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Communion (1995 Series)

Labor Day

Scheduled for August 31

(1 Th 4:11-12 NIV)  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, {12} so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.


In the manner of American politics it has been decreed that a day should be set aside to honor the common laboring man.  When this was first done, most of us did indeed work with our hands (and not on a keyboard and mouse).  On Labor Day such work is glorified -- but I suspect that if most of us were offered the life of ease and luxury, we would not turn it down for the honor of being a laborer.


The Scripture gives us a different viewpoint.  For the most of us, we are to “make it our ambition” to lead a quiet life.  Have you ever heard of leading a quiet life described as someone’s ambition?  Or, for that matter, do you have the ambition to mind your own business?  Let alone the ambition to work with your own hands!  There is wisdom in this.  Paul gives us two reasons here:  first, that we may win the respect of outsiders, and that secondly we may not be dependent on anybody.


Labor, you see, is not an end in itself.  It must have a purpose.  Most of us are not called to be preachers or evangelists;  we are called to be just plain “us.”  But our labor may have a divine purpose.  If others look at us with respect, our words about the Lord Jesus Christ may carry that much more weight.  Think of it this way:  the man standing on a soap box in the park may be preaching the truth -- but who’s listening?  We’re human;  what we listen to often depends on who is saying it.  So our labor, our quiet life and minding our own business may indeed serve as a testimony to the righteousness which is in Jesus Christ.


Labor, then, is subordinate to the cause of Christ.  There is a third reason, not discussed in this passage but frequent elsewhere, for these strange ambitions.  Many of us labor not for the quiet life but for the materials that labor can bring.  We work hard -- not to win respect from others, but to buy the status symbols our society mandates.  What we work for says a great deal about who we are.  Our work shows our priorities in action.


Communion is a time to reflect on ourselves;  that includes our priorities.  What are you working for?  Does your life style say, “I’m working to get ahead (of what?);  to keep up (with whom?); to have more (and why?)”  Or does it say, “I work to provide for my family;  other than that, my ambition is not for wealth but for Jesus Christ?”  Words are not heard in the presence of action.  As you take the Lord’s Supper this week, ask yourself:  “Just who am I working for?”

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