LABOR OF LOVE 9-2-18
Labor of Love
September 2, 2018
Tomorrow we celebrate Labor Day, a federal holiday since 1894. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. But like most holidays, its original intent is often lost. More often we just think of Labor Day as a day to enjoy one last day of summer; ironically celebrating ‘not working’ more than honoring the virtue of hard work.
King Solomon wrote many proverbs about the wisdom in working hard and the folly of being lazy, like the one in our second Scripture reading (Proverbs 24:30-34). In our first Scripture reading, the apostle Paul not only talked of the wisdom of working, but commanded Christ’s followers to not be idle, but rather to earn their food, and never tire of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13). Matthew Henry wrote the following in his commentary on verse 10: “Such as could work, and would not, were not to be maintained in idleness. Christianity is not to countenance slothfulness, which would consume what is meant to encourage the industrious, and to support the sick and afflicted. Industry in our callings as men, is a duty required by our calling as Christians. But some expected to be maintained in idleness, and indulged a curious and conceited temper. They meddled with the concerns of others, and did much harm. It is a great error and abuse of religion, to make it a cloak for idleness or any other sin.” Yes, he called idleness (more commonly called laziness) a sin.
Unfortunately, not much has changed since then. Many people would still rather find a way to get by without working, or at least as little as possible. Of course, I am not saying that those who legitimately are unable to work should not be provided help. The Bible indeed commands us to give to the poor and needy, and we should always be willing to do so, both individually and as the Body of Christ. But there is something almost everyone can do, whether or not it is for pay. Whether it is a strong body, a sharp mind, a special talent, a heart for children or animals, or anything else the Lord has blessed us with, we are to use it in whatever way the Holy Spirit calls us to.
Our third Scripture reading, the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) might at first seem like a contradiction to our first two readings. Here we have a successful farmer. Obviously he made sure his farm was planted and harvested, and displayed the hallmarks of a wise businessman looking forward to a well-funded retirement. So why did Jesus call him a fool?
Like every other action, the motive is paramount to the action itself. Throughout the Bible God tells us that he sees what is in our hearts, and this is what we are judged by. For example, in the Old Testament we read in 1 Samuel 16:7 that “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." And in the New Testament Jesus called out the Pharisees in John 16:14-15 which reads, “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
So while laziness is a sin and not to be commended, just working hard isn’t of itself enough to earn God’s “well done, good and faithful servant”. Do you work to provide for your family, or if you do not have one, to be self-sufficient? Or do you work so you can have the latest and greatest of whatever it is you are into? Covetousness is also a sin. Even worse is not only wanting to have what your neighbor has, but wanting to have better or more than your neighbor. Do you gladly give of your earnings to church, missions, and other charities that help those in need? Would you gladly pay for the meal of a veteran? A room for someone recently evicted after losing their job? Help with medical costs for someone injured or ill who cannot afford treatment? And if you do, do you do it gladly? Or is it only ‘for show’? Remember… while yes, helping those in need benefits them regardless of your motive, your motive matters to God.
I was recently blessed to witness a wonderful example of work done from a pure heart. When I took the photos on the cover of today’s bulletin, I told these members of NOMADS that I was going to not only use their photos for my Labor Day bulletin, but I was going to talk about how they inspired me when I give my sermon. NOMADS is an acronym for Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service. (read more at http://www.nomadsumc.org) Its members provide volunteer labor for United Methodist organizations, such as Evenglow Lodge in Pontiac, where I serve as chaplain, and where these photos were taken as they labored at their eleventh summer project. NOMADS travel around in trailers, staying for several weeks on location where they do new construction, remodeling, and repairs for churches, children’s homes, camps, colleges, outreach missions and disaster rebuilding. Team members do maintenance, cleaning, painting, electrical, drywall, sewing, and flooring. Unlike the rich fool who wanted nothing more than to eat, drink, and be merry after laying up much goods, these retired Christians are still providing volunteer labor for UM organizations that spread the Gospel and help those in need. Rev. George Russell, a highly respected resident of Evenglow, has been a member of NOMADS for decades, and has kept a notebook filled with photos and reports of their many projects. When they asked me to serve them the Lord’s Supper on their last day at Evenglow I felt both humbled and blessed, and it was a real joy to share with them. To witness such dedication to the service of our Lord, is to realize what it means to give more than lip service, or do good works only so you receive praise and honor from people; but rather to labor out of love, and gratitude to Christ, who died for us, and rose again, so that we might live forever with Him. Yes, what they do is truly a labor of love.
In closing, remember, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40). And the apostle Paul reiterated, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossian 3:23). So as you go forth today, may love for our Lord be the motive for all that you do. Amen.
Videos: “What If I Gave Everything” (Chris Tomlin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP27ySgbYLU
"Legacy" (Nichole Nordeman) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zf-2dKMt0Q
Work doesn’t sound like much fun,
Will I ever get it all done?
We have homework to do after school,
“Done before games” - that’s the rule.
And then Mom says, “Clean your room”
And “Sweep the porch, here’s the broom”
Pastor says, “Do it for the Lord,
And great rewards you will have scored.
For He sees all the good that you do,
And treasure in heaven is waiting for you!