“I’m alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic!” How many of us wake up in the morning with this thought in mind? If we took a poll at our place of employment, would those with whom we work describe our work ethic with this phrase?
Let me describe “work” not as part of the curse which accompanied the fall, but as a mandate from God, an “immense dignity”. It is part of what we do, and who we are as human beings. Post-Garden-of-Eden “work” is more like nature being uncooperative (resulting in “painful toil”), than work in and of itself being inherently unrewarding and tedious.
From experience, we all know that work CAN be rewarding, even fun at times. When we exercise our talents by working in an area in which we are gifted (such as woodworking, mechanical troubleshooting and repairs, writing, teaching, ….) we can experience the “dignity” and even a joy in our efforts. When we hike, we have discovered that no matter how magnificent the hike (our “work”) , some part of the hike is always “just labor” needed to complete the task . The same is true of our daily work routine. What we do at our jobs can be exciting and productive and adrenaline-producing. However, Scripture is quite clear that the obligation of a man is to work and to provide for his family, even if the required tasks are less than fulfilling or glamorous:
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us….For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
1 Timothy 5:8: Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The issue of how much priority to place on our work and our obligation to provide does not have a simple resolution. There are many items on the menu of “life priorities”: God, church, family, work, others, self. If “providing” for our families includes teaching and modeling values and character in our families in addition to meeting their physical “needs”, how do we balance the various demands placed on a man who desires to follow Scripture and “provide” for his family? Even though it can be difficult to know how to adequately execute our duties, Scripture offers much in the way of principles to follow:
Deut 24:5: “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”
The needs of a man’s family were given first priority when considering public duties, even military service.
1 Timothy 3: 4-5: “[The overseer] must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”.
A man cannot accomplish this if he abdicates his husband and father responsibilities to others because he is too busy “providing” food & shelter while abandoning teaching and managing his family.
Titus 1:6: “ An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
While a man’s adult children are responsible for their own behaviors and values, the man’s role in shaping his family’s value system should be reflected in his (the father’s) life priorities.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
This would involve being present for the sitting down and walking along the road, and the lying down and the getting up. Our households must be dedicated, leading by the example of servant leadership, to the eternal truths of Scripture. This cannot be accomplished in absentia.
While there are many men in our community whose work reflects their commitment to God, a very recent example involved one of the men that follow manly training. He has been doing some remodeling work at the home of a mutual acquaintance. When I visited the homeowner recently, the homeowner couldn’t wait to take us to the kitchen, and the dining room, and the bathroom, and the patio, and the pool, to show us the work done by our brother in the Lord. The words of the homeowner included, “fantastic”, “beautiful work”, “excellent”, “skilled”, “good”, “reliable”. This man’s work ethic most certainly impacted his client and reflected Paul’s admonition in his letter to the Colossians:
Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
In conclusion, God knew that Joshua (and men universally) would need this encouragement and reminder: “Be strong and courageous.” Joshua’s “job” was to lead the Israelites during challenging times. Joshua’s commitment to the task which God Himself had given him resulted in the following unshakeable resolve:
Joshua 24:15: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
May each of us be just as determined as we lead our families.