Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WORK, an ethic of the past

Okay, WORK may not be considered an "ethic" by itself, but the philosophy, and particularly the moral philosophy of work is one that is on the decline. 

John Cotton

According to Colonial New England’s leading expert on childrearing, Rev. John Cotton, a child should enjoy some “lawful recreation” until the age of seven. Then more serious pursuits should replace games and toys, and an occupation should be chosen by the age of twelve. In keeping with the Puritan ideals of duty and industry, on the Brainerd farm, laziness was considered a sin. Even little boys were expected to do their chores and show an obedient, helpful attitude in the home.
Ranelda Hunsicker, David Brainerd, (Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, MN, 1999), 14.

 Can you imagine? A child at age 12 knowing what he was going to be doing for the rest of his days? 

That is simply unheard of today, as many college graduates "need" a year or so to jaunt around Europe to decide what their real calling is before launching into a career. 

Sorry, but I don't see it. In fact, we have lost the true meaning of vocation. 

Someone asked me last week at what age should they start putting their son to real work. I don't know how to define real work for them. I know what it means to me, so I had to investigate further. Real work, and false work are genuine issues in today's society. There are those jobs that physically tire you, or mentally tire you and they are real work. There is tomfoolery, and you get tired doing that too, but it is not real work, it is false work. 

A boy on the football field comes in tired, but he has not worked, he has played. (oh sure, you have worked a  work, but what have you produced?) Scoring a TD is not putting food on your table unless you happen to be Joe Flacco. Last year there were 1696 Pro-footbal players in the United States compared to the total population of over 316 million...the odds of your little tyke becoming one of the less than 2000 is pretty slim. So, I would think "more stable work environment" if I were you. And besides, the Lord's day would be pretty much out the window for the football season anyway. 

I remember being a lad (just a few years ago by the way, like 35 or so years ago!) and my Dad having me dig some holes for fruit trees. I thought it was going to be fun! Digging holes in the yard was previously forbidden, and now I get to do it several times! (Dad had an issue with his grass, and still does)

The fun stopped pretty quick after the first 20 min. The hole had to be dug a certain width, a certain depth, and no one mentioned chert. Yes CHERT! In the south, red clay is not the only thing that lies beneath the surface. Chert in the south is this mixture of clay and broken up pieces of limestone and flint rock, often times just inches under the surface but extending down a couple of feet, or miles it seemed in my case...believe me.

My hole digging episode was miserable, as it took me the better part of a week to dig 10 holes the size my dad wanted. After they were dug, I had the pleasure of being told, "Son, I am not planting those trees there, so fill the holes up." 

No one has ever told me if it was a rue to keep me busy that week, or some form of sordid punishment, but I learned how to dig a proper hole, and to this day, I know how to use a shovel, which type of shovel I need for particular jobs, why my dad wore gloves when he worked, and why you see many road side workers "leaning" on their shovel. Now, I dig holes often on my own property and am thankful every time I do for my experiences years ago. 

I never hated work, but I often times tried to figure out how to get done "quicker" and spent more time trying to invent a way to do it faster than I did actually doing the work. I could have been finished often times much sooner had I just "done the work" rather than scheming trying to figure out how to circumvent the time element in the work. 

Scripture is replete with references concerning work, and a helpful place to start is in the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiasties, and then the Apostle Paul's view of work in his epistles. 

Solomon instructed his son by telling him in Proverbs 18:9 He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

The new testament calls the "great waster" the Prodigal. In fact, that is what the name means. And we all know about the Prodigal son and his demise. 

Solomon continues in Ecclesiasties by encouraging us to make sure we work while we have opportunity, and don't think tomorrow is when we will "make it big" but be faithful today to the task at hand, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)    

Paul's take is cut and dry: For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

That is a bit different than our present social programs meted out from the government administration that has subjugated the churches functions: (however, honestly, the church abdicated their responsibility long ago.)

But we work, not because it is the curse from the garden, but rather it was established before the curse. Adam was given dominion over the creatures, he was to dress the garden, it was his work. Eve was given to him to complete him, come along side and aid him in doing his work. 

When sin entered, the work became difficult as now part of dominion is pushing back the thorns and thistles, battling with sweat, blisters, fungus, disease, mold, bugs and yes, death. 

So Paul echo's Solomon when he reminds us 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12  That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Let not work become an ethic of the past, but a present reality that glorifies God as he designed it for our good and His Glory. 

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