anything hard.

Whatever our reasons may be – when we think about struggling, it’s assumed to be a bad thing.

Paul did not hold to this kind of thinking, at least not with his mission from God.  Paul’s goal wasn’t just to get people “saved” and then move on to the next group of people.  Instead, look at who Paul was willing to struggle and labor for:

Colossians 1:28-2:1

We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.  For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person.

He desired that everyone who believes on Jesus would become mature in Christ.  In Paul’s mind, if people are important enough for Jesus to die for, then they are important enough for Paul to labor, strive, and struggle for.  He is not just being twisted up in anguish, wishing the people of the world would just get better.  Instead, Paul takes specific actions – to proclaim Jesus, and then both warn and teach everyone who will listen.

Paul proclaimed the good news of the gospel wherever he traveled.  After someone would believe on Jesus for eternal life, Paul would then give them their next steps – providing both cautions and encouragements for how to live their new life in Christ.  However, these steps aren’t always easy to communicate, and many times these messages are hard to receive.  Making sure we give clear instruction and guidance, as well as being sure that the message is correctly understood, can take great effort on our part.  Paul was up front when he said that these actions were a labor for him. 

However, did you notice how Paul was able to press on in this important task?  As Paul labored and struggled in maturing others, he didn’t do this out of his own bull-headed effort.  Instead, he trusted that Jesus would provide His strength and that strength would work powerfully through him.  Paul knew that since God had given him this mission to develop and mature others, then God would provide him with the means and the strength to get through the struggles that would come.

Are there people in our lives that are worth the effort to strive and labor for their maturity?  You bet there are.  But we can’t just sit around and wish that they would mature or that someone else will help them along.  We need to be the ones to proclaim Jesus, and then be willing to both warn and teach those whom God has placed in our path.

Keep Pressing,
Ken