On Work [Noval]


Lobster Traps at Peggy’s Cove, NS

Proverbs 13:4 New International Version (NIV)

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
    but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 

On the surface, the obvious interpretation here would be something like, If you want the good things in life, you’re going to have to work for them.  There’s no question that diligence is correlated with prosperity and success in Proverbs and elsewhere in scripture. 

But I wonder if Solomon (or whoever wrote this one) wasn’t getting at something a little deeper.   I wonder if a good paraphrase wouldn’t be something like: 

True satisfaction comes, not from consumption, but from productivity. 

After all, we’re created in God’s image and God is a Worker.  The opening phrase of scripture portrays a God at work, busy creating, producing, bringing order out of chaos.  Then He creates man in His image, plants a garden and gives it to the man and wife to cultivate and care for it.  Work predates the Fall and Curse.   Work was impacted by the Curse, but it wasn’t created by the Curse.  Working, creating, producing, whether it’s a table or a row of carrots or a novel or a symphony or a research paper on semiconductors or a clean kitchen, is part of living out the imago Dei, the reflection of God’s character in our own. 

And, as Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes, to find satisfaction in our work is a blessing, the gift of God. 

The contributions we can make are as diverse and unique as our fingerprints, our faces and our DNA.  No one else on the planet has quite the same mix of skills, knowledge, abilities, experiences or gifts as you (or I).  That’s the basis for community.  We need each other. 

Paul expresses this beautifully in his New Testament treatises on spiritual gifts, particularly in I Corinthians 12-14 and the image of the Body of Christ.  Each of us is like a member or an organ, contributing something indispensable to the health and well-being of the whole. 

I read this great quote in one of John Eldredge’s books (I think it might have been Wild at Heart): 

Don’t ask what the world needs; ask what make you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. 

It’s really the same issue: when I’m able to discover, by the grace of God, the unique way He’s equipped me to meet needs and I function in that area, not only are needs met, but I find my deepest satisfaction.

If our young people are seeing their education as primarily a means to be equipped to make a lot of money, I fear they may be setting themselves up for a lot of frustration and heartache.   If, on the other hand, they can see their education as a means of discovering the unique gifts, abilities and creativity God has given them to bring to the table of the human community (what the Reformation writers referred to as vocation), they’re well on their way to a life of joy.


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