Paul wrote to Titus and told him to remind the saints to “be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1, 2 ESV). Paul said that we ourselves were disobedient, foolish, led astray, and so on. Paul creates no illusion that he nor anyone else was a goody two shoes.
But they–in fact, we all–need reminders to be devoted to every good work. Paul says that we were saved not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to God’s own mercy. God poured out his Holy Spirit on us through Jesus Christ our Savior. We were justified by his grace and are now heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Paul goes on to say, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” (vs. 8). This is a healthy reminder to be devoted to every good work for the purpose of being profitable for the kingdom. This benefits other people and they will come to know God through us.
A Pew Research poll shows that about half of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Considering the amount of time during our lives we spend working combined with how short life is, it really should matter whether we are happy or not. Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is short and things are “meaningless” in the grand scheme of things. Chasing after money can be vain and “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 ESV).
“Sweet is the sleep of a laborer” (vs.12) but “the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” In other words, rest is a gift to those who work hard and know when to finish. But if a person is chasing money and his stomach is full, he will never rest because he’s always chasing the next big thing.
There’s something to be said about taking time to rest and enjoy the fruit of our labor: “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot” (vs. 18). Yes, we should work hard but we also should take plenty of time to rest and enjoy the fruit of our labor. When we are satisfied, our quality of life is dramatically improved and people around us notice our joy!
Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” There are not only reminders, but also plenty of commandments to take rest from work. There are studies that show that the most productive countries in the world are countries where vacation days are mandated.
In the beginning of creation God rested: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).
Coming up in August we will talk a lot more about the importance of rest. God in the workplace also means we find God in rest. And we rest in God. God created rest and God Himself rested. It’s vital to take time each day to rest and be renewed. Life can be difficult and unnerving. We are better people when we rest. We are less irritable, less stressed, more productive, and much better connected to God.
Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to theÂ Lord, and your plans will be established.” All throughout the Bible there is a call for people to work hard. But again, it’s not for the sake of a paycheck. ALL of our work should be committed to the Lord. We do this because it is God who provides. What would happen if we made a pledge to commit every hour of every day to the Lord, if everything we did was committed to Him?
So often we plow looking back. We think about what could have been, what should have been, and human nature is to get envious of what others have. But God’s ways are certain. He wants us to plow looking forward. He tells us to devote everything to Him and he will bless the fruit of our labor so we can assist others. For example, Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” We should give our work our all, and do it all for God.
Colossians 3:23-24 likewise says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” We are serving Christ through our work! In other words, when we serve others we are serving Christ himself.
Last week we spoke about the idea of doing righteousness, and that it means we work in order to produce, God blesses us, and we in turn use those blessings to help people in need. Throughout the Bible people were instructed to give to the needy, and to do it generously and with a joyful heart. There also is the promise of a reward for helping others out.
Jesus told his hearers that they should not practice their righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them. When we give to the needy we shouldn’t announce it, but rather should do it quietly and in secret: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3, 4 ESV).
This is not a new concept for Jesus. In Malachi 3:10, God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” God rewards us, not for our own pleasure, but for the benefit of helping even more people.
Jewish people have practiced righteousness (Tzedakah) for thousands of years. It is commanded in the Bible. So what does it mean to practice righteousness? In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream was being interpreted by Daniel. He told the king that, though he was made great, he would be made to dwell among the animals and eat the grass of the field as they do. Daniel concluded: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins byÂ practicing righteousness,Â and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed,Â that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperityâ€ (Daniel 4:27 ESV).
Practicing righteousness as linked to helping the poor. Unlike charity, every person is obligated to do what is right and just. The second highest form of this is to give donations anonymously. But the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will enable the poor person to support himself. This is not as much and individual responsibility as it is a communal one. We can see this in Acts 2 and 4 when the believers sold property and possessions so that there wasn’t a poor person among them.
The poor also had a responsibility to practice righteousness by doing all they could to provide for themselves. They, too, gave what they could. People who practice righteousness by helping those in need are given prosperity by God to repeat that cycle, so long as their intentions are to genuinely help the poor. Putting God first in the workplace means that the work we do is to practice righteousness and help others become productive also.
King Saul pursued David on several occasions, seeking to kill him. There were two different times that the Ziphites, relatives of David, sold him out. One of those was in 1 Samuel 23. The Ziphite spies told Saul where David was hiding and Saul went after him. He was about to find David when he got word that the Philistines had made a raid against the land. So Saul left David to go fight the Philistines: “So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called Rock of Escape” 1 Samuel 23:28 ESV.
It was during this time of David being pursued that he wrote what is now Psalm 54. David knew full well that it was God who sustains him: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (Psalm 54:4). It’s clear that David trusted God the entire time. David knew that, somehow, God would keep him safe from Saul. Saul was bent on finding, catching, and killing David. Yet God upheld him and kept him safe.
David wrote, “For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies” (vs. 7). God still delivers us from our troubles. He upholds us and helps deliver us from every trouble.