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“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9
“But God said to him; Fool! This night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared; whose will they be?” Luke 12:20
“Do not lay for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy” Matthew 6:19
By the time Paul visits the city of Thessalonica, he has already finished one missionary journey and started several churches. Jesus Christ, Himself had told his disciples, when He sent them out two-by-two, that it was perfectly fine for them to accept gifts of meals and lodging as a recompense for the work they were doing spreading Christ’s message. Yet the people he came to at Thessalonica, who listened to Paul and received the message of Christ, were not the richest of the city but among poorer and did not have much of anything to spare. Paul could have taken up a collection to pay for his expenses in staying at Thessalonica and preaching the gospel. Yet Paul did not want anything to get in the way or burden the Thessalonians or cause obstacles to the establishing of the new church. So Paul, a tent maker by trade, labored day and night to provide for his own needs. What Paul was not doing was trying to enrich himself or spread his business to some new locations. No, although Paul’s tents were not just for the church or follower’s of Christ, His desire was to honor Christ through the use of his secular work. And Paul’s work lasted as far as the Gospel was concerned. The church in Thessalonica did last and grew as well and continues to this very day.
Conversely, you have the parable of the foolish rich farmer. Jesus tells us that the ground of this rich farmer yielded a plentiful harvest. Understand, at the start of the story, the man was already wealthy. Even so, when he received an extremely bountiful crop, the rich man did not have enough space to store it. Now the man, already being rich, could have decided to be generous and give the extra harvest that couldn’t be stored away. That he did not do; instead, he tore down his barn and built a larger one. Thus now the man becomes even richer. Yet good fortune is not done with this man, for he receives an even bigger harvest that will not entirely fit in his new, larger barn. Now surely he is rich enough to distribute the extra that he has this time. But, if you’re not aware of the parable, you might still have guessed by the “foolish” in the title of the parable, the man does not. He again tears down his new larger, barn and builds an even bigger one in which he stores all his bountiful harvest and decides that he now no longer needs to work or worry about anything for he is rich enough to last the rest of his life. In that sense he is absolutely correct, for God comes to him that very night and informs him that his life is over and all he had struggled for, will go to another.
So as we look at this, both men; Paul and the farmer labored. The first one, Paul, labored not only in terms of preaching the gospel but also in terms of in a secular way, building tents. Obviously, in the preaching, Paul was working for and with Christ in mind. Yet even in the tent making, Paul’s desire was to honor Christ by using the pay he received, for himself. Yet that alleviated the burden of poor Thessalonians having to contribute to Paul’s welfare and perhaps distracting them from Christ’s message.
In the second instance, the rich man was laboring only for himself. Even after the man had become wealthy, his wealth was no longer sufficient. The man felt that with each increasing gain, he must find ways of keeping that gain all to himself. The motivation for his labor was completely self centered. One gets the sense that as the rich man was tearing down and rebuilding his barns, he still wasn’t taking time to enjoy the fruits of his labor even as rich as he was. Finally, after much labor and much gain, he finally believes it is time to enjoy what should be a very lavish, leisurely life style. It would appear he might have been able to do that for all of one day.
What are we to make of this for us and our time? Most of us have a vocation. Most of us work. I dare say most of us work, yours truly included, in something other than the explicit being a professional preacher of Christ’s word. But even if we’re not a preacher, can we see a connection to Christ in our work? Is it possible through our work, we can either financially or in some other respect relieve a burden from those around us. In what we do, how we do it, the gain that comes from it, can we maintain a focus on Christ in each of those processes? Or……is work simply for us? Is work something we do with which Christ has no meaning or impact. Is what we do, how we do it and what comes from our work, only for our own consumption and gratification?
It is most probably, the work we do, if only for ourselves will see the material gain not enriching us or our lives for any significant length of time. We are most likely to find much futility and frustration in self absorbed, self focused effort.
It is equally as likely that should Christ be the focus of our work, what we do, how we do it, what we do with the gain. We will find significant immediate blessings and success in those endeavors and effects of that work will last a lifetime and longer; probably an eternity. That would be only fitting as Christ, lived, worked, loved and died for us that we should strive to reflect that effort.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that we often see work as a singularly or mostly secular task that fulfills many worldly needs that is often separated from a focus on You. Yet Lord, You have made it clear that any part of our life that we attempt to keep from You and Your influence will turn disastrous. So, Most Merciful Father, we pray that You would pour our Your Spirit upon us that will allow us to seek Your influence in all we do including our work. That You, Dear Father, would provide us with the insight to see the work You provide us with as an opportunity to serve You. That in dedicating our work life to You, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen