The second main section of Anthony Selvaggio’s book A Proverbs Driven Life addresses work- work as divine calling & working with integrity. Both of these are important subjects in our day and culture.
Let’s not think simply about “job” because we work when we clean up the house, do laundry, mow the law or take on volunteer ministry tasks. For instance, I am called (voca) to work as pastor, husband, father, homeowner, son, brother, pet owner … I think you get the point. Each takes time and requires integrity.
Selvaggio does this by defining work as “any set of tasks to be performed in the pursuit of a particular goal.” That is a good, broad definition. We tend toward extremes in regard to work: Why?! and Why stop?! Some of us are lazy and need to get off our duffs in front of the TV and get to work. Others of us make an idol of work, resist rest and need to slow down for the sake of our spiritual lives and family life.
When I look at how others may have ‘prospered’, I am tempted to think I’m lazy. But CavWife reminds me that I put more time into parenting than they do. I’m working, just at different things- things that don’t necessarily generate income. But work is never to be measured by income alone, but by what God has called us to do. Yet, most of us need to hear the warnings about sluggards.
“What an ironic testimony to the extent of our fallen nature! Here the book of Proverbs calls for humanity, the very pinnacle of God’s creation, to be instructed by a mindless, soulless, tiny insect. Man, who was placed on earth to have dominion over all creation, must sit at the feet of the ant to learn a rudimentary lesson on work.”
Oh that more of us would listen. Notice the homes, families, businesses and churches that are in a state of serious neglect and disrepair. But this is a gospel issue, as Selvaggio notes:
“Refusal to embrace a diligent work ethic is sinful because it violates a primary call God has given to us as Christians- to echo our Creator who works. The sin of the sluggard (like all sin) has consequences – poverty and want.”
The gospel, when preached for sanctification, points to Christ’s work in us to apply His work for us such that we become like Him. He works (and rests). As we are conformed to His likeness, we will work and rest properly.
Selvaggio does not fool around. He goes for the throat- calling out our excuses, lack of initiative, pride and idolatry. He preaches the law to drive us to Christ in this area.
“Both (the sluggard and workaholic) are interested in avoiding responsibilities that don’t interest them. The workaholic simply avoids things by a different technique- crowding them out of his calendar. And where the sluggard is sure to suffer economic loss, the workaholic suffers losses that are often more relational than monetary, but nevertheless real, lasting, and painful.”
He points to Jacob to illustrate the change that can happen in a person. Jacob was a man who lacked integrity. After God descended and wrestled him into submission, Jacob becomes a man of integrity (though not perfectly). We can work, by God’s grace, with integrity. This is about working hard and working honestly.
“Greed can tempt us to seek an unfair advantage whenver we buy and sell. Laziness or malice toward employers can tempt us to cut corners in the quality and quantity of our work. … Much of our sin is simply an effort to gain by sinful means the satisfaction or security that God has promised to give us freely. (Make no mistake- all our grasping, selfish, Jacob-like sins are among those for which Christ died, and his forgiveness is freely available.)”
Anthony Selvaggio once again does us a service by not just summarizing the teaching regarding work from Proverbs, but by putting them within the context of the gospel. I recommend this to all who work- which is nearly 100% of us.
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