FOURTH QUARTER 2020 SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #11 DECEMBER 12, 2020 “THE CHRISTIAN AND WORK”
The Sabbath School lesson this week opens with the sentence, “Work is God’s idea.” We see this truth when we look at Eden where at least three practices true in Eden continue today: the Sabbath, marriage, and work. God Himself worked. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Genesis 2:2. When we look at Psalms 8:3 which says, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers” along with Psalms 111:2-3, “The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious”, we appreciate His creative activity as work. Add to this, John 17:4, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do”, we see His continued work in redemption.
God also gave Adam and Eve work to do: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Genesis 2:15. A bit a change occurs in Genesis 3:19 when God declares, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Commenting on this, Ellen White says, “The life of toil and care which was henceforth to be man's lot was appointed in love. It was a discipline rendered needful by his sin, to place a check upon the indulgence of appetite and passion, to develop habits of self-control. It was a part of God's great plan of man's recovery from the ruin and degradation of sin.” PP 60.1. So here in this quote we can see that work was a part of God’s way of dealing with the effects of the sin problem. There are lessons to be learned by work, character traits to be brought in check, the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-26 to be fulfilled in our lives. Work is God’s idea. The lesson highlights several facets of work which we will look at individually.
Work and Nurture: The theme of this quarter is “Education”, particularly Christian education and the title of this week’s study is “The Christian and Work”. Monday’s lesson highlights “work and nurture”. In the entirety of the KJV, the word “nurture” occurs only once and that is in Ephesians 6:4. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Nurture can be either a noun or a verb. Definitions based on noun are: “the properties acquired as a consequence of the way you were treated as a child”, “helping someone grow up to be an accepted member of the community”. Definitions based on verb include help develop, help grow, bring up. Bearing these definitions in mind, these next two texts and quotes by Ellen White reveal how the principle of work facilitates character qualities that produce usefulness in society and readiness for heaven.
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” Proverbs 21:25.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
Youth from a young age, need to be taught the value of work. The lessons learned from the quote mentioned earlier in Patriarchs and Prophets p.60, will bear fruit in them: a check on indulgence of appetite and passion, the development of habits of self-control. Consider this from E. G, White as it relates to young people, and children: “Now, as in the days of Israel, every youth should be instructed in the duties of practical life. Each should acquire a knowledge of some branch of manual labor by which, if need be, he may obtain a livelihood. This is essential, not only as a safeguard against the vicissitudes of life, but from its bearing upon physical, mental, and moral development. Even if it were certain that one would never need to resort to manual labor for support, still he should be taught to work.” MYP 177.2. As a child growing up, household chores were not optional, and I can say that those chores have yielded “the peaceable fruit of righteousness”!
“The greatest benefit is not gained from exercise that is taken as play or exercise merely. There is some benefit in being in the fresh air, and also from the exercise of the muscles; but let the same amount of energy be given to the performance of useful work, and the benefit will be greater. A feeling of satisfaction will be realized; for such exercise carries with it the sense of helpfulness and the approval of conscience for duty well done.” MYP 178.3
Work and Excellence: In this section the author of the lesson has given us a beautiful example of God’s ideal of how certain lines of work considered non-spiritual can be used for His purposes, honour and glory.
Exodus 35:30-35, “And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, … And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab … of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works.” Exodus 36:1 “And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the LORD has put wisdom and understanding,”.
These master designers were given the ability to teach and had been given wisdom and understanding by the LORD Himself. Deducing from what Ellen White wrote about this passage and its relationship to the building of Solomon’s temple, some of what they taught their fellow workers, were principles in humility, a spirit of self-sacrifice, looking to God as the provider of all necessities, serving God faithfully, and living a consecrated life. Every worker for God has something to teach and share with those with whom we work. Ellen White says that the descendants of these workmen who were then building Solomon’s Temple, inherited to a large degree the talents conferred on their forefathers and that for a time they remained humble and unselfish. This knowledge that was imparted through these artisans, lasted from the time of the Wilderness tabernacle down to the time of Solomon’s temple. That’s pretty good success. But gradually and imperceptibly the descendants lost their hold on God and their desire to serve Him unselfishly. The point here is that Bezalel used his work as a platform for ministry. All lines of work are avenues of ministry. God Himself gave him wisdom and understanding.
“The specific place appointed us in life is determined by our capabilities. Not all reach the same development or do with equal efficiency the same work. God does not expect the hyssop to attain the proportions of the cedar, or the olive the height of the stately palm. But each should aim just as high as the union of human with divine power makes it possible for him to reach.” Ed 267.1. Bezalel and the artisans allowed God’s work of uniting human and divine power to spread the practical gospel.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” Ecclesiastes 9:10. This leads us naturally to the next section.
Work and Spirituality: The quarterly aptly points out that we tend to compartmentalize our lives into work life, family life, social life, spiritual life and leisure time. We may even think that our lifework has no spiritual contribution to make, no value to the cause of God. Bringing spirituality into work might offend someone or be awkward. Being a Pastor or a Bible worker or an Evangelist are obvious but what about every other occupation? Our lifework however is an avenue to minister to all with whom we come in contact.
“From every quarter of this world of ours, comes the cry of sin-stricken hearts for a knowledge of the God of love. Millions upon millions have never so much as heard of God or of His love revealed in Christ. It is their right to receive this knowledge. They have an equal claim with us in the Saviour's mercy. And it rests with us who have received the knowledge, … to answer their cry.” Ed 263. “Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible. Yet God feels it all. In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14. Ed 263.2.
“Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver. The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all, and making those who are ready to perish eager to drink of the water of life.” DA 195.2. That living water which is becoming a fountain of life cannot be restrained. We are salt and light wherever we are. As we look around at the souls in our workplace, God’s grace in us wants to burst forth and refresh those who are perishing around us.
“He who came from heaven to be our example spent nearly thirty years of His life in common, mechanical labor; but during this time, He was studying the word and the works of God, and helping, teaching, all whom His influence could reach. When His public ministry began, He went about healing the sick, comforting the sorrowful, and preaching the gospel to the poor. This is the work of all His followers.” Ed 267.4.
As Jesus was working in the carpenter shop, He was sharing His study material and the works of God. This was before His public ministry. He is our example in everything.
Finally, one day, the meek and lowly Carpenter of Galilee put away His measuring tape and His hammer and His saw and His carpenter’s apron at the right time and walked into the Jordan River to be baptized by His cousin John the Baptist. Beginning His ministry, “He taught them as one having authority.”
Regardless of our line of work we are to recognize it as an avenue to ministry thus seeking ways of spreading the gospel. Our workplace is our mission field.
Work and Stewardship: 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, is a familiar passage to us all. The heading to this passage in my Bible, says, “the cheerful giver”. Sometimes we think of stewardship as the giving of our money. While this is important, stewardship implies much more than that. But let’s read the text.
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Giving money may be easy for some, but as we look to Jesus, we see demonstrated what true stewardship is, for He embodied stewardship.
2 Corinthians 8:9. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Wow! This is why Paul ends 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 on stewardship this way. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15. Waggoner breaks this down for us this way.
The Gift of Christ. —This grace and peace come from Christ, “Who gave Himself for our sins.” “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 7. But this grace is “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1. Therefore we know that Christ Himself is given to every one of us. The fact that men live is an evidence that Christ has been given to them, for Christ is “the life,” and the life is the light of men, and this life-light “lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:4, 9; 14:6. In Christ all things consist (Colossians 1:17), and thus it is that since God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” He cannot do otherwise than, with Him, freely “give us all things.” Romans 8:32. “His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” 2 Peter 1:3. The whole universe is given to us in Christ, and the fullness of the power that is in it is ours for the overcoming of sin. God counts each soul of as much value as all creation. Christ has, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9), so that every man in the world has received the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9: 15). “The grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many,” even to all; for “as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:15, 18. PTUK January 13, 1898, page 18.13 E.J. Waggoner
In John chapter 4 Jesus encountered the woman at the well, and a phrase that He used applies to us, as we contemplate what it is that makes us “cheerful givers”. “Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is Who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” As we comprehend and know “the gift”, the “dorea” in the Greek, stewardship increases and takes on new meaning in our lives. This term occurs 23 times in the KJV including Romans 5:15, 16, and 18. The gift is Christ Himself and His work on our behalf.
I pray that in our work we will see opportunities to tell of all that God has done and accomplished for us in Christ. Jesus gave Bible studies during His years in the carpenter shop. There is a perishing world around us and as that fountain of God’s mercy and grace wells up within us with gratitude may it overflow to everyone we meet including those with whom we work. God bless us all to this end.