Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The Gift of Work

Tom Pennington • Proverbs

  • 2020-09-06 AM
  • Sermons


Well as you know we have stepped away, for a few weeks here, from our study of the Book of Romans, taking a break from Romans, to do a couple of things and been studying Exodus 34. Well today we're going to take a break from our break. This is actually something I'd planned to do for many months. What I hadn't planned is for Exodus 34 to take more than two weeks, but as I got into it, there's so much there. In fact, the really good news from Exodus 34 comes next Sunday so stay tuned. But today, I want us to step away from our study of Exodus 34 to focus on a theme that's appropriate for this weekend. This is Labor Day weekend. And it's certainly been an unusual time in the history of our country as many people have had to change their work habits - work from home, work practices have changed. And so, I think it's appropriate for us, in light of all of that, to spend some time today thinking about an issue that consumes the majority of our lives, and that is the issue of work.

If you're average, you spend 47 hours a week working. And again, if you fit into the statistical average, you will work full-time from age of 22 to about the age of 67 years of age. That is 45 years. Although work is a constant part of our lives, most people, frankly, think very little about it and have no real concept of its value. Sadly, if you ask the average Christian to give you some perspective on work, you'll hear some sadly deficient views. Some will even tell you that work is part of the curse. Many have embraced the predominant worldview in which we live, the worldview of our culture, that hard work is simply something to avoid. And if you can't avoid it, just tolerate it until the weekend or early retirement. Others work hard but do so for entirely selfish motives - to feed their pride or the idol of materialism. Many see work as just what you do from 9 to 5. But as soon as you clock out, as soon as you leave the building, then now life is no longer about work in any regard, but merely pleasure and enjoyment. Many Christians see their work as something that is entirely secular, not an act of deeply spiritual service to Jesus Christ.

But I want you to contrast those all-too-common views that people have of work, with what the view of the Reformers was. John Calvin in The Institutes of the Christian Religion writes this, "Each individual has his own kind of career assigned to him by the Lord, as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life. There will be no employment so mean, that is so low, and sordid as not to appear truly respectable and be deemed highly important in the sight of God." Here's what it comes down to. Your work, whatever it is, matters to God. This perspective was once called The Protestant Work Ethic. Historically, Christians have been the most diligent, the most creative, and often times the most successful in their fields. Sadly, this is one of those foundational truths that were recovered in the Reformation that has largely been forgotten by today's Church. Work is a divine gift and calling. Work is a divine gift and calling.

Let me ask you as we begin this morning, and I really want you to answer this question in your own mind, do you truly understand the origin, the value, and the reasons for work? And do you know how to work every day whether you're a student, whether you're in your career, or whether you're retired, in a way that honors God? That's what I want us to consider this morning. And we're going to turn to a book that is given to us for this very purpose. In fact, the theme of this book in the Scripture is to give us wisdom for living in the details of life. It's the Book of Proverbs where I invite you to turn with me this morning. In a practical, yet profound way, the Book of Proverbs lays out the key principles that should govern our work. So, let's look at those key principles together.

First of all, the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us that work is a gift that reflects God's character. Work is a gift that reflects God's character. I want you to begin with me in Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8. In this remarkable chapter, Solomon personifies wisdom. In verses 1 to 3, he described wisdom as a woman - a woman calling out to people everywhere to listen to her. And beginning in verse 4 and running through the end of the chapter, we have her speech which consists of several sections.

The section I want us to look at this morning begins in verse 22 and runs down through verse 31. In this section of Wisdom's speech, Wisdom explains that her origin is actually in the character of God Himself. And she does so by describing her role in creation. In fact, verses 22 to 26, explains that God possessed wisdom before the creation. Notice what Solomon writes, again, personifying wisdom. Wisdom speaking here, verse 22: "The Lord created [possessed] me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From eternity [everlasting] I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no ocean depths, I was born [brought forth], When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills, I was born [brought forth]; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world." In other words, wisdom predates creation. God possessed wisdom before He made anything, when it was just God.

But, beginning in verse 27 and going down through verse 29, God used wisdom in creating everything. Notice verse 27, "When He established the heavens, I was there". I was there. That's the message of these three verses. And Solomon's primary point in this passage, don't miss the big picture, his primary point is that there is great value in wisdom. Why? Why is he focusing here so much on wisdom? Because God is wisdom. God made the world in wisdom. So, for us to thrive in God's world, we must have wisdom because no one knows creation better than wisdom. Wisdom was there with God when God made the world.

But to make that point, Solomon reminds us that God exercised wisdom, listen carefully, as God worked to create through His Son. Notice verse 22: The Lord possessed before His works of old, that is creation. And then notice all of the verbs that describe God's work. Notice verse 26: He made the earth. Verse 27: established the heavens, inscribed a circle on the face of the deep. Verse 28: made firm the skies, fixed the springs of the deep. Verse 29: set the boundary of the sea, marked out the foundations of the earth. And then notice the summary in verse 30. Wisdom says, "Then I was beside Him [God], as a master workman [or craftsman]; And I was His delight daily, Rejoicing always before Him." Wisdom worked alongside God as God worked to create.

Now, don't miss the important point that's being made here. And that is that work is not the result of the Fall. In fact, work, and this is the point that's being made, work is a fundamental part of the character of God Himself. He worked in creation. And God continued to work. In John 5:17, Jesus said, "My Father is working until now..." You say, wait a minute, I know God finished creation. He did, but He continues to work. So, the question is, what is God doing?

What is the work God is accomplishing? Well, first of all in providence, God continues to sustain everything He created and to direct all things to the ends for which He made them. That's providence. You understand God is right now busy making sure that everything continues to exist that He desires to exist? He sustains it through His Son just as He created it through His Son? It's in Him all things hold together? In Him all things consist? And He is directing all things to the ends and purposes for which He made them. That's providence. God is working today.

But God also continues to work today in the work of redemption. While the accomplishment of redemption was done in the work of Jesus Christ, God is busy in redemption doing what? He is redeeming a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. God is working. And God - are you ready for this? - created you to work just like He works. Listen to Genesis 1:26. You remember here's God deliberating about creating man. It says, "Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness..." Now there's a lot of discussion and debate about what it means to be made in the image of God. And there isn't one simple answer to that question of what that means. But part of what it means, is to work like God works because the very next expression in that verse, in Genesis 1:26 when He says, "Let us make mankind in Our image", the very next expression is, "let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth."

Folks, you were created to work. And when you work, you reflect the image of God. That's why Adam worked before the Fall. In Genesis 2:15, "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden [to do what?] to cultivate it and tend it." Before the Fall, there was work. After the Fall, God cursed work and it became a struggle. So, now, work is a fight against a cursed Earth. That's why in Genesis 3 it says we now work by the sweat of our brow; not because work is the curse, but work itself, which was a gift, has been cursed. And it's hard. Now it's work. But, in the future, after God makes all things new and there's a new heaven and a new earth, in eternity we will still work. Revelation 22:3 says, "There will no longer be any curse; [and the very next expression says] ... and His bond-servants will serve Him." We will work when the curse has been completely removed and abolished. Because to work, don't miss, to work is to be like God. That means work itself is a divine gift. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, "He has also given him the opportunity to enjoy them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God." It's this concept that moved the Reformers to understand that work was actually not a secular thing, but a sacred thing, regardless of what it is you do. Listen to Martin Luther. He says, "Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it and through it, He wants to bestow His blessing on you. The world does not consider work a blessing. Therefore, it flees and hates it. But the pious who fear the Lord, labor with a ready and cheerful heart for they know God's command and will. Thus, a pious farmer sees Psalm 128:2 written on his wagon and plow. A cobbler (that is someone who repairs and makes shoes] sees it on his leather and awl. A laborer sees it on wood and iron. What does it say? When you eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you." Luther goes on to say, "The world inverts the thought and says miserable you will be, and it will not be well with you for these things must forever be endured and borne." Work is just something to be put up with. And then he says, "But the world says happy are those who lead a life of leisure and without labor have the wherewithal to live." Isn't that true? It's what the world says. You know, if you were really blessed you wouldn't have'd win the lottery, and you wouldn't have to work a day in your life. That would be real blessed. God says, no you're blessed to be able to work like I work. You have been specifically gifted by God for work. He shaped you in your mother's womb and uniquely gifted you to serve Him and to serve others. Work is a gift that reflects God's character.

A second principle we discover in Proverbs about work, is that work is a command that reflects God's will. Work is a command that reflects God's will. Turn with me back to chapter 6. Proverbs 6. And here, in this text, beginning in verse 6 down through verse 11, we meet one of the fools of Proverbs. There's several different categories of fools in the Book of Proverbs. Here we meet the one that's called The Sluggard. Now what is a sluggard? A sluggard is a person who is habitually lazy and disinclined to work. Now, very few people call themselves sluggards, alright? I've never met anybody who said I'm a sluggard, you know, I raise my hand.

So how do you know? How do you know if you're a sluggard? How do you know if you're lazy? Well, the good news is, here in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon identifies three qualities that distinguish a sluggard. One of them is in this passage. Here's the first way you can know if you are, by nature, a lazy person. You're tempted to be a sluggard. A lazy person procrastinates starting his work. Notice verse 9 of chapter 6, "How long will you lie down, you lazy one [O sluggard]? When will you arise from your sleep?" Now, put this in the cultural context. This is an agricultural society. So, rising early to tend to your crops before the sun was up and all of that (tend to your animals) all that was imperative. But here, the lazy person, instead of getting up to take care of things, sleeps in instead. The point is the lazy person won't begin things. He procrastinates. He doesn't want to commit to a definite time when he's going to begin to work. Notice his answer in verse 10: "A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest." Notice that - "a little", "a little", "a little". This is a very important principle to understand. A lazy person rarely refuses to work. In other words, to be lazy, you don't have to be the person who says I'm just not going work. That's rare. What a lazy person does, is procrastinates beginning. He postpones getting started on his work. "A little, a little, a little". Look I know it's planning season and I'll start soon. Or, you know I know I have that huge paper due tomorrow in school and I'm going to get to it just as soon as I finish this Netflix show. Or you know I know that big work project is coming up next week but let me check my social media and the news first. Derek Kidner writes, "He deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away." A lazy person procrastinates starting his work.

Secondly, a lazy person often fails to finish his work. He delays as long as he can to get started. And then when he gets started, he doesn't finish. Why? Because it's just too hard. It's too much work! Takes too much time. So the impulse dies before he finishes. Chapter 12:27, "A lazy person [man] does not roast his prey". The picture, here, is a guy who finally musters up the energy to go out hunting, to have the food for his family, and he finds that animal, he brings it back, and he's so lazy that he just leaves it there on the doorstep and says I'll get to cleaning it in a little bit. It's too much work. Too hard. I need a rest. And it goes bad before he can actually use it. Here's a humorous picture. Chapter 19:24, "The lazy [the sluggard] one buries his hand in the dish, But will not even bring it back to his mouth." I mean, here's a guy, who is so prone not to finish things, that he lets his meal get cold before he finishes eating it.

A third quality that marks the sluggard is a lazy person regularly makes excuses for why he doesn't get his work done. He rationalizes his laziness. In chapter 22:13 - I love this - "The lazy one [the sluggard] says, 'There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!'" It's a ridiculous excuse! And yet, he doesn't see it. In fact, I think he starts to believe his own excuses. And he starts to believe them to such an extent that he won't even respond to rational arguments to the contrary. In chapter 26:16, it says, "A lazy one [the sluggard] is wiser in his own eyes than seven people [men] who can give a discreet answer." So, here's a guy who comes up with a ridiculous excuse for why he can't get his work done. You put him in a room with seven people saying, That's a really ridiculous excuse. You need to get to work. And he still defends himself. He still makes excuses. Eventually, his life is so disordered that it becomes irreversible. Can I just say frankly to you? What we're learning here is if you keep procrastinating and if you keep on failing to finish the job, and if you keep on making excuses for yourself - notice verse 11 – "Then your poverty will come in like a drifter [vagabond], And your need like an armed man." That's a powerful word picture. Basically, the lazy person wakes up one day to discover that poverty has arrived, and poverty has taken everything from him as if it were a mugger or a robber who had encountered him. In fact, turn over to chapter 24. You see this so powerfully presented. Proverbs 24. Again, it's a picture from an agricultural society so you have to translate it a bit into our world but look at Proverbs 24:30. "I passed by the field of a lazy one [sluggard], And by the vineyard of a person [man] lacking sense And behold, it was completely overgrown with weeds [thistles]; Its surface was covered with weeds [nettles], And its stone wall was broken down." Completely unkept. "When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. 'A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest'. Just keep putting it off, just never get to it. "Then your poverty will come like a drifter [as a robber], And your need [want] like an armed man." So, laziness if very destructive.

So how do you remedy laziness? Let's say you took that test with me just now. And maybe you didn't do so well. How do you remedy the temptation to laziness? Well, go back to chapter 6. Chapter 6:6: "Go to the ant, you lazy one [o sluggard], Observe its [her] ways and be wise." Look at the pattern of the ant's behavior, consider those patterns, and gain wisdom for your own life. Now, he's using here, the harvester ant which was common in Israel. It's an ant which stores grain in its nest. And he uses the harvester ant to teach the lazy person several remedies for laziness. Here they are. You want to fight laziness in your life?

Number one: don't wait to be forced to work, discipline yourself. Notice verse 7. He says consider this ant, the harvester ant, and be wise. Verse 7, "Which, having no chief, Officer, or ruler..." Does what? Works! No chief, no officer, no ruler. Harvester ants do have a social structure, but they have no clear hierarchy of authority or command. This underscore, by the way, that we are to work hard even when there's no boss. You know there are a lot of people in our world who really do fairly well at their jobs. They work hard, why? Because there's someone there telling them what to do, giving them orders, and holding them accountable. But they punch out or they drive off the parking lot and their personal lives is frankly in shambles and it manifests laziness because they don't have self-initiative. They don't have any self-discipline to say, you know my own life needs that and whether somebody is telling me to do or not it needs to happen. When you get off work, you must work just as hard to make sure your own life is orderly. Discipline yourself.

Number two: don't wait for a crisis or deadline, plan ahead. Don't wait for a crisis or deadline, plan ahead. Verse 8. This harvester ant "prepares its [her] food in the summer and gathers its [her] provision in the harvest." You see, the ant knows. Harvest is going to pass. Winter is coming when there's no food available. And so, this ant doesn't wait for the crisis, for the deadline. Rather, it works when it can work. It works during the grain harvest, which in Israel, is two months in the early summer. Listen, don't wait until you're overtaken by that project - you're overtaken by that assignment. Instead, plan ahead. If you know it's due in four weeks, don't wait till the night before to decide what you're going to do about it. That's not how the ant behaves and, Solomon is saying, don't you do that either. Don't procrastinate. Don't put it off till the last minute. Plan ahead.

Number three: don't be half-hearted, work hard. You see, God provides for the ants. You understand that, right? The ant is not really providing for itself. God provides for the ants just like He does all His creatures according to Psalm 104:14-15. But how does God provide for the ant? He does so through the ant's hard work at the right time and in the right way. You see, the God who's decreed the ends that His creatures be cared for, has also decreed the means, and that is, He will give them what they need through their work; through using the gifts that God has given them. Solomon's point here in this text, using the ant as an example, is that work is a moral imperative. Laziness is the way of fools. The sluggard is one of the fools in Proverbs. Hard work is the way of the wise. And in Proverbs, wisdom always has moral overtones.

By the way, this becomes even clearer in the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment demands that we devote ourselves to work. You ever thought about this? Listen to Exodus 20:8-10. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." That's where most people stop with the fourth commandment. And they go, well you know, we're Christians now, we don't have to keep the Sabbath like they did. That's true. But they miss the rest of it. "For six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work." Now, like the other nine commandments, this command summarizes an entire category of life. And it reminds us that God has supreme authority over that category of life. And the fourth command is talking about the category of God being the Lord of our time. And He demands that we set aside the time prescribed for worship and, in the Old Testament for God's people, that was the seventh day, the day God rested from creation, the Sabbath. For the New Testament believer, it's on the first day of the week - not as a Christian Sabbath - but it's on the first day of the week that we come together for worship. But God also commands that we devote most of our time to work. Folks, work is not an option. God commands that you spend the vast majority of your week, working. That doesn't mean you have to work at your job six days a week. But it is a command to work; to engage in meaningful occupation. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul writes, "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." It doesn't say not able. God makes it possible for people to aren't able, who've lost jobs (other things) to be cared for. This is the person who's not willing. And He says, don't let him eat. In fact, Paul goes on in that same chapter to say that if a person refuses to work, they want to be supported by others, then they are to be disciplined out of the church.

Now, when you think about this being a moral imperative and even contained in one of the commandments, it should come as no surprise to us that our Lord worked a regular job like many here in this auditorium worked, and He worked at a regular job for 17 years of His short life; from at least 13. Probably He started before that in the Jewish culture. But certainly, by the time He reached the age of 13, when He became a son of the commandment, and had His bar mitzvah, from that time on He would've worked until, at a regular job, until the age of 30. Mark 6:3 says, "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary...?" Think about that for a moment. Jesus did hard, manual labor for at least 17 of His 33 years. J. Oswald Sanders writes, "He saw no incongruity in the Lord of glory, standing in the saw pit, laboriously cutting the thick logs into planks or using a plane and hammer. He was a carpenter, a working man, who earned His living, as others of His contemporaries, by manual skill. If it was not beneath the Son of God to work as an artisan, then surely it is beneath none of His children". I love this. "He has imparted to work, both dignity and nobility." He has imparted to work, by His own example, both dignity and nobility.

Now that was Jesus working at a regular job like most of you. But no one has ever worked harder at ministry than Jesus did for the three and a half years of His ministry life. Read the gospels and you get a picture of that. Now, let me just remind you that Jesus lived in our place. His life was the perfect life of obedience. How many of us can say we have always worked like we ought to work at our jobs - we've always done so with the right attitude, the right heart, we've always worked hard, we've never taken anything from our employer or his time, etc. etc.? None of us! And so, understand Christian, that Jesus was your legal representative. And in those 33 years, and most of them working, He was working in your place. He was satisfying the demands of God for human beings to work. And then, He died the death we deserve, not only for our failure to work like God's commanded us to work, but for all the rest of our sins as well. And then God raised Him from the dead. He lived in our place. He worked in our place. He died in our place and God has raised Him from the dead. And your only hope, and my only hope, of ever being right with this God, who works and has given us the command to work, is Jesus Christ - His life, His death, His resurrection - by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in Him and Him alone. Now, as believers we should work hard because, listen to this, to work hard is to be like Jesus Christ. How would Jesus Christ do your job? Let me ask you again. How would Jesus Christ do your job? So work is a gift that reflects God's character. Work is a command that reflects God's will.

A third principle we learn from Proverbs is that work is a duty that must be done God's way. Work is a duty that must be done God's way. Proverbs has a lot to say about how we are do our work. In fact, Solomon identifies three primary ways we're to do our work. As I have digested the Book of Proverbs, there are certainly other principles that could be brought to bear. But these are the primary three that just jump out at you as you go through this book so let me give them to you.

If you're going to do God's work God's way, first, work with diligence. Work with diligence. Turn to chapter 10. Proverbs 10 and look at verses 4 and 5: "Poor is one [he] who works with a lazy [negligent] hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully." Now, don't misunderstand. These verses are not teaching the prosperity gospel. They're not teaching that you're always going to be wealthy as a believer, anything like that. These verses fall in a larger section. In fact, many of our Bibles, if you look at the beginning of chapter 10, you'll see a section heading that says, "Contrast of the righteous and the wicked". That's what this section's about. It's a contrast between those who are righteous and those who are wicked. Verse 4 says that the righteous are not negligent, that is, slack or lacking in some way. They are diligent in their work.

Now that Hebrew word for diligent is a very interesting word. It has several nuances that are part of it. Let me give them to you. There are three of them. The word diligent can really be defined by three additional words. First of all, it implies carefulness or, can I say, excellence. Carefulness or excellence. To do your work with diligence means you are doing it to the best of your abilities, with carefulness, with excellence. Number two, it implies hard working. That is, you're not doing it with excellence, but you are flat out, you are hard at the job that you've been assigned to do. And then thirdly, it implies persistent, that is, you're not one day and off the next. No, you're constant in the pursuit of this work. So, careful or excellent, hardworking, and persistent. That's diligence and that's what the righteous, how he is or she is, when it comes to work.

Now, notice the promises here that the statements, here, about making rich. This, like the rest of the proverbs, is not an ironclad promise. Not everybody who works diligently in those senses ends up with more than they need. That's not the point. In God's providence, however, diligence does often lead to success and prosperity. That's the nature of a proverb. That's what it's saying. Verse 5, then, addresses the grain harvest in early summer. The righteous have the wisdom and self-discipline to overcome the temptation to laziness and to work when they should work. But the lazy person, notice verse 5, brings shame - shame on himself and on his family. Now don't misunderstand. There is no inherit shame in poverty. There is shame in poverty, and this is the point the Proverb is making, if that poverty is because of laziness. Now, go over to chapter 14:23. Here's another verse making the same point. 14:23, "In all labor", and there are a couple of ways to understand that. It could mean in all kinds of work or it could mean all work. Either way, it says, "In all labor there is profit". There is advantage. "But mere talk leads only to poverty." All of us have known people who are always talking about they're going to do but never seem to get around to it. Proverbs says, listen, stop talking about what you're going to do and get to work. Work! That leads to advantage, to profit. Go over to chapter 21:5. It says, "The plans of the diligent certainly lead [surely] to advantage, but everyone who is in a hurry [hasty] certainly comes [surely] to poverty." Here you have the contrast between those who are diligent and make wise plans with those who are always looking for a quick break. Notice, first of all, in the first half of the verse wise plans are combined with the diligence to carry out those plans and, when those two are combined, they lead certainly to advantage or to profit. But, on the second half of the verse, there are those who want to avoid all that hard work and all that planning and all that diligence, and so, to avoid all that, the lazy person is always chasing some ill-conceived get-rich-quick scheme. And when you pursue those things, it comes to poverty, that is, you'll find yourself lacking the basic necessities of life.

Go over to chapter 22. This is one of my favorite proverbs. It's one that I learned in college and it stayed with me throughout the years. I believe it was college. I don't think it was seminary. I think it was before that. In chapter 22:29 it says, "Do you see a person [man] skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure people [men]." In other words, a person who is uniquely skilled, because they've worked hard, they have inherent gifts, and they've worked hard developing the gifts they have, will become known for those skills. His work will earn a reputation and be sought out. The point is, work as hard as you can with the gifts and opportunities God gives you. Be as skilled as you can be. That's the point. Be diligent. So, to do your work in a biblical way is to do it with diligence.

Now, let me just make this really clear. When you stand before Christ someday, on what basis is He going to judge your work? You ever thought about that? I think most people think it's going to be based on success. What have I accomplished? It's not. It's not. Why? Because God's the one who gave you the gifts. God's the one who gave you the opportunities. And God's the one who made your efforts succeed. There are people who are less gifted, or excuse me, who are more gifted than I am, who have not had the opportunities I've had, and haven't had the level of success I have. The same thing is true with you. That's just the way of the world. God makes those decisions. So, how's He going to evaluate our service? It's not going to be on the basis of your success. It's going to be, or your results, it's going to be on the basis of your faithfulness. How did you use the gifts He's given you? How hard did you work to be the best you could be with the gifts and opportunities He set before you? Because He's the one who provides the outcomes. So, at the judgment, understand this, that's how the judgment comes. If you're a student and you're a C student and you work really hard - you invest all of your energies, you don't waste your time, but you really try the best you can to be the best you can with the gifts God's given you, and you make C's - then you've been faithful, and you'll be rewarded for that. On the other hand, if you're an A student, an A+ student, because you've just got the brain to remember things and to put them back on the test, and to write the papers, and to do all the work, and you kind of skate through because you can, you don't do the hard work, you enjoy the college life a little too much, or student life a little too much, and you just kind of skate through but you manage to slip through with A minuses. You're not getting rewarded for that! Because you haven't used your gifts to their fullest. It's faithfulness! Were you consistently diligent to use the gifts He gave you to their maximum potential? Work with diligence.

Secondly, work with integrity. Work with integrity. Look at chapter 11. Chapter 11:1, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord". Now this principle here is so important that it is found in the Law, the Prophets, and here in the wisdom literature. In fact, variations of this proverb occur two other times in Proverbs. In their agricultural world, the primary commodities were grain and vegetables and fruits. Now, the one piece of equipment crucial for commerce in an agricultural society, was a simple set of balance scales. Think the scales of justice. You know, a crossbar and two pans. On one side you placed what was purchased. On the other you placed the weights to determine how much of that produce was there. The buyer depended on the reliability of those scales. And you understand the importance of this, the importance of proper measurements? I mean, you go to the gas station, after the service is over, and you go to pump in gas. When you're done, if the meter reads 10 gallons, you're assuming that that machine has put 10 gallons of gas in your car. Every gas pump is marked, once it has been tested against the standard, and then it's sealed to keep dishonest station owners from tampering with it. The same problem exists in the ancient world. The Hebrew word here for faults, in verse 1, means deceptive. You see, you could alter your balances. You could slightly bend the crossbow to change a little bit of the weight in configuration. You could mess with the pans to alter the scale a little bit. But, notice, deceptive scales are an abomination to the Lord. They excite His moral outrage and justice. Notice the second half of verse 1, "But a just weight is His delight." In other words, God also not only cared about the balance, He cared about the weights you used. God was equally outraged if you altered the weights that were used to measure. Ancient weights were typically stones marked with their weight. And merchants carried their own set of weights with them in a little leather pouch so that they could crosscheck the merchant they were purchasing from. But unscrupulous merchants carried two sets of weights - heavier ones for purchases, and lighter ones for sales. And God found this absolutely repulsive. But notice the second half of verse 1: "a just weight", or an unaltered weight - literally the Hebrew says, "finds His favor". God insists on integrity in our work and business. Turn over to chapter 16, chapter 16:11. You see this same principle. "A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern." Now, in the context, here in chapter 16, it's dealing with government. And he's saying when government administers the systems of weights and measures used in business, government is actually operating on God's behalf. It matters to God that the gas pump you get your gas from is accurate. It matters to God that what we do in our business reflects integrity and honesty. He demands honesty in our business dealings. Listen, you should never use deception in your business to protect yourself and your business, to grow your business, to increase your profits. You should always speak the truth. You should charge an honest price. You should deliver the goods or service that you promised for price you agreed upon. If you're an employer you should treat your employees with justice and kindness, you should pay a fair wage, and you should never take advantage of them. If you're an employee, you should work hard, and you should never steal from your employer whether it's his clients, or his stuff, or his time. God is morally outraged by all deceptive, dishonest business practices and we should be as well. God's favor is for the one who does His work with diligence and with integrity.

Thirdly, to do our work in a biblical way, we must work humility, with humility. Work hard but acknowledge God's sovereignty over your work - your gifts, your plans, the results of your efforts - bow in humility to God's sovereign purpose in your life. Look again at chapter 16. The first nine verses of chapter 16 underscore God's sovereignty over all things. Although these are not directly about work, the principles here are supposed to shape our understanding of the world including our work. So, notice verse 1, 16:1 - "The plans of the heart belong to a person [man],

But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." In other words, the plans here is a word that speaks of placing things in order such as arranging soldiers on the battlefield. You arrange your life in order. In every area of life, including work, we plan but, in the end here, it says God directs our plans, He directs our efforts, even the answer of our tongue to accomplish His purpose. Verse 3, "Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established." The word, commit, literally means to roll. Roll the actions you have planned on the Lord, in trust and dependence. Leave their ultimate accomplishment to God. And when you act and plan in dependence on God, He will establish your efforts. He will bring to reality all of your plans that fall within His sovereign purpose. Verse 9, "The mind of a person [man] plans his way" - his way is singular, meaning his whole life, his life direction - "But the Lord directs his steps." Here's an interesting observation from the original language. In Hebrew, the word "steps" is not plural it is singular. The Lord will direct his step. Now, do you see the contrast? We plan our entire life's direction, but the Lord directs and establishes and orders every single step. You can plan out your life, but God is going to have the last word. He's going to determine the best path and He's going to establish every single step for your good and His glory. The older I get, the more aware I am of that. I wasn't smart enough to figure out my life. He has ordered and structured according to His own purpose and He does the same in all our lives. So, pray for wisdom. Make wise plans. Work hard to execute those plans. But with humility, acknowledge His sovereignty over your plans, over your efforts to carry out those plans, and over the results - or the effects, the success of your efforts; ultimately every step you take. So work is a duty that must be done God's way with diligence, with integrity, with humility.

There's one final principle I just want to touch on here in Proverbs about our work, and that is, work is a tool that fulfills God's purposes. Work is a tool that fulfills God's purposes. You know many work, and work hard, but they do so solely for themselves - for their own comfort, for their own satisfaction, for their own financial success, their own advancement. But, Brother and Sisters, for us as Christians there are far more compelling reasons to work. Let me just give you the list. I'm not going to go through these in detail. You can - these slides will be available. You can come back and look at them and study them on your own. In the interest of time, I'll just give you the list. Here are the reasons to work. First of all, to care for your own needs and to provide for your own enjoyment. Yes, it's to meet your needs, but God richly gives us all things to enjoy, Paul says to Timothy. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the fruit of your labor. Secondly, to provide for your dependents. God intends your work to up-care for those who depend on you. Thirdly, to benefit others. Ephesians 6:7 says, literally, serving or slaving with good will, meaning, with good will for the people you're serving. So, let me ask you, do you job as an expression of God's common grace to help benefit your customers or those you serve? Is that how you look at your job - that God is working through me to administer His common grace to people through what I do, the service I provide? Or what about your business itself? Do you care if your business succeeds? Do you look for ways to improve your business? Number four, we work to give to those in need. It's not just about us, not just about our dependents. No, we work so that we have additional resources to help people in need - that's an Old and New Testament concept. And then finally, to serve Jesus Christ your Lord. Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily [notice that, whatever you do your work heartily], as for the Lord and not for people [men], knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Listen, write that over your workspace. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. What if Christ were your boss? How would your work look different than it does today? It is Him that you serve. That's the ultimate goal.

So, folks, whether you're a student, or whether you're already in your career, or whether you're retired from your main life's career, this week and in the years to come remind yourself that work is a gift that reflects God's character. It's a command that reflects God's will. It is a duty that must be done His way - with diligence, with integrity, and with humility. And it a tool intended to fulfill God's purposes, primarily, to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. May God help us to think about our work like that.

Let's pray together.

Father thank you for this wonderful reminder about the wisdom for living in daily life in a way that pleases You. Lord, we need this reminder. Our country has been through some challenging times and our attitudes about work have shifted and changed and some ways in healthy ways and other ways, not. Lord help us not to be driven by our culture's thinking. Lord help us to think like Christians. Help us, ultimately, to remember that it is our Lord we serve, whatever it is we do. And Father, I pray that we would reflect Your own character in how we work. May we reflect our Lord's perfect pattern of work when He was here among us. We thank You for the Gospel through which we are saved from our sin in so many ways, including, the ways we have violated these basic truths. Lord, forgive and cleanse us through Christ and help us to establish again the path of obedience. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.