The tradition of Thanksgiving can indeed be a wonderful experience, if it affords us a moment of introspection. It is a time to take stock of everything that we have received from God – and the amazing bounty of our land. God provides a productive earth. God provides us with strength, intelligence and even a healthy economy. These are all aspects of His grace. But God wants us to cooperate with His grace. This is why we work! The point of work itself is not only to be productive, but also to contribute something to needy people. In fact, the early church had developed a pattern where they took care of widows. They had instructions about helping the poor. There were wider issues such as sending out Christian missionaries and teachers. If you worked, you could help – you could partner in the advance of the gospel. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote these instructions: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” (1Thess.4:11-12, NLT)
So, work allows for at least two things. It allows us to share with those in need rather than relying on others, and it wins the respect of outsiders. By working, you are not only taking responsibility for your own life, but also for the lives of others. People can be won to Christ if you work hard. You can win their respect. I have been told that in China, one of the ways in which the gospel went forward in the early days was by the productivity of Christian workers. They had a work ethic that refused to waste time, preferring rather to work for their employer in the manner they were working for Christ. Paul says that you will also have something to give to God’s mission if you work. How would you feel if you came to church and did not contribute to its ministry?
How would you pray for this country if you did nothing to see the gospel going forward? How would you feel about yourself if all you did was to consume religion – rather than partnering in the gospel? This, of course, is a different view of work than is often held by our society. For many, work is only for themselves – to get what they want. They work hard so that they can get enough to live on and then retire. People speak about “Freedom 55,” which means that they expect to be free to drop out of their commitments. And sadly enough, many Christians, once they have succeeded financially, cannot be counted on to be productive in the Lord’s work. I want you to think of the bounty in this country. Does this come from a God who has dropped out? Without His work, your work would count for nothing. Food, clothing and shelter, all come from a God who loves us and is actively involved in bringing a blessing to our lives. God is working for us because He loves us. And He wants you to do the same. He wants you to give to others as He has given to you. This means we need to be a blessing to the lives of others by taking responsibility to be involved with the lives of others. We can take responsibility for the lives of others if we have something to share. That takes work.
APPLICATION: Let us give thanks today with grateful heart for all that God has given us out of His abundant grace. And then, out of gratefulness, roll up your sleeves and be a servant, and thank God that you can serve others!
GOD IS WORKING FOR US BECAUSE HE LOVES US. AND HE WANTS YOU TO DO THE SAME.
Dr. John Neufeld