Go, labor on!

“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

 

“Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, King of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: ‘Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day” (Jeremiah 36:1-2 NKJV).

Work just isn’t what it used to be. At least that is often the case in the U.S. and other developed nations. We are used to machines and tools which make difficult tasks much simpler. Dirt is moved by tractor or back-hoe and dump trucks. Few jobs which require more than a few wheelbarrows full are done with shovels or man-power.

That is not the case in much of the world however. In Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere much of the agricultural and construction work is still done without the assistance of heavy equipment. Labor is still essential, in the most basic meaning of that word.

Of course in ancient times there was no powered equipment and all things were done with simple tools and much effort. But I wonder how well we really understand how much was involved in even the simplest tasks.

Consider God’s instructions to Jeremiah to write his messages into a book. We realize there were no typewriters, computers, or printing presses in Jeremiah’s day (about 600 years before the birth of Jesus). But that is not all that was lacking. There were no manufactured pens, ink was primitive, and there was no paper as we know it. Jeremiah probably wrote on papyrus sheets using something like a quill. He wrote in the light of a window or, if at night, by oil lamp or candlelight, dipping his quill in the ink every few strokes and sharpening it frequently. Look at the book of Jeremiah in your Bibles. Containing 52 chapters it is the third longest book of the Bible (after Psalms and Isaiah). To write it by hand under those circumstances was quite a project, to say the least.

It is my observation that most of us have decided that religion should be convenient. If we have to go too far, sit too long, endure discomfort, or expend too much effort, then God is just not being reasonable in his demands. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that God does not expect very much of us. We should be able to fit “his business” in among the extra time and resources that are not required in our own affairs. If we cannot, then surely he will understand and make allowances. After all, what we do for ourselves is really important.

One only needs to read for a short time in the Bible to see the fallacy of this argument.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

 

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

It is what God wants of us that is truly important, and God’s business is worthy of our greatest efforts. When we read carefully about the lives and ministries of the prophets, apostles, and other early Christians, we are shamed at how little seems to be required of us. When Paul traveled to preach to those who did not have the Gospel he walked or sailed in wind- or oar-powered ships. He was subject to shipwreck (it happened at least four times to him), bandits, and great hardship. We complain about day-long flights on air-conditioned planes where meals and snacks are served regularly.

Jeremiah was required to live a celibate life as a message to his people. Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful woman. Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon, serving other captives. Peter and John and their brothers gave up their family businesses to follow Jesus. And these are just a few whose stories we know. How did they feel about such sacrifices?

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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