Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Rest Was God's Idea, Too

“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
(Exodus 20:9-11) 

Sabbath is a gift from God. He set the example by resting on the first Sabbath. Even the land is to enjoy rest as every seventh year the land was to lay untended. Every seventh year, slaves were set free. This brought the gift of hope to an otherwise desperate situation. After seven cycles of seven year Sabbaths, a Jubilee would be declared and all land was to be returned to its ancestral owners. These acts countered the tendency of a small number of people to accumulate wealth at the expense of others.

 “Time is money,” is the popular rally call today but, in primitive cultures, three hours a day was all that is needed to grow and gather enough food for three days. During the Stone Age, the average work week was 15 hours. Men would hunt and the women gather and, then, paint on cave walls and tell stories around the fire. 

The Industrial revolution increased the hours required to work. Factories started at a certain time and the workers had to be at their posts. Factory owners wanted more wealth and, often, exploited workers with low wages, long hours and dangerous conditions. They exploited resources by taking as much out of the ground, as fast as they could; dumping their poisons in the ground and water. Labor laws and unions have created a more equitable work environment but have not changed the human heart. 

The booming economy following WWII, created an atmosphere of consumerism that was needed if growth was to continue. We worked harder to buy more toys, while advertisers cheered us on. We buy on credit and wind up working to pay off our debt. It's almost as if we have sold ourselves to slavery. “I owe, owe. It's off yo work I go.” 

Consumerism damages our planet and our physical, spiritual and emotional health. It has been said, “There is enough for human need but never enough for human greed.” 

Sabbath is the antidote to consumerism and the key to sustainability. It controls greed driven growth and gives the land a chance to recover. It enhances physical, mental, and spiritual health by allowing us to be unproductive and enjoy the moment that we are in.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Work was God's idea

Work was God's idea. He told us to fill the earth and subdue it. (Gen. 1:28) Tending the garden of Eden was humanity's first job. (Gen. 2:25) The book of Proverbs is filled with praise for industry. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (Prov 12:11)

In the beginning, work, like everything else God created was good. However, when sin entered creation, work became cursed. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will -produce thorns and thistles for you... By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Gen.3:18-19)

This is why T.G.I.F. is such a popular cheer.

Part of the curse it includes the desire to accumulate more. How much is enough? John Rockefeller, one of the richest men of his time, said, “Just a little more.”

During the stone age, women gathered, men hunted for about 15 hours a week. In three hours of work, primitive societies could gather three 3 days of food. People had time to develop culture and improve tools and technology. People learned to play music and painted in caves. As trade developed, cities emerged.

The Industrial Revolution brought about remarkable change. Factories were able to exponentially increase productivity. As more goods were created more was desired. The desire to have more led to the exploitation of workers and the environment and created a shift in the way society thinks of a person without a paying job. They were considered unsuccessful, even lazy. This included homemakers. The Great Depression reinforced this notion that everyone needs to have a paying job.

The boom years following WWII accelerated America's economic growth. People needed to earn money to spend on things that we were producing. Advertising fed consumerism and made credit card debt a way of life for most Americans. We buy things we can't afford to impress people we don't know. Comedian Lily Tomlin put it best when she said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.”

It doesn't have to be that way. When we separate the idea of work from the the idea of money, we gain freedom from consumerism. We learn to value people who stay at home to raise children, even when they are men. We find meaning in our work.

Jesus came to earth to reverse the curse. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

We can enjoy our work without being part of the rat race. Meaningful work is more than a salary. I met a nurse on a medical mission trip in Ecuador, who worked enough to raise the required funds for his next mission trip. He found it easy to find temporary jobs. He found a greater purpose in his work beyond the accumulation of things.

There are many who take jobs teaching ESL in order to be able to live abroad. Others work in ski resorts and other recreational areas to enjoy the outdoors. Some give up large salaries to serve God as missionaries and parachurch workers. They put in long hours because they love what they do. For them the curse has been lifted.