One of the primary benefits of having a job is that meaningful work enhances our self- esteem. When we work hard, we experience a sense of accomplishment, and at the end of the day, we feel so much better about ourselves than if we just wasted the day doing nothing. One lethargic soul admitted, “When I don’t work for several days in a row, I feel like a giant slug,”
That’s one of the reasons God gave Adam and Eve work to do in the Garden of Eden. There were trees to trim, fruit and vegetables to pick, grass to cut and cows to milk in Paradise. Adam and Eve were given responsibilities, in part so that they could be fulfilled. The wise King Solomon wrote: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God…” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
We are created in the image of God. And God works! Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). God continues to regenerate, oversee, grow, prune and sustain the world that He created. The Lord designed us to be productive also. We are most fulfilled when we imitate our Heavenly Father and seek to accomplish something significant every day.
As I study Scripture, I don’t get the impression that building up our self-image is God’s Number One priority. Obedience and Holiness are more important virtues. But when we live according to God’s will we feel a whole lot better about ourselves. Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
An acquaintance of mine sold his business for over eight million dollars when he was just thirty-four years old. He proudly remarked, “I don’t have to work another day in my life.” Less than six months later he bought another business and went back to work. He said, “I don’t need the money, but I need the job.” Smart man.
I received a sad comment in response to last week’s blog. A fellow believer related that he’s been unemployed for over two years. He admitted to feelings of personal frustration and even anger at God for his inability to find a job. He moaned, “I know work is beneficial and I want to work, but no one is hiring in my field.” That’s the tragic experience of far too many in a sluggish economy.
However, I think it’s wiser for unemployed people to take a job in a different field, even if it’s not nearly as lucrative than to sit around idle, waiting for something to open up in their area of expertise. There are fast-food restaurants which beg for responsible people to come and work for them. Better to flip hamburgers for minimum wage than to do nothing and collect unemployment.
A young relative of mine who has a college degree is currently delivering pizza part-time until something opens up in his specialty. Good for him! I admire that. That’s humbling, but it’s always easier to get a job if you have a job. And I guarantee you he feels a whole lot better at bedtime than if he sat on the couch and played video games all day.
A lot of retired people struggle with feelings of low self-esteem because they don’t think they are making a contribution anymore. Someone said, “People don’t die of old age, they die of retirement.” We’ve all witnessed an active person retire and then shrivel up and die within months. Proverbs 21:25 warns, “The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him because his hands refuse to work.” Every person needs three things to survive: someone to love, something to hope for and something to do.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to retire. Contrary to what I hear in sermons occasionally, retirement is in the Bible. The Old Testament priests were to step away from their priestly duties at age fifty and move on to other things. (See Numbers 8: 25.) There is a time to retire and turn over primary responsibilities to the next energetic generation. But retirement should not be regarded as a time of self-indulgence but a time of service.
When we were finalizing plans to build an 800,000 square foot church campus on the east end of Louisville, we needed a skilled construction manager to oversee it. The best we found, by far, was a man named Clark Esser from Anaheim, California. Clark had construction experience and a good relationship with our architect. He was a committed Christian with high moral values. He was easy to work with, and yet he could be firm when necessary. He also had incredible energy and enthusiasm. There was just one problem. He was seventy-eight years old. Could we hire what many considered to be an elderly man to oversee a massive five-year project?
The building committee finally decided that Clark Esser was the right choice. But they didn’t know if the church’s elders would approve hiring such an old man. So they decided not to say anything about his age when Clark was introduced to them. They hoped that maybe the elders would conclude, like most who witnessed his vitality and appearance, that Clark was in his late sixties. He certainly looked and acted much younger than he was.
However, the first question the elders asked was, ‘”Tell us about your family.” Clark responded, “Well, my oldest son is retired.” That spilled the beans! This guy was no spring chicken. A follow-up question was “Why are you willing to work so hard at your age?” He said, “Honestly, I don’t need the money, but I get such a sense of satisfaction out of being active and contributing. I want every day of my life to count for the Lord. That’s what keeps me young.”
After the interview, Clark was hired without objection. He did such a marvelous job overseeing our four-year building project, and he saved us so much money that we hired him again to do another building two years later when he was in his mid-eighties. He completed that task well also. Clark Esser died full of contentment several years later at age ninety-five.
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” (Proverbs 13:4).
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