Wednesday, May 7, 2014
The Burden of Idleness
One of my greatest joys in life is the unparalleled satisfaction of resting after a long day of hard work. I revel in the accomplishment of tasks completed, knowing that the work of my hands provided for the needs of my family or served another in some tangible way. I love sinking into my favorite chair, bone weary, but satisfied with the industry of the day. I was created to work - and work is good for my soul.
It used to be that people understood the importance of work. In "Farmer Boy", Almanzo asked his father if they were going to have the threshing machine come in and thresh their grains for them. The machines could accomplish in a few days what would take Almanzo and his father all winter to complete. Fathers answer was emphatic - "That's a lazy man's way to thresh," Father said. Haste makes waste, but a lazy man'd rather get his work done fast than do it himself. That machine chews up the straw till it's not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it. All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?". Father understood the need for a man to work! He was aghast at the prospect of having nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs. He would rather spend his winter days threshing grain and welcome sleep with a full days worth of industry tucked under his jacket, than spend his days in abject idleness. Father knew that work was good for the soul.
We have forgotten that we were created to work. Without work, we cannot truly enjoy rest. Without work, entertainments and amusements are meaningless. Work is not just an inconvenience, a necessary drudgery - it is part of our very life-blood, a key ingredient to our happiness and our well-being. We were created to work.
Did you know that working is one of the Ten Commandments? Neither did I. I had never thought about it in those terms, until I was visiting with my folks one day. They were talking about the 4th commandment, and spoke of it in a way that I had never considered before. The fourth commandment says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt though labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it though shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Do you see it? God told us to WORK for six days and REST for one day. Six days, God spent in industry and creation When He had completed His masterpiece, in the form of man, He called it good. And then he rested. God's rest was a reward for His work.
Some time ago I read the heartbreaking account of a woman who lived in England during the industrial revolution. She came from a good family, married well and established a household in the heart of London. This gentlewoman produced a number of children, managed a household staff and spent hours providing for the less fortunate in society by the work of her hands. She was the epitome of Victorian Industry. After years of efficiently managing her husband's estate, this gentlewoman experienced a great reversal of fortunes. Her husband, succumbing to drink and cards, squandered their substance and died penniless. The woman, once the mistress of a fine estate, had been reduced to begging on the soot filled streets of London. She owned nothing but the thread-bare clothes on her back and the worn, filthy shoes on her feet. She endured the suffocating heat of summer and the icy chill of winter with no roof over her head. She wore the same, soiled, tattered clothes day after day, with nothing more than a thin shawl to draw over her frail shoulders. She lived out her days alone and reviled. And do you know what this woman said was the most difficult, horrible part of her situation? It was the fact that she knew nothing but idleness. She didn't have the resources even to work, to be useful. Idleness, not the fact that she was homeless, dirty and hungry, was the wretched burden that she had to bear. Idleness. She had no rest because she had no work.
We live in a time when W.O.R.K. has become the new four-letter word. People spend their lives doing everything within their power trying to avoid work, as though it is something to despise. Now we have a new generation of people who seem to believe that most work is beneath them. And what has this new philosophy brought us? Unhappiness, depression, rebellion. God designed us to work and when we don't, we pay a steep price. Children are happier when they have work to do. They become confident. They feel useful and needed. Adults are the same way. We NEED to work, in whatever capacity we are able. Our well-being depends upon it.
When we don't encourage or even require our population or our children to work, we are stealing something very precious from them. We are stealing their purpose and replacing it with the burden of idleness. And that burden destroys the very soul of mankind.
Work is not something to avoid. It is a gift, a joy. Work - and be refreshed.