“Our Earthly Labours” may have different meanings and be different to different people:
- To some it may just be to eat, to sleep and be merry.
- To others it be to work, more work, and more work for worldly gains.
- Yet, to many, it is a way to provide honestly for personal or family needs.
Also, it is a broad-based subject that covers every aspect of life from conception in a mother’s womb, to a dying man on his deathbed.
Yes, a foetus in a mother’s womb must labour to eat as the mother labours to provide for the needs of the baby’s development. And so, in death, a man must labour to breathe out his last breath before his soul returns to God. But the subject in writing is about earthly labour that the Christian has been called to work in this world.
As Christ’s disciples, we are called to be followers and imitators of Christ. With the eyes of faith, we look beyond the earthly to find that earthly labours have their origin in the book of Genesis.
As the book of Genesis unfolds the work of God in creation, Genesis 2:15 gave us a glimpse of God’s design for Adam. Adam was put in the garden of Eden. God’s call to him was to dress it and be a good husbandman to keep it. We can say that it is the best form of earthly labour before it degenerated after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin.
Through God’s call to Adam, it is implied that Adam must be disciplined and diligent to his calling, engage and be earnest in his actions, passionate and patient to the care of the garden, and take an interest to protect the beauty of God’s creation.
Taking Genesis 2:15 as the basis that work is God’s creation order for man, we may then say that work is God’s call and will to man. It is used by God:
- to relate man to his Maker, thereby making him to be sensitive to his need of God.
- to regulate the life of man to service, thereby sanctifying his heart, soul and mind to a healthy and enriching life with God.
- for man to act in good faith in response to God’s order, thereby acting as a salt and light at his or her workplace.
Though we are far from being in the beginning, the call of God is still the same to us as it was in the beginning. We are called to earthly labour, working with our hands the thing which is good (Eph. 4:28a), for the provisions and maintenance of godly families, the nurturing of godly children, the needs of husband and wife, the needs of the church of Jesus Christ, and the needs of our neighbours.
Though it is not one of the most important in life, earthly labour is of importance to the Christian, and Eph. 4:28 reminds us that it must be anchored on the thing which is for our spiritual good and the good of our neighbours.
It is for the above that Genesis 2:15 also marked out a horizontal relationship where Adam is related to the physical surrounding of the garden of Eden, the tree of the garden that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the river, and Eve, the mother of all living, and he must labour to keep it for good.
While earthly labours are important, the Word of God also warns us against being lazy like the sluggard in Proverbs 20:4 & 6:6. There are also the warnings of dangers, that like the pitcher plant, earthly labours can also entrap, endanger and be stifling to the Christian life. It has the potential to discourage, to do damage, to intimidate and threaten the families, the husband and wife relationships, parent and child relationships, and the church.
That is because our earthly labours are tied to monetary gains, and the more time and effort we put in, the more we stand to gain. Also, it is often subjected to labour under the ungodly, in an unfriendly environment that is characterised by greed, pride, and many other unchristian behaviours. More so, it takes place in this world that is like Sodom and Gomorrah. And, many of us have bosses, superiors, and colleagues who just want to prosper in the world, and increase in their riches (Ps. 73:12). They do not care about life with God, and they do not share the Christian perspectives and call to earthly labours.
It is here that we often ask, so what should we do with all the challenges, pains, hardships, trials and tribulations, testing moments, that could pile up on us from our earthly labours? The Word of God has much to speak to us. As early as it was in the beginning, Adam must begin each day of earthly labour with a lively exercise of faith in godly fear, hope and love towards the LORD his God. He must look to see the creation of God, and be intimate with the power, the sovereignty and the wisdom of God, to find strength, patience, peace and hope to meet the needs of his earthly labours. Adam must also walk and talk with God to find friendship and fellowship with his Maker, to know God’s thoughts and ways, and to feel the heartbeat of God when he is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually drained because of his earthly labours.
So, what does all the aforesaid mean for us? In short, we need to know that the just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4b) and faith is in the triune God. Our faith must be built up through a lively and rigorous exercise in pursuit of God, of prayers, in the reading and study of God’s Word, in doing good works with God’s approval, and even in our calling to earthly labours.
So, each morning as we prepare to go for earthly labours, we must also be mindful to take on our three-fold Christian calling to be a prophet, priest and king. We must remind ourselves that we are representatives of Him who is our chief Prophet, Priest, and King. We must work as citizens of the kingdom of God, and if we must speak, or to intercede, or to rule over, or to be subject to the higher powers, we do so in the likeness of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Finally, what is the purpose our earthly labours?
Our earthly labours form a small segment in our life, while the chief end of man in life and in death is to glorify God.
We may then conclude that our earthly labours must glorify God (not a shallow kind, nor with lip service). We need to be sincere, to be submissive, to surrender all to Him, to be faithful in serving our Christian calling, doing so with complete dependence upon God to provide us, to protect us from the snares of earthly labours, to instruct and direct us in the path of righteousness even for His name’s sake. May the LORD our God helps us.
To God be the glory. Amen.
Written by: Samuel Wee | Issue 43