Category Archives: Work

A Long, Consistent Reign

Proverbs 29:14

“The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.”

The Base

One thing that strikes me about this proverb is the dependency of the king’s throne on the welfare of the poor people. Nothing about the rich or the famous is said in this verse. Nothing is said about politicians, big donors, entertainers, generals, media moguls, advocacy groups, or businesses, either. For that matter, nothing is even said about other members of the royal family, just the poor.

The poor, in this case, could be considered the king’s base, i.e., his grass-roots supporters. They are the bulk of his kingdom. They are the ones that, if they ceased to exist, would leave the king without a kingdom to rule. He would be wise to treat them justly.

Consistency

Another thing that catches my attention is the importance of “faithfully” judging the poor. The king will always be needed to rule on matters of state. He will also have to deal with controversy on a daily basis, making judgments that will affect everyone in his kingdom in some way or another. But one of the keys to establishing a long-lasting throne is the king’s ability to be consistent.

I have heard it said of leaders many times; I have even said this very thing myself of leaders ranging from pastors to presidents: “I may not agree with him on everything, but at least I know what he believes.” There are leaders with whom I have some differences,  but it is a lot easier to work with them than with others who are inconsistent, changing their beliefs with every shift of the wind.

Established

Throne Charles III of Spain

Throne Charles III of Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you want to have an established kingdom? You may not be a king in the literal sense, but are you “king” of your home? Your office? Your club? Do you have those over which you rule, make a judgment, or have to enact policy which will affect their lives? The key to a long-lasting, well-loved, “established” position is the consistent, non-partial, and just use of one’s authority.

Don’t be persuaded to act in the self-interests of a select few who would hold the purse strings. Where the king fails in his duty, the Righteous King will one day avenge.

“And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” – Isaiah 11:3-4 KJV

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

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Down on the Farm

Proverbs 27:23-27 

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

Tibhall cowsVery good friends of mine have a family farm. Over the years they have had to diversify in response to changes in farming. The dairy went a while back, but they still raise cattle for other people. There are several holiday lodges now on part of their land. While the father continues to run the farm, ably supported by his wife, their daughter lives next door, and she and her husband have invested in a high-tech egg business involving far too many chickens to count. The son and his wife live in an annex to the main farmhouse, and they are also involved in the farm, although the son’s wife also works full time as a nurse. I haven’t done the family justice in these few words, but the point is that the hard work and diligence of each generation on this particular farm has, in the words of Proverbs 27:24, meant that the ‘crown has endured (to date) to every generation.

If you managed to find this farm, which is accessed via narrow country lanes, you would see nothing unusual. There is a collection of buildings with the houses on one side of the road, and the farm buildings on the other. There may be a tractor and other farm machinery parked up. It looks every bit the working farm that it is!

TibhallWhat you would not see when you drive past the farm is the hearts of the people who live and work there. It is much more than the farm that is passing down through the generations. John and Jean, my friends, have been faithful in many ways. In addition to contributing to the life and work of the Baptist church in the nearest town, they have also been faithful supporters of the local Methodist circuit, with special involvement in the nearest small chapel. Their son David attended Baptist College and trained for full time ministry. Although David still works on the farm, he is also an agricultural chaplain serving others in the farming community. I know a little of what David does and it blesses me greatly to see this young man investing not only in the family farm through his labor, but also in the lives of others in an industry that is struggling for many reasons.

Investing in the lives of others is what Jesus did during three years of ministry. Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd, and gave examples through His teaching of the way that He loves and cares for His flock. This is an example we need to follow. It is also an example we must show not just to our children and our grandchildren, but to our neighbors and colleagues, and to anyone who may cross the path that God has set us on. David the farmer’s son is sowing different seed as a chaplain. But if you think about it, Jesus calls us all to be chaplains.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)


The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Money for Nothing

Proverbs 26:15 

The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (NIV)

This is the third verse in a row in which Solomon focuses on the lazy, with one more to follow. For some reason Solomon is really hammering home the point about laziness. I simply can’t imagine a person so lazy that he is unable to lift food from a dish to his mouth, but the point being made here about laziness is that it is completely unacceptable.

Right now in the UK we have a government that is trying to deal with a culture of living on benefits that appears to have become the norm for a proportion of society. If you believe the politicians and the press we have families where more than one generation has never worked in this country. While there are obviously other reasons for unemployment than laziness, the fact remains that there are folk who are quite happy to sit back and live on handouts. Some even call these handouts their wages! That is quite an insult to those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives.

My third son James graduated from University in 2009. He decided to spend a year working to save money to add to what he had already saved so that he could take a masters degree. He got an invite to live with his eldest brother and his wife, and set about looking for work. Having worked two jobs while studying for his BA he thought that this would be a simple matter. It wasn’t. Recession had kicked in and there wasn’t much work around. He refused to claim benefits and carried on searching, doing jobs around the house to compensate his brother and sister-in-law for feeding him. It took a few weeks, but James found two part-time jobs. He had to leave those jobs to return to University but managed to start another job before he completed his masters. Now that impresses the pants off me, not just because James is my son, but because he has shown what is possible despite the dire condition of the economy. I am proud of my son for not choosing the path of laziness.


Sloths and Lions

Proverbs 26:13

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.”

This verse is one of several in a row that deal with the “slothful man.” Each one gives us a different description of him and his ways.

Slothful

When I hear the word “slothful” all I can think about is that poor, slow, moss-covered critter. The sloth is an animal that barely moves, sleeps most of the time, and quite frankly, stinks. I mean, how nasty would you have to be for moss to grow on you?

three_toed_sloth_11What a disgrace, then, to be called slothful? One could be called slow, a little behind, or weak, but that might mean he was a turtle, a baby elephant, or a butterfly. Even the word “lazy” doesn’t carry the same, stinky punch as “slothful.” Yet, there are people in this world who could make a sloth look peppy by comparison.

Lions

What I find ironic is that there are lions in the streets. It’s not that lions are not dangerous, but they are go-getters, hunters, fighters, and fast; everything the sloth is not, nor wants to be. Yet, in life it’s the “lions” and “tigers” who are successful precisely because they are in the streets, not inside watching The Price is Right.

The lazy, slothful man will never be any more that what his as long as he never hits the streets. However, if he would only seek employment with tenacity, creativity, and the driving hunger of a lion, there would be nothing left to fear.

I pity those who make excuses for everything and depend on others to do all the work. The pleasure that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done is far more gratifying than having the best moss garden on my back.


Padded Résumés

Proverbs 25:14

“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.”

Résumés

There are a few things I hate to do in life, such as flossing (but I do it, anyway), hanging blinds, changing diapers, and moving. I also hate writing résumés – about as much as I despise licking a cheese grater.

Résumés (also spelled resumes, but looks like it would sound like re-zooms) are so difficult because of the desire to boast. For those of us who have less to boast about, filling out a résumé can be even more challenging. There is always the temptation to “pad” the résumé with skills not quite developed, like saying you’re a “lion tamer” when all you’ve tamed is your pet cat.

Expectations

The problem with a padded résumé is that while it may get you in the door, it won’t guarantee you can do the job for which you are hired. When employers hire people based on the skills they are supposed to have, the expectation is that the employees use their skills, or “gifts,” when called upon.

Sadly, many people have been let go from high-paying, high-pressure jobs when their “boasting…of a false gift” became evident. Examples include Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, RadioShack CEO Dave Edmondson, and Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary.

No Water

Even more tragic than being found out is the negative effect lying about one’s abilities can have on others. When Solomon compares boasting about a false gift to clouds without rain, we might imagine thirsty people, or hungry people looking at withering crops. How cruel it would be to promise them water but never deliver!

Don’t be a cloud without water. Don’t boast about gifts and abilities you don’t have. Be the best you can be and live up to the expectations others rightfully have of you.


Prior Planning and Preparation

Proverbs 24:27 

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (NIV)

photoA very good friend of mine is building his retirement home at the moment. I have to admit that Frank has certain advantages as a trained carpenter who has worked in construction all his life. He also has experience, having built his first house forty years ago. Frank sold that house when his father died and moved into his dad’s bungalow. Directly behind his father’s home there was an orchard. Frank cleared the orchard and some old outbuildings, and got planning permission to build a large garage with an adjoining workshop. This was designed and constructed so that it would comply with the rules for a residential building, with the aim of one day converting the garage/workshop. That work is currently underway. A new smaller garage has been completed and the former garage/workshop extended and altered internally. The roof is now complete, windows were being fitted last week, and under-floor heating has been installed.

A great deal of planning has gone into Frank’s new home over a number of years. There has been wise financial planning, and much forethought on many levels, including the need to comply with past and present building regulations. Without this level of planning Frank would not have been able to build his new house.

Thinking about this proverb and the way that Frank has planned reminds me of another carpenter, and the amount of prior planning and preparation that preceded His arrival in the world 2,000 years ago. God didn’t just have a bright idea one day in Heaven. He planned for His Son to visit our planet in human form before He created the Universe. Furthermore, God’s attention to even the smallest detail meant that He planned the writing of this Proverbial Thought and He knew who would read it. I find that absolutely mind blowing. Having planned and prepared God then built His house. Jesus told us that it has many rooms; and that there is a room in His Father’s house for each of us. It gets better. Jesus paid the rent up front, in full.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)