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Word to the Wise: June 18

by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor

Note: In keeping with the father-to-son flow of the Book of Proverbs, the devotions this week come from Musings of a Prodigal Father, which I wrote for my son Luke upon graduation from high school in the late 90s.

“From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.” – Proverbs 12:14

You know how I love Thoreau, Luke. He looked at people and asked the same questions as Solomon in Ecclesiastes: Why do you labor all the time just to make money that you can’t take with you? What’s the point?

I’ve had all kinds of jobs. It started with mowing three large yards (ours, the next-door neighbor’s, and my grandmother’s; each about an acre) with a 20” push mower when I was in my teens. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I worked summers at Uncle William’s dairy hauling hay into the barns. During my senior year, I worked at the Bayou Theater, an old drive-in movie house, and the next two summers I worked at a nail factory, inspecting the quality of our nails and making adjustments to the machinery as necessary. While in Dallas, I worked at a department store and later, in Lincoln, at a state-run developmental center for people with severe disabilities. I also typed for professors, taught Greek, threw a weekly newspaper, served as a weekend youth minister, and worked as a janitor at the local newspaper, holding as many as three of these jobs at once.  Even in North Carolina, I served two posts, preaching at Camden and teaching at the college. In all these positions, there have been moments of real frustration, and plenty of times when I flat out didn't want to be there. No matter. Some things you have to do, whether you like them or not. 

On the positive side, work can and should provide a deep sense of reward. That’s because God instructed Adam and Eve to take care of the earth with a view to human flourishing. When you do a job well and are compensated fairly for it, it places you in a position to make decisions about what house you’ll live in, which car you’ll drive, and what new recording of your favorite music you’ll buy. It puts you in a place where you’re actually able to give something back to your own children and to our great God, all of which provide needed incentive for a job well done. So, I encourage you to pursue work regularly, to perform it with a smile, to thank your Maker for its rewards, and to enjoy its many benefits. In other words, receive work, like all good things, as a gift, and make the most of it. Learn to say “Thank God It’s Friday” with a deep sense of satisfaction over a job well done!

Again, Lord, I lean into this prayer of John Baillie: “I call down your blessing today upon all who are striving toward a better world, especially those who are valiant for truth, working for purer and juster laws, working for peace among the nations, engaged in healing diseases, engaged in the relief of poverty, engaged in rescuing the fallen, working to unite the church, and … suffering for Christ’s sake.” God of work, help everyone who is employed to see how their labors contribute to human flourishing, and please, help these workers to enjoy the fruit of their labors as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.