Thursday, July 20, 2006

[Thoughts] Laboring the Extra Mile

Having only been in Southwest Virginia a short while, I haven't yet learned whom it is they tell jokes about. But, where I come from, it's Aggies (folks who attend, attended, or ever knew anyone they liked who attends or attended Texas A&M University).

An Aggie had just completed his studies and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. The Texas Highway Department knew a qualified candidate when they saw one, so they hired him immediately. He was tasked with painting the yellow stripe down the middle of the highway.

After three days, his boss called him in and advised him that he was no longer needed. When the Aggie asked why he was being dismissed, the boss answered, "On your first day here, you painted three miles of stripe, which is good. On your second day, you painted two miles—not as good, but still acceptable. Today, you only painted one mile. This is too far below our standards."

The Aggie accepted the explanation and left. On his way out the door, he said, "Well, alright, but I want you to know, it wasn't my fault. The paint can kept getting farther and farther away."
We hear jokes like this and think, "Work Smarter Not Harder." But, is that was God says? Because we're worldly, when God says to Adam in Genesis 3:17, "Cursed is the ground for your sake," we hear, "work is a curse." We forget that man was created to till the earth (Gen. 2:5) and woman was created to help him (Gen. 2:18, 21-22). It wasn't until after the Fall that that work became difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). The tilling is not the curse, it's weeding. We now have an extra task.

But, we're not off the hook there, either. God tells Adam that he is still to bring forth his food from the ground. It is by taking dominion that we are even allowed to eat! Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2 Thess. 3:10). This is not a new commandment, but a reiteration of the dominion mandate God gave to Adam. If we don't weed the garden, it quickly turns into jungle, producing very little, if any, that will provide nourishment. Jesus said, "in the world you will have tribulation." (John 16:33) Escaping the tribulation that comes with work, means avoiding the work. And going hungry.

God created man in His image; on that we can agree. But even here, we tend to think in ontological terms: because God is a choosing being, we can choose what socks to wear; because God is an emotive being, we can laugh. What we miss is that the exercise of dominion is a reflection of His image. Work reflects the image of God. The first view we have of God is of Him working. "In the beginning, God created…" He's working. To truly reflect his image, we must go out, take the dirt and turn it into something.

And that's how we are to love our jobs, to see the short line between our work and God. Indeed, this is the proper way to enjoy anything, when we can recognize the short walk it is to God. The shorter the walk, the more enjoyment. And work is a very short walk.

Satan has sold us a lie that work is a curse—that everybody's working for the weekend. Everybody's working so they can take a couple of days to do something they really enjoy. Nobody enjoys work; it's just a means to an end. And that end is to stop working… to retire. Which is why you see so many "mature" Americans "running out the clock," traveling across the country in their RVs.

Ironically, though we hate our jobs, we're concerned about them being "outsourced" and sent overseas. Which is even more ironic when you consider that most of our brethren in the evangelical church have already outsourced themselves from their parenting job when they send their children off to day care, pre-school or the local government school. I received an email from my friend, Greg de Mocskonyi, in which he coined what he believes is a new term:

Educational/Parental Outsourcing. It's gotta ring to it, huh? I came up with it listening to some bloke complaining about his job going overseas—being outsourced—and how hard it is to pay for daycare on one paycheck—his wife's. I asked if his wife minded her job being outsourced. He was puzzled. He said her clerical job (Why do wives always seem to have clerical jobs?) was fine and was safe from outsourcing. I said, "Not her employment, her parenting job. You've outsourced her role as a mother. It's parental outsourcing." The conversation pretty much ended there. I don't think he was nearly as amused at my coinage of a new term as I was.
As we discussed on a recent Basement Tape titled All in the Family, we're afraid to actually parent our children because it's hard. That's why we send them off to the "experts" (the government, the Sunday School teacher, the youth group leader), so that we can avoid the work. But, when we do that, we miss out on the blessing of building the Kingdom. God has ordained that we teach our children who God is, what He has done and what He requires of them. And he has given us the means in Deuteronomy 6:

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.(vv 6-7)
Pretty straightforward, huh?
Likewise, he gives clear instructions on how to work in Colossians 3:

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (vv 22-24)
So, as Jonathan Daugherty says, "quit complaining about the thorns and thistles." Roll up your sleeves, get your fingernails dirty, go the extra mile, work the extra hour; go out and take some dirt and turn it into stuff. That's worship. That's reflecting the image of God. Then you can truly enter into your Master's rest with peace.

[Originally published in Every Thought Captive, Vol. 9, Issue 5; Sept/Oct. 2005]

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 7/20/2006 07:13:00 PM