Sunday, April 19, 2009

Learn to Work, from HOLD FAST In a Broken World

from HOLD FAST In a Broken World, chapter 7, Learn to Work

Work like a buckle-head
Medieval Roman Catholicism taught that good works were essential to earn ones salvation. These good works took on various forms, but included acts of penitence to pay for the temporal punishment of sins. Rejecting the Roman error, Martin Luther and John Calvin, nevertheless, did believe in work. But work was a result not a cause of salvation. Good works were the fruit, not the root, of salvation.
Reformers embraced with gusto the biblical doctrine of calling, whereby it was understood that all of life was sacred, including work. Every task was to be done as an act of service to God. If you were a plowman, or a milkmaid, or a blacksmith—however lowly your task in the world’s eyes, you were to do your work before the face of God as an expression of love and service to Christ.
From the Reformed doctrine of calling emerged the Puritan work ethic, the moral and spiritual foundation on which the current American work ethic totters precariously. Puritans saw every activity as sacred and, therefore, as eternally significant. Puritan Richard Baxter urged his flock in Kidderminster, “Promise not long life to yourselves, but live as those that are always uncertain of another day.”
“This approach to life,” wrote Leland Ryken, “resulted in three vintage Puritan traits: the ideal of the God-centered life, the doctrine of calling or vocation, and the conviction that all of life is God's.” If all of life is to be lived to the glory of God, if the chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy God forever, then work, the thing we spend a great portion of our lives doing is to be both enjoyed and done to the glory of God.
While seventeenth-century detractors of the Puritans dubbed them, “disciplinarians,” today’s critics accuse them of being kill-joy, buckle-heads. Some construct a caricature of Puritans moping around slaving away to redeem themselves from original sin, nobody cracking a smile or having any fun in the process.
These absurd constructs are favorites of postmoderns looking for excuses to vilify Christianity and free-market economics in one fell swoop. “The Puritans aspired to be worldly saints--” continued Ryken, “Christians with earth as their sphere of activity and with heaven as their ultimate hope.” This is illustrated by the exhortation Baxter offered to workers, “Write upon the doors of thy shop and chamber, ‘This is the time on which my endless life dependeth.’”
Young men ought to think this way about everything they do, but especially about work. Work is the proving ground of faith. “Faith without works is dead,” wrote James. A great deal of your happiness and that of your wife and children someday will depend upon you developing a heart-felt Puritan work ethic in your youth. Those who do will be useful to both God and man. Those who don’t will be useful to neither.
But there are a host of impediments that stand in the way of a young man developing a biblical work ethic...

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