What Do I Owe to God?

From the ground up, we have been made by God. He created us, spiritually and physically; He designed everything about us. He knows us and knew us while we were being created in our mother’s body (Psalm 139).

After our creation, we entered the world as a squalling mess of bodily fluids with nothing but our God-given instincts to survive on. Unable to live on our own, we depend on everyone around us to live and grow, whether born into a loving family or a mess called a family. The first years of growth and development led us to finally be able to talk, dress ourselves, and eat by ourselves, for the most part.

Mastering our body, connecting with our mind, and learning the process of interacting with others takes up most of our childhood years. Teenage years come, and we start to branch out and find out who we are and how we are going to live our own life – a life away from the environment that has been our support, good or bad, until then. Young adult years find us building a life with others, finding purpose and working to add value to the world.

Somewhere in these teenage, or young adult years, we begin to truly believe that we are the ones building this life – that we have scratched out our own way and this world created is ours. While it’s true that some people have worked harder than others, we all would have died in the first few hours of life without other people.

It is good to build a solid life, and it is good to work hard at work you enjoy. The trouble begins when we give ourselves credit for our life, our circumstances, and, most often, our successes. We did not choose our circumstances, whether they are good or bad. We did not choose our families, again, whether they are good or bad.

We also did not choose our talents and abilities. Part of life is discovering what you are good at, or at least what you enjoy. These are not abilities that you gave yourself; they are abilities that were innate in you when you were created, and you are now discovering them.

All of these things are from God: our lives, our bodies, and our talents. Everything we have is from God and given to us to build a life that connects with others He’s placed in our lives. It is important to keep before us that we are living as caretakers over a life that was given to us out of His plan.

Whether we like our life or not, whether we’re happy in our circumstances or not, God is the author of our days and our ways. He planned our good works  in advance (Ephesians 2:10); He is faithful to finish a good work in our lives (Philippians 1:6).

Trust, honor, and walk with Him, and come to know Him as the author of your story.

God Approves Your Work - Ecclesiastes 9:7

Work with What You Have

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 ESV

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? … For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Matthew 25:24-26, 29-30 ESV

In this crazy world of people telling you what you should do and how you should live and manipulating you out of your money, we sometimes want to throw in the towel and say that nothing matters. We can lose track of what’s important in our work when we think that how other people treat us or react to us impacts what we should be doing. Your work matters and you should be doing it to the best of your abilities, no matter what.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus gives us an example of three people who were given things to be responsible for, as they had ability to do. The first two were faithful and worked hard, took risks, and, as a result, they had more to give back than what they started with. They are the good and faithful servants. The final servant protected what he had and gave back only what he’d been given. He was cast out as a disobedient servant.

There are four things we can pull from this parable. First, what we have has been given to us based on our ability. God isn’t going to ask you to be a brain surgeon and then not give you the intelligence to handle the job. We’re also not given everything equally. God gave out as He saw fit, not as would make sense to us. We need to accept what we have as a gift and a responsibility.

Second, we have to take risks and work hard. The first two servants invested the money and made more. Any type of investment, whether it be simply interested based loaning or market trading or business investing, all of these things take risk. There might be ups and downs, but we have to keep believing in the gifts and abilities we have and we have to keep working hard.

Third, staying as you are is an act of disobedience. Money is what is used in the parable as an example, but money isn’t the only things that we’ve been given to take care of and grow. We have many talents and responsibilities that we have to take care of and learn to improve at. It can be anything from taking care of our families to leadership abilities or business growth. Whatever it is that we have, we must use and improve or we are being bad stewards of our gifts.

Finally, the fourth thing we can learn is that God won’t always spell out in a step by step direction what we’re supposed to be doing. In the parable, the landowner gives these talents to the stewards because he is going away for a while. God never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5), of course, that’s not what the parable is saying. It’s saying that we are able to do what we need to do without constant guidance. Part of accepting the work that God has called us to do requires us to believe that we have everything we need to accomplish it, including the abilities to complete our work.

Ecclesiastes 9 talks about the toil that each one of us has before us to do. In verse 9 it says about this, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” God wants us to work hard and what He’s given us. Don’t spend time worrying about your lot in life or the things that you wish you had or didn’t have to deal with. Pray about finding you “merry heart” in regard to what you’re doing and learn to enjoy the moment in your life as you work every day to be who He made you to be.

God's Strong Support - 2 Chronicles 16:9

Strong Support for Our Purpose

When we hear “You’re here for a purpose,” what do you think? Many people seem to think that it means that you are going to be accomplishing a pre-set list of things. What if, however, there is a broader meaning to purpose that can open up some powerful truths for living?

In 2 Chronicles 14-16 we meet a king of Judah who was a Godly king, Asa. He sought the Lord and he fought against the idolatry in his lands. Among the other events of Asa’s life, we see two battles that he fights. One, he fights with purpose and one he fights without it. The results? He wins both.

The first battle is Judah verses the Ethiopian army. Asa goes before the Lord and he asks for the Lord’s help and blessing. He acknowledges that they fully rely on the Lord for victory. The Lord gives them victory and much riches and spoil are collected from the army and the surrounding cities.

The next battle happens much later in Asa’s reign. After many years of peace, the king of Israel decides to cause trouble with Judah. Asa, being savvy, goes to their ally with a big army: Syria. He sends them money and asks them to break their treaty with Israel. Syria agrees and the ensuing fighting sends Israel packing back home. Asa comes in and takes over the land they had encroached on and gains all the spoils they left behind.

From an outside perspective, Asa won both battles and he gained material goods in both cases. Once cost some money and one cost a fight, but they both ended up in a way that benefited Asa and Judah. We can’t stop reading there though. The Lord wasn’t as pleased with the second outcome as the first one.

A seer comes to Asa with a message, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV) Asa’s reign that had years of peaceful living was now doomed to trouble. In fact, Asa ends up not putting the Lord first and ends up being cruel to his people and suffering from disease (vs. 10, 12).

Our purpose is to put God first and let Him take care of accomplishing what He sees is good for us.

The Valleys Sing For Joy - Psalm 65:13

Purpose Is a Joy

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. – Psalm 65:12-13 ESV

When I think about a picturesque view and see fields full of wildflowers and valleys full of crops, I don’t often think of joy as the emotion that I associate with it. However, when I stop and think about what these nature scenes represent, I can completely relate to the emotion of joy.

When a field is full of grain, whether it be in the middle of the season or full or ready to harvest plants, that field is living in to the utmost what God made it to be. These two verses show the earth allowing God to bring about good work and fulfilment out of them. They are achieving the things that they were created to achieve.

For me, I can relate to this in times when I’ve felt connected with what I’m doing. I’ve had moments when I knew that I was where I was supposed to be doing what I was supposed to do. These moments are so joy filled that it completely passes circumstances. Allowing God to fill my moments and direct my days means that He is directing my time and energy to fill up with the things that He uniquely created me to do. There is no greater joy than that!

As pleasant as these moments are, I hope to continue to grow in this awareness so that, like the scripture verse, I can put on joy (vs. 12) and I can join in the chorus of praise to God for His oversight and His blessings.

Finding Contentment in Work - Ecclesiastes 2:24

Finding Contentment in Work

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. … Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. – Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 ESV

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV

A full-time job is generally considered to be somewhere around 40 hours. Some work three 12 hour shifts, other work nearly constant overtime. But for the most part, we consider 40 hours to be full time, and the average commute (which actually varies widely, but we’ll just stick with averages for now) is 1 hour a day. That means we’re spending roughly 1/3 of our day working and commuting to and from there. Considering the large portion of our time we spend at work, we should definitely take some time to ponder the truth in Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes is traditionally thought to have been written by Solomon. There is no author ascribed in the book other than, “the Preacher”, a man who spends his life seeking wisdom. He talks about many aspects of wisdom and wise living, but he emphasizes work in many passages. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 and 2:24-25, he views two different sides of work. While they may seem opposite at first glance, they are in fact simply two sides to the same coin. A truth, that when viewed in its entirety instead of its pieces, can help us choose to use our time wisely.

(Side note: in both the King James Version and the New King James Version, this is translated as, “a man is envied by his neighbor” instead of the other way around. I feel like the truth we’re after is there no matter who is envying who; I hope you agree with me on that one.)

In chapter 4 he tells us about the frustration and achievement that comes from envy. Can we be honest with ourselves? How many times did we pursue something out of jealousy or envy of someone else? Did they show us up and we had to do better? Did we think, “I could do that, and do it even better than they did”? Have we ever pursued something because we saw another person getting attention and success? Even if we didn’t pick the job we’re working out of envy, are we pursing a lifestyle out of envy? Are we striving after a certain look to our world or out of the expectations of having certain things?

When we think of envy, we often think of that boiling feeling in our stomach that makes us feel both angry and insignificant, sometimes referred to as “being green with jealousy.” There is another form of jealousy, however, and it’s the simple feeling that you deserve as least as much as someone else. It’s the feeling of missing out if they have something newer, better, or what you wanted to have. It’s that sense of, if they have it, so should I. Choosing clothes, cars, homes, or even decorations based on what you see others having and what you think you deserve. This can also be rooted in jealousy even if you don’t feel it in your gut.

So what’s the solution? Never buy anything again? Never spend time working for something that you want? No! Remember, we have two sides to this coin. The other side is from chapter 2, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” God made you and knows you and wants you to feel like you have a purpose and that your work is good.

Are you choosing your work based on becoming the best version of yourself? Is your current job, even if it’s not the ultimate job, taking you on the path of becoming closer to God? There is no wrong work, as long as it is good, honest work. There is no job too menial for someone who has the heart of a servant. If you are seeking God, you may be surprised at the jobs you take, but it will always be to grow you and change you and help you to find meaning and enjoyment in your work.

Don’t settle for a paycheck because that what you think you’re “supposed” to do. Find a work that is in line with who God made you to be and learn to find joy and contentment in that work.