“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:2-4).”
A semester before I graduated from college, a friend of mine who had just received his degree was musing about life after school. Dave, my friend. began to compare school and work. In his efforts to define what it was like to be out in the real world of employment, Dave was struggling. What came out was, “Work is…Work is…Work is WORK!
Work has always been that way for many of us. There are reasons why work is a daily grind for most. We may not be working at our passion. It’s also possible we could actually hate what we do. In addition, sometimes our employer asks us to work overtime. Too much of this, especially at an unfulfilling task, and the mind, body and soul begin to break down.
My grandfather was a coal miner. I have no idea whether he liked his job or not, but the profession strikes me as pretty hard work. He used to get up real early in the morning to go to work.
Lee Dorsey popularized a song about working in a coal mine:
“Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down down down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Whop! about to slip down
Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m all ready up and gone
Lord I am so tired
How long can this go on?
Cos I’m on call in the mornin’
Oh I go by the coal
But when Saturday goes around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun…”
Why is work so hard? It’s because the world is a fallen place. The first man rebelled against God, leading to the whole place being cursed, including our jobs (Genesis 3:17-19). Work definitely is WORK!
One of the first men, a man named Lamech, made reference to the blood, sweat and tears involved in work, and the effects of sin on our employment (Genesis 5:28,29). Matthew Henry discussed the meaning of Lamech’s remarks.
“Lamech’s complaint of the calamitous state of human life. By the entrance of sin, and the entail of the curse for sin, our condition has become very miserable: our whole life is spent in labour, and our time filled up with continual toil. God having cursed the ground, it is as much as some can do, with the utmost care and pains, to fetch a hard livelihood out of it. He speaks as one fatigued with the business of this life, and grudging that so many thoughts and precious minutes, which otherwise might have been much better employed, are unavoidably spent for the support of the body.”
Of big concern today is how this state of affairs affects the family. A minister friend of mine expressed his worry to me the other day about the effects of my own overtime on my family life. I could certainly agree with him, but our personal circumstances are such that I don’t have any alternative, at least one that I can see.
The main thrust of Lamech’s statement concerns the hopes he had for his son Noah to alleviate the curse of on this world. He had such an expectation that in some way that the child would somehow negate the torment of his toil that he gave him a name that means “comfort”.
Giving comfort is a godly thing to do. Lamech and Noah were made in God’s image. So are the rest of us. Therefore, it is reasonable for Him to expect us to give strength and hope to others (Genesis 5:1; Psalm 82:6).
It’s almost a cliche’ today that one of the sins of Christian men is that they are out working themselves to death. However, it’s not just the nature of the work that’s killing them. It’s the fallen people at work who are not trying to get up off the floor.
Unfortunately, many of us are doing our jobs for people who don’t care, who are apathetic toward themselves and others. We men kill ourselves for these types of people, and yet we might as well be throwing all our time and effort down a coal mine shaft.
In the meantime, people who love us and whom we love are languishing while we are spending extra time trying to motivate and help people who don’t have an appetite for our menu . Those loved ones may include our wives and children, our significant others like a boyfriend or girlfriend, our parents, even others at work who care enough to make use of our services and want to connect with us .
The work of Christ set the world straight for eternity, but we still have to live in this fallen version until He returns again to set up His perfect, heavenly kingdom. While we’re waiting, I think we’re supposed to be preparing for the eternal life that’s coming. This means investing in people who will last forever, especially the ones in our charge: the members of our families.
Those folks at work who could care less about what we are trying to do for them have to take a back seat to those who do. The people in the VIP seats are the spouse and children in the room, and after that perhaps the other people at work who want to buy what we’re selling. In fact, we might have to help the significant others at home and the hungry at work get out from under the influence of the sluggards in the office who are taking up all the air and sabotaging God’s program.
It’s not fashionable today to confront apathetic or lazy people at work. There’s always some reason why they are in the situation they are in, either in their own minds, or even in the minds of others, even other work colleagues. Therefore, to engage them so as to instigate changes in their behavior usually just leads nowhere. When this is the case, it’s time to ignore these people and let them suffer the consequences of their actions (or lack thereof).
This may sound hard, even unfair, but it’s better to do this than to get sucked into their maelstrom, taking our families and those truly in need with us.