Christianity 201

February 19, 2016

Best Advice for Graduates

There is one verse of scripture that I wish had been deeply ingrained in me before we moved to our present community nearly 30 years ago. Since that time, I’ve shared it with many people but was surprised that it’s never been covered here. The verse is Proverbs 24:27

Do your planning and prepare your fields
    before building your house.  NLT

Don’t build your house and establish a home until your fields are ready, and you are sure that you can earn a living.  GNT
The Voice Bible extrapolates another aspect of this principle:
 Complete your work outside, and get your fields ready for next season; after that’s done, build your house.
We made our move “on faith” with some of the building blocks in place for a plan of what we were going to do, but not all the foundation clearly laid.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people who are in their junior or senior year of college. The first question is always, “What are you studying?” or “What is your major?” The second question is always, “What are you planning for after graduation?” The results are often similar:
Where they want to live Mostly certain
Who they want to marry Somewhat certain
What they plan to work at Mostly uncertain

Mostly without exception there is great hope and faith that the job is going to simply appear. That’s just not always the case.

A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion with someone about the differences between the Protestant (Exodus 20) Ten Commandments and the version taught in the Roman Catholic Catechism which drops the second (statuary; graven images) and splits the last (coveting) into to separate entities.

The point was made that you can make an argument for fourteen commandments. Certainly one that they are counting, in verse 9, is what the KJV renders as:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work

Granted, many translations render this as ‘you have six days to work’ but it’s easy to see it as what God considers the normative lifestyle if not a direct commandment.

The point is that the Bible writers teach a philosophy of work, a work ethic for the follower of God. Colossians 3:23-25 teaches us that all work needs to be seen as work as unto the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Another translation says to “work heartily” (ESV).

Ephesians 6:7-8 reiterates this:

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

A verse in 2 Thessalonians (3:10) is more hardline however:

If a man will not work, he shall not eat.

Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of CapitalismSociologist Max Weber wrote the book pictured at right in 1904 which looked at two different approaches to work, especially highlighting the Puritan or Calvinist ethic. Wikipedia notes the nuances of this:

It is common for those in a Protestant work culture to skip lunch (traditionally being sustained from a large breakfast) or to eat lunch while doing their job. This is in contrast to Catholic cultures which practice siesta at lunch time, and neo-Confucianist cultures such as China, Korea and Japan which have a one- or two-hour lunch break.

Without debating the philosophy of lunch breaks, it’s clear that for Weber, the work ethic foundation to a capitalist society was based in an interpretation of scripture.

…Well, we’ve digressed a long way from where we started. My point today is that we remember that before we can build our houses (both figuratively or even literally) we have to know where our next dollar (or pound, or peso, or rand) is coming from. We can’t put the cart before the horse and make a move, commit to someone in marriage, or buy a house without knowing how we are going to pay for the necessities of life.

Yes, there are times people strike out in faith. The Psalmist said he had “never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25) and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that if we “seek first the Kingdom of God” all these things [in context: food and clothing] would be given us. And yes, Elijah was fed by ravens.

However, most of us will not be fed by ravens.

Whether you want to see it as a consequence (or curse) of the fall of man, or as a blessing that we get to co-partner with God in subduing the earth, the general principle of scripture is that we are to work in order to have food, shelter, medicine, security, clothing and transportation.

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