In days of old, everyone knew a wall was a primary means of defense. A wall keeps out wild weather. A wall keeps out wild animals. A wall keeps out wild marauders. For the defense of self, family, and property, start with a wall! The problem was the size and the difficulty of building a wall big enough to do the job. One man couldn’t. One family couldn’t. But a city? There is strength in numbers. So if a man was choosing a place to live he was wise to choose a city with a well-built wall. Only a fool would risk his family by ignoring something so essential as adequate defense. And only a fool would choose to destroy the wall that defends his loved ones from destruction, right? “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV) Self-control is all – and I do mean ALL- about the the narrative going on between our ears. Are you lazy or diligent? Either choice is a result of the story you choose to tell yourself about work. Is work a drudgery or an opportunity? This verse is not only about a man who refuses to control his anger. “A man without self-control (in any area of his thought life) is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
“Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” (George Washington Carver) What is an excuse? The selfish or lazy person refuses to learn from anyone. When instructed or challanged in his decisions he always has some “good reason” why the instructions don’t apply to him in this situation. Even in the presence of overwhelming evidence he still has a “reason” to ignore all sound instruction. Now, I will be the first to admit that a majority opinion does not always equal a correct opinion, but it should at the very least cause someone to pause and reconsider. When that chorus of warning and instruction is championing what God’s word clearly says, the wise person will pause and listen. Not so in the mind of the sluggard! “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Proverbs 26:16, ESV) The crowd is not always right, but the sluggard will always defend his own opinion instead of learning. And he will suffer because of it. Pity the poor family who must depend on such a fool.
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened!” So said Michael de Montaigne in the late 1500’s. He also said “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” I believe this fella may have read Proverbs 22:13, but gave it a softer spin than scripture gives. “The sluggard says ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the streets!” A fearful man is his own worst enemy, according to Michael de Montaigne. The fearful man sees trouble around every corner and is paralyzed into inaction, accomplishing nothing due to his fear of failure. The sluggard takes this one step further. Instead of seeing a very unlikely worst case scenario and elevating it to an almost certainty out of fear, the sluggard conjures up preposterous stories that begin with him actually doing what he should do and ends up with those actions resulting in disaster and death. Both men fail to do what is rightfully expected of them. Both are failures. The reason for the failures of both these men is not circumstances. They both fail because of a simple story. “If I go to work today something terrible will happen! I’m staying home!” The answer to the faulty mindset of both the fearful and the lazy? There is no lion in the street! Get up! Get out there! God’s design is that I work – diligently, joyfully, to the best of my ability, for his reputation’s sake. When I disobey, out of fear or out of laziness, that is pure disobedience to the Savior of my soul! I will obey God’s design. I’m going to work!
Nahum 1:1 “An oracle (burden) concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.”
When God’s word delivers us a stern warning, calling it the way God sees it is a burden. We are not to ignore it. We are also not to deliver it with glee that those who hate God are going to be destroyed. They are going to be destroyed. It is the right thing to do. It will truly be a time of celebration when the God-haters are given justice. But until then let us carry this burden of impending doom as though we would rather our audience chose to look to Christ and live. Attitude, folks. Attitude.
As heirs of The King, conditioning our minds is so very much an act of consciously choosing the story we tell ourselves about any situation. When we control the story playing between our ears we control our expectations and our actions. If we do not think our thoughts correctly how can we work or act correctly? Its hard going through life when we fail to recognize God’s normal operating procedures and expect to be treated differently simply because we want to bypass difficulties and hard work. Thomas Edison is credited with saying “Most people miss opportunity because it is often dresses in overalls and looks like hard work.” If we do not expect to endure hardships patiently we may abandon our Lord when he does not see fit to remove our hardship. If we do not expect to have to put in time and effort in order to get results, we will avoid putting in time and effort – and we will get the appropriate results – more hardship than we originally avoided with none of the benefits we could have had. Is this Biblical? You tell me. “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns (hard going, with nothing to show for the effort but pain) but the path of the upright (in this case, a non-sluggard) is a level highway.” (Proverbs 15:19, ESV)
Ok, You are willing to listen to scripture. If you find out your attitude has been twisted, a little or even a lot, you will deal with it instead of shouting down scripture. What do you need to see about work?
The idea of whether work is a blessing or a curse is exactly that – an idea. It is a mindset. It is not the job or the task, its the thoughts I have about the job or the task. The problem is the story I tell myself. “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” (Proverbs 10:5, ESV)
The actions of the two sons mentioned here were the result of their mindsets. The prudent son saw opportunity where the slacker saw only toil. Henry Ford is credited with saying “Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” Your mindset can make all the difference. If you think the job before you is an opportunity to grasp, or a drudgery to endure, you are probably right.
As an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ who is being conditioned by the renewing of my mind, the idea of “keeping my mind on my work” is not simply a figure of speech. Those who refuse to examine their attitudes and thoughts in light of God’s word are called fools in Proverbs and are described in
Proverbs 18:1-2. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
A fool is one who isolates himself from anyone who challenges his own opinions because he is determined to do exactly whatever he has decided will make him happy. Not only is he determined to have his own way, he attacks and tries to shout down anyone who dares to question his decisions. Please notice that this insinuates he is headstrong and wrong, but it actually only says he is wrong in that he is headstrong.
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Again, how awful would it be to have all your facts correct, to have your opinions and even your theology be flawless, and yet be what the Bible calls a fool because of your attitude?
So, still to be examined – what does the Bible say about work?
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)
“…equipped for every good work.” If we have a job we work roughly 8 hours a day at that alone. Maybe more. Add the household tasks, errands, maybe a second job, volunteer hours, and on and on the list goes. Work is such a curse!
Or is it? What does God’s word actually say about work and our attitude to work?
That’s actually where we start – our attitude about work – our mindset. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:5-6 ESV)
Lets hold on on that “punish” phrase for the time being. Notice that our battle is against thoughts, arguments, beliefs, and mindsets? Also please notice when we are to engage the erroneous mindset displayed in others – “when your obedience is complete.”
My attitudes, about work or any other topic, are to be aimed at correcting my behavior for the glory of God, not at correcting someone else’s behavior for the comfort or satisfaction of me.
Where would I get such a title – heir conditioning?
Are we not heirs? “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16, ESV)
Wait a minute! That said suffering!
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2, ESV)
That makes the Christian life sound like some kind of bootcamp! Yes, it does. What is bootcamp? Physical and mental conditioning. Conditioning that makes us fit to be of service to our King.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (that’s conditioning) that the man of God (heir) may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)
All scripture is useful for heir conditioning. Are you ready, oh heir, to be conditioned?
Nahum 1:1 “An oracle, or burden, concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.”
In the first word of this book we saw that God’s word, rightly understood, can at times be a heavy burden to bear. When we deliver the bad news of God’s judgment against sin we dare not deliver it with glee.