A Labor of Love Sermon

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Mon, 05/13/2019 - 9:30am

Ecclesiastes 5

12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. 14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15 We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.

16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. [or Like chasing after the wind].17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood [over the past].

 “A Labor of Love” Sermon for 5/12/19 at Harbor Church

A woman's work is never done.  Today this old adage might be seen as a slightly sexist stereotype, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If anything, women are working harder than ever before, both at home with  housework and child-rearing, and in the workforce holding down a paying job as well. Women are working almost all the time.

If there is any doubt of this in your mind, UNICEF tells us that In Sub-Sarharan African Countries, Women still spend 16 million hours a day collecting fresh water and carrying it home; (the guys don’t even come in a close second when it come to this type of work!)

Parenting has been described as a labor of love. Yet any form of work, when approached with the right attitude and perspective can be just this: a labor of love. Both of our readings today speak about this kind of work. Our psalm talks about the faithful, fruitful industry that produces a happy home. Our reading from Ecclesiastes contrasts fruitful vs. fruitless labor. This ancient book of wisdom in the Old Testament of the Bible repeats a theme over and over again, saying that much of life is meaningless, or a “chasing after the wind.” Working to accumulate wealth for its own sake can be unsatisfying, risky and unfulfilling. 10   There we read, those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 1The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! But, the writer goes on to say, that those who work hard sleep well!

It’s not the wealth or the wages that are most important, but the work itself. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood

The way that we work, the way that we approach it and accomplish it makes all the difference. It can determine whether or not, we live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.  OR if we will live in a happy contented, and fulfilled manner.

 

An Altar in the Word, Barbara Brown Taylor. The premise of the book is that we can make any area of aspect of daily living sacred by the way that we approach it. She wrote a whole chapter entitle, “The Practice of Carrying Water”  its about finding joy and delight in physical labor, or the work of our hands.

 

Excerpt:

When God created humankind, he named the first person Adam, which literally means earthling, or mud man, because God made them out of earth, dirt or the same dust that the cosmos is made of.

The next thing God did was to plant a garden in that same ground, the same dirt that man was made of. God made trees grow out of the ground that were pleasant to look at and good for food. Finally, God put the earthling on that patch of earth to till it and keep it. This was before all the trouble with the snake. This was even before the earthling had a partner

 

The earthling’s first divine job is to till the earth and keep it.

If you have ever tilled a rose garden, much less a garden of Eden, then you know that this is difficult to do without getting sore shoulders. Keeping the earth is hard work. You get dirty doing it. You break fingernails and wear holes in the knees of your pants. You wear yourself out. BUT,

 You also remember where you came from, and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of.

Taylor goes on to say that

While housework may not offer the same satisfaction, it remains a reliable path to the rudiments of life. Cleaning refrigerators and toilets helps you connect the food cycle at both ends. Making beds reminds you that life-giving activities do not require much space. Hanging laundry on the line offers you a chance to fly prayer flags disguised as bath towels and underwear. If all life is holy, then anything that sustains life has holy dimensions too. The difference between washing windows and resting in God can be a simple decision: choose the work, and it becomes your spiritual practice. Spraying vinegar and water on the panes, you baptize the glass. Rubbing away the film, ye repent ye of your sins. Polishing the glass, you let in the light. No task is too menial to serve as a path. If you are able to sustain other lives along with your own, then all the better.

Household Chores
Domestic Engineers. A clean house, a well-organized garage or workshop, a car wash & wax, a good shoeshine all bring satisfaction.

 

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.

Is good hard honest work really a path to the good life? To happiness and fulfillment? Well, perhaps this depends upon what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we do it. Or, to put it slightly differently, how are we to occupy ourselves during our days on this earth? What forms of occupation leads to the greatest felicity?

In the reference book, “Holman’s Treasury of Key Bible Words”, we learn that In the language of the Old testament, the same word for fruitful labor is also used to describe toilsome work, that which is arduous or troublesome: backbreaking, spirit-crushing activity that can tear us down and use us up.

From the time of the Garden of Eden, the Lord had decreed that humans should work—God works and we are made in His image (Gen. 2:15). Work was a delight in the Garden of Eden. But in the creation story, it became more toilsome after humans were driven from their ideal setting, thorns and thistles and weeds grew in the perfect garden

 

Does the work we choose to engage in add to your burdens and heavy cares of life? Is it a chasing after the wind, unfruitful and unproductive, is it work which tears us down instead of building us up? God gave each of us certain talents and abilities that we can use to excel when we apply them in the right ways and in the best areas. If our current job is unrewarding, it could be time for a change, or maybe we simply need to find fulfillment in our avocations – those activities that we pursue outside of our main wage-earning hours.

 

In a culture in which Gallup polls indicate that many persons do not enjoy or feel fulfilled by their work, we need to remember that healthy, honest work is a good thing. It can give us perspective on the rest of life and provide the benefits necessary to enjoy this life. Do good and enjoy the benefits of your toil as the gift of God.

 

Perhaps most important, how do we approach our work? Ecclesiastes affirms that the enjoyment of a person’s work is a part of “the good life.” God wants people to enjoy the labor of their hands and minds and to benefit from the fruits of that labor.

We’ve heard it said, “Work smarter, not harder.” To that I might add, “Work Better- with your heart as well as your hands”

 

As we’ve already said, any form of work if engaged in properly and with integrity, is amply rewarded by God. This enables us to pass through life without undue preoccupation with some of life’s monotony and burdens. There is no better thing than to take a positive attitude toward the benefits of one’s work (Eccl. 8:15) and to live responsibly before God. The unwise person is worn out and used up by their work—but the faithful laborers enjoy their work because they know what they are doing and why(Eccl. 10:15).

 

On one of the arches in a magnificent cathedral in Europe is

sculptured a face of wondrous beauty. It can be seen only once a year

when the sun is in a certain position, for then its rays streaming

through a small window illuminate the exquisite carving. According to

legend, when the structure was being built, an old man came and begged

permission to work on some portion of the great church. He had been a

well-known artist, but now his trembling hands and failing sight

caused the architect to fear that he would mar the beautiful edifice.

Out of respect for his age and reputation, however, he allowed the

artisan to chisel a design under the shadows of the vaulted roof,

thinking no one would ever see it there. After months of painstaking

labor, the elderly gentleman could hardly work his way up to the

platform high above the floor, yet he insisted on one more climb to

make a few finishing touches. When he failed to come down by

nightfall, a workman went up and discovered his lifeless body. His

tools lay beside him, and his sightless eyes were fixed on the

marvelous face he had wrought in the marble. Although he thought it

would never be seen, he had given his all to produce a masterpiece. An

authority on sculpture recently declared, "This is the most

magnificent work of all, for love wrought it!"

The old sculpture’s last work, he realized, was a labor of love.

Our heavenly Father looks upon all of the work we do, and when it is done in love he sees in it a ‘face of wondrous beauty’.

As we become busier in the days ahead, my prayer is that we will become more fruitful and happier as well. That we will engage in the work of our hands wholeheartedly and with a good attitude. And that we will remind ourselves each day that any job, when done as an offering of good works to God and others, can become a labor of love. Amen.