Mind your Business

March 14, 2021 in Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Bible - OT - Exodus, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Love, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Wealth, Work

Exodus 23:9 (NKJV)
9 “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

One of the most challenging things that many of us face in our daily lives is that of identifying honest and reputable businessmen. Our car breaks down; our sewer backs up; our computer crashes; our reputation or livelihood is threated by a lawsuit. We find ourselves strangers in a strange land – having to deal with problems we’ve never faced before. What we need is someone honest and skilled to assist us: to tell us exactly what’s wrong and then fix it for a fair price.  But what we often find instead are charlatans who expand the list of things wrong and charge far more than is just to do the work.

Last week we observed in our text from Exodus that God expects us to be gracious and loving toward strangers which implies that we are to be actively welcoming visitors into our congregation. Today I’d like us to consider a second implication of the text: namely, we are to treat others justly. When others are dependent upon our expertise or knowledge in a certain area, we are called to use our knowledge to bless them rather than to exploit them. As strangers in a strange land they are entrusting themselves to us. So we are commanded to treat them as we would like to be treated were we in their situation. Moses reminds us:

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Dt 10:17-19)

God commands us to love the stranger, to care for and protect him. He does this for two reasons. First, this is what God Himself does. He loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. As our Lord Jesus reminds us, God causes His rain to shine on the just and the unjust. His mercies are over all His works. And so, as those called to imitate our God, our Lord summons us, like Him, to love the stranger.

Second, we ourselves know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. Hence, we are to love them. The principle embedded in this exhortation is none other than that articulated by our Lord Jesus in the Golden Rule. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). When relying upon others’ expertise we would have folks treat us fairly and justly and graciously – assisting us in our need and not exploiting us in our ignorance.

Thus we are to practice the same – especially in the realm of business. As a businessman I must beware lest I take advantage of another’s ignorance and so exploit them. My work should be done honestly and well – giving them an accurate assessment of their problem and charging them fairly for the work I perform.

Reminded of our obligation to be just and fair to others, let us acknowledge that we often take advantage of our customers and exploit their ignorance rather than loving them. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Being Open-Handed and Generous

March 18, 2019 in Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes, Meditations, Thankfulness, Wealth, Work

Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 (NKJV)

1 Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

The Word of God is full of financial counsel and admonitions. Hence, the way we handle our money reveals whether we are men and women of faith or unbelief, whether we are wise or foolish, whether we are righteous or wicked. Because finances are such an integral part of our religious devotion, we include the bringing forward of our tithes and offerings each week in worship. One of the men who leads us in prayer also represents us in bringing forward the fruit of our labor to offer to the Lord. He sets the box of tithes and offerings before the Lord’s Table as a visible symbol of our intention to consecrate all of life, including our finances, to the Lord. We are mere stewards of that which the Lord has entrusted to us.

As we bring the tithes and offerings forward each week, we sing a song about finances. During Advent and Lent, times of preparation for Christmas and Easter respectively, we sing these verses from Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 – Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. So what do these verses mean and how should they affect our view of our finances?

The author of Ecclesiastes counsels us in these verses to be generous, open-handed men and women. The image of “casting your bread upon the waters” invites us to think of useless waste. After all, what fool casts bread on the water? It just goes to waste! Similarly, the miser insists that giving to others, being open-handed and generous, is a waste. What return is there from giving to the poor and being open-handed with one’s wealth? But our text assures us that there shall be such a reward: Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. So Proverbs 19:17 promises us: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and [the Lord] will pay back what he has given.”

The next verse reminds us to be generous and open-handed in this way because of the uncertainty of life. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. Unlike the unrighteous man who reasons from the uncertainty of life that he must hoard all that he has, the righteous man reasons from this same uncertainty that he must be generous and open-handed, giving a portion to seven, even to eight, so that if he is ever in like circumstances, the Lord will pity him. “Blessed is he who considers the poor;” Psalm 41:1-2 reminds us, “The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.”

So what of you? Are you open-handed and generous? Are you striving to be a faithful steward of that which God has entrusted to you? Or have you instead hardened your heart to the poor? Moses writes in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10 – “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs… You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.”

So reminded of our calling to be open-handed and generous with that which the Lord has entrusted to us, let us confess that we have often been selfish instead. We have often hardened our heart and shut our hand from those who are truly in need of assistance. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Curse of Laziness

September 23, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Work

Proverbs 10:26 (NKJV)

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

When God created the world, He spent six days laboring and one day in rest. This rhythm of work and rest He then gave as a pattern to men. This pattern is made explicit in the Fourth Commandment. While we typically focus upon the imperative of rest in the Fourth Commandment, we should note that it also contains the duty of work. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no work… We are to imitate our God who worked hard by working hard ourselves. Work, in other words, is not among the curses of the fall. Work is one of the tasks that God gave to us in the garden.

In our sin, however, we often invert the rhythm that God has given to us. We either refuse to rest as we ought on the Lord’s Day or we refuse to work as we ought the remainder of the week. It is this latter sin, the sin of laziness, the refusal to work as we ought, that Solomon confronts in our Scripture today. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

Solomon reminds us that we were not created to be lazy. You were made to work, to labor, to His glory. Ora et labora, the Latin phrase says. Pray and work. God has commissioned you to bring order where there is disorder, to bring beauty where there is ugliness, to bring joy where there is sorrow, to bring truth where there is error, to bring light where there is darkness. God has placed you here as His emissary, to work for His glory, and to advance His kingdom.

When we work thus diligently, we are a blessing to others. The lazy man, however, is a curse to his fellow man. He is, Solomon writes, like vinegar to the teeth, removing the enamel so that one’s teeth rot; he is like smoke to the eyes, causing pain and irritation from whose irritation the rational man flees.

So what of you? Are you lazy? God has placed you here to work not to fritter away your time binge watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly through social media. Men, are you devoting yourself to your work, diligently blessing your employer or your customers? Or are you making excuses for why the tasks entrusted to you just never seem to get done, why the service you perform is always slipshod? Parents, are you diligently training your children, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Or are you making excuses for why they are ill prepared and ungovernable? Children, are you working faithfully at your studies, striving to expand your knowledge and understanding? Or are you failing to complete your work and doing it poorly?

Reminded that we have been called to bless others and to expand God’s kingdom by working diligently to the glory of His Name, let us confess that we are often lazy instead. And as we confess our sins, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Created for Work

May 6, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Wealth, Work

Proverbs 10:16 (NKJV)
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin.

When God fashioned us in the beginning and placed us in the Garden of Eden, He immediately commissioned us. He gave us a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Our role in the Garden was not to sit back and luxuriate; it was not to be in a perpetual state of leisure. God gave us a mission to accomplish, a work to complete. Six days we were to labor and do all our work; on one we were to rest and worship. So what was that labor? God placed us in the garden, we are told in Genesis 2:15, to tend and to keep it.

First, we were to tend the garden. We were to cultivate the ground and to make it even more fruitful than it already was. We were to extend the order of the Garden to the rest of the world and offer the fruit of that labor up to our Creator as our service of worship and adoration. Second, we were to keep the garden. We were to guard it and protect it from destruction – whether destruction from our own hands or from those of an intruder.

What this means is that work was part of the paradise of God. We were designed to tend and keep the earth to the glory of God. Work is a gift from God. Tragically, we rejected our twofold calling. We failed to protect the Garden from the serpent-intruder. We permitted him to lead us astray and we rebelled against God. Consequently, the blessing of work became twisted and tainted by the curse of toil. Thorns and thistles, death and destruction, came in the wake of our sin. Work and toil became intertwined.

But God did not abandon us to toil. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to restore us to fellowship with Him. By faith in Jesus’ Name, He forgives our sin and gives us His Spirit so that we can once again tend and keep the earth to the glory of His Name. Solomon reminds us, “The labor of the righteous leads to life…” Those who fear God work to the glory of God and so bring life to the world. While still troubled by the effects of sin and required to wrestle against thorns and thistles, we do so as those who have been reconciled to God and restored to the glory of work. Because Christ has risen from the dead, Paul reminds us, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Teaching children, changing diapers, balancing accounts, building homes – every dimension of earthly labor can bring glory and honor to our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, there are those who still refuse to work for the glory of God. They violate the first and greatest commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, all their labor remains intertwined with toil and is dishonoring to God. From digging ditches, to cleaning toilets, to painting landscapes, to healing the sick – the wages of the wicked lead to sin.” Those who do not fear God sin even in the littlest things and, since sin leads to death, their toil leads to meaninglessness and death.

So here’s what Solomon would have you remember: God the Creator has put you in the world to labor for His glory. He has sent His Son to redeem the world that you might be reconciled to Him and do all your work motivated by a desire to glorify His Name. So do you? First, do you love work or do you love leisure? Do you value the tasks that God has given you to perform or are you constantly endeavoring to avoid them? Second, what motivates your labor? Are you working just to make money? Working just to make your payments? Or are you working for the glory and honor of the Lord?

Solomon reminds us to labor faithfully to the glory of God – this is the pathway to life. But often we shirk our responsibilities, often we fail to offer our work up as worship to the Lord, often we fail to protect our workplaces from those who would destroy them; we have need to confess our sins to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The End of Education

May 22, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, Education, Work

This was a commencement address for the graduations of some students at our Trinity Home Educators Cooperative. What a privilege to be invited to speak! May the Lord’s blessings rest on these youth! (The thoughts here are similar to those in my exhortation at Christ Church for Kenton Spratt’s installation. And the central image of the two stonecutters was borrowed from James K.A. Smith’s thought provoking book You Are What You Love.)


Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! You are graduating, entering into a new phase of your life. As you make this transition, I would like you to think about what you have been doing thus far and what you will be doing in the future.
Many young people are directionless and listless. They think that the purpose of education is to enable them to get a job; accomplish a task; fulfill a chore. But the education you have received and the tasks you shall yet pursue – whether that is further education or vocational training – is about far more than a job. It is about a vocation – a calling, a summons from God to use your gifts and talents for the glory of His Name and the growth of His Kingdom.
John Milton, the great Puritan author of Paradise Lost, wrote in an essay on education: “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”Milton reminds us that education isn’t just about the transfer of information but the process of formation – changing not just our thoughts but also our habits, our loves, our desires, our goals. Rooting out the ruins we’ve inherited from our father Adam and that we’ve created ourselves. The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us to shape us into men and women of virtue – which, when it is joined with faith in the Triune God, makes up the highest perfection, the summit of achievement, the end of education.
And the goal of being men and women of faith and virtue is that we might be instruments in God’s hands to advance the Kingdom of God in the world. God repairs the ruins of our own selves that we might be instruments in repairing the ruins of the world. Listen to Isaiah’s vision for you: And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called you is not merely cutting stone, not merely getting a degree, not merely doing a job. The work to which God has called you is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Your task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what you have been doing and what you are yet called to do. Not merely cutting stones, but building cathedrals.

Do you see that? When someone asks you in days to come – be you plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral! I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” That is your calling. That is your vocation. That is the end of your education.

Collect for the Day

May 4, 2016 in Prayer, Work

Almighty God and Father, you have so ordered our life that we are dependent on one another: prosper those engaged in commerce and industry and direct their minds and hands that they may rightly use your gifts in the service of others; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Church of England Collect for May 4, 2016