Useful Quotations on Work and Labor

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Proverbs 22:29 – Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.

Proverbs 18:9 – He also who is slack in his work Is brother to him who destroys.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

Philippians 3:13 – Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

14 – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

23 – Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;

24 – knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Danish physicist. Quoted in: Alan Mackay, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977).

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge US President

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

“It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man.” Professor Scott Elledge on his retirement from Cornell

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Message to Congress, 3 Dec. 1861 (published in Collected Works, vol. 5, ed. by Roy B. Basler, 1953).

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865.

“Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. “Fireside Chat,” radio broadcast, 14 April 1938.

“I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 8 Sept. 1902, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Labor Day speech, 7 Sept. 1903, Syracuse, N.Y.

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 10 April 1899, Chicago, Ill.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization. Daniel Webster (1782-1852), U.S. lawyer, statesman. “Remarks on the Agriculture of England,” speech, 13 Jan. 1840, Boston.

Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British statesman, writer. First wartime address, 4 Sept. 1914, Guildhall, London.

The Hand of God When We Are Suffering

America has been riveted by the trial of George Zimmerman for the 26 Feb 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. Race, Zimmerman is a white Hispanic and Martin was black, has played a major role. The all female jury rendered a final verdict of “not guilty” on all charges, which ranged from second degree murder to manslaughter. Some people are elated and others are furious, as is inevitable in such a highly charged case.

One thing is certain, however, everyone involved is suffering. Martin suffered on the night of his death. His mother Sybrina Fulton has suffered every night since then, and now is left to wonder if justice was done, or ever will be. Many African Americans are suffering through what some consider persistent persecution of their race. The jury is suffering. They cannot help but revisit their verdict time and again, hoping that they decided rightly. When their identities are revealed, as is inevitable, these women will have reason to worry about their own safety. The judge, the prosecutors, and defense, and everyone in the process will have the same anxieties, and they may be threatened by those who believe that justice was denied.

George Zimmerman, the putative winner, will revisit the night of the killing, and the trial, until his final breath. His life is in danger, whether from a self-proclaimed avenger or from his own weaknesses, amplified by the glare of public scrutiny. Even those of us who are far removed from the case will be affected, often for ill, by the results. Everyone lost on 26 Feb 2012, and everyone has suffered, and will continue to suffer, as a result.

Whether in deaths, in natural disasters, in wars, in diseases, and in countless areas every day, the life of man is a life of suffering. Thomas Hobbes said that life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Christians and non Christians alike are affected, but followers of Jesus Christ receive the care of Almighty God during their suffering. This article will discuss how God ministers to His people when they are suffering.  

God meets us where we are

First, God speaks to His people in their sufferings. He does not remain silent during their pain and misery. Rather our Lord makes His presence known and communicates with those He loves. Jehovah seeks us out; He does not sit by and wait for us to call on Him (Job 38:1, 40:1, 6).  

Second, Jehovah comes to His people in different ways depending upon their mental state and their relationship to Him at the time.

1.    Job had been protesting his innocence so vigorously that he was impugning the justice of God (Job 31:35-37), and the Lord spoke to him forcefully in a whirlwind (Job 38:1) and in a storm (Job 40:6). With irony He rebuked Job, while still blessing him and meeting his needs.

2.    Elijah came to God in weakness and fear (1 Kings 19:4, 10), and the Lord came to him in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). No reprimands here, just the tender mercy of a father comforting and teaching His son.

3.    Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had obeyed God at pain of death under the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:14-18). He came instantly at their moment of need and left immediately when they left the fire.

Third, the Lord comes to His people; he does not watch from afar. God was within earshot of Job. He was in the cave with Elijah (1 Kings 19:9). Jehovah was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel 3:24-25). He sent an angel, possibly a preincarnate appearance of Christ, to be in the lion’s den with Daniel (Daniel 6:22-23). The resurrected Jesus Christ was with Stephen when he was stoned to death by Jewish religious leaders (Acts 7:55-56).

Fourth, God restores His people according to their need.

1.    Job’s ordeal beginning to end probably consumed several weeks. Assuming that Job’s boils were skin carbuncles and that he used the potsherd to scrape the scabs away (Job 2:7-8), thus continually allowing them to drain pus and heal from the inside out as they should, Job’s recovery must have been far along by the time that God spoke. We have no evidence that Job was hungry, tired or even in pain. God, therefore, didn’t need to let him rest or feed him before beginning to teach him.

2.    Elijah was exhausted and hungry, and the Lord gave him food, water and rest (1 Kings 19:5-8), meeting Elijah’s physical needs before drawing his attention to spiritual truths and further commands (1 Kings 19:15-17).  

When I taught this lesson in my Bible fellowship class, a women whose son has a learning disability said “But I prayed constantly, and at first the Lord never seemed to hear me or talk to me.” There are several things to consider about God’s timing when He speaks to us.

1. God does not speak in our time, but in His. He waits until the perfect time for us. The Almighty did not speak to Job quickly, and certainly not as early as Job wanted Him to.

2. Our relationship with God may be poor, and if so we may not be able to hear Him. 

3. If we regard sin in our hearts, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18). I once had a patient who was suffering depression and anxiety related to past sexual abuse from her stepfather. She was responding well to medication and counseling, but refused to forgive him for his sin against her decades before. As a result, she could not achieve peace in that area of her life. His health was declining fast and her opportunity to reconcile was slipping away. He died a short time later, and for as long as I knew her, this woman’s refusal to forgive prolonged her suffering, hindered her relationships with others, and even with God.  

4. We can be so busy and distracted with things in our lives that we cannot hear Him (Matthew 13:18-23).

God is Lord over the natural realm

God’s presence, His words, and His provision would confer little comfort if He did not have the power to deliver us from our disaster. In Job 38-39, the Lord overwhelmed Job with the evidence of His power.

One of the greatest dangers of having a purely mechanistic understanding of creation is that it excludes the possibility of God manifesting Himself in His creation. Part of Job’s agony had been caused by fire from heaven (Job 1:16) the desert winds (Job 1:19), and disease (Job 2:7). God’s first speech to Job (and his friends, who probably heard the whole thing) discussed His absolute sovereignty over the natural world. The Lord created the natural world (Job 38:4-15), both the inanimate (38:16-38) and the animate (38:39-30). As such He had absolute control. The Lord used natural phenomena to take away from Job and He had the power to give back to him.

Job, so sure of his own righteousness, had no power by comparison. God proved His love for Job by speaking to him, but then used irony to hammer home his limited ability to understand anything, much less the work of God. The Lord was not mocking Job; why should He, for He is God and can be threatened by no one. Neither was He answering Job’s questions, as if Job could understand the justice and glory in God’s works. Rather He was teaching His faithful servant, and the confused friends around him, in a powerful and memorable way.

The book of Job is Job’s personal story, but God used it to teach His truths to the whole world throughout most of history. If Job had been told the reasons for his suffering, or even that he had been blameless, this book’s value for teaching about why the just suffer would be nil. From Baghdad to Auschwitz, millions who have been comforted in their suffering by Job’s example would have been left cold.

God is Lord over the moral realm

A God who came to His people, who talked to them, and who had absolute power over nature would still be a cold comfort to them if He cared nothing for right and wrong. Our souls cry out for justice when we have been wronged and for mercy when we have wronged others, and we need a God who will ensure that both are established.

Job had not only suffered at the whims of nature but also from the hands of men. The wickedness of the Sabeans (Job 1:15) and the Chaldeans (Job 1:17) caused him terrible pain. A God who was the Creator but not Lord of the moral universe could do nothing but disappoint a man stricken by evil. Job 40:8-14 demonstrates a God who is not only physically great but also one who is morally good. Jehovah is not blind and unfeeling, detached from the clockwork universe that He has made and ambivalent towards questions of morality. Rather He is the Defender of the Righteous and the Oppressor of the Wicked.

Subsequent verses about the Behemoth (beast, Job 40:15-23) and the Leviathan (dragon, Job 40:24-41:34) likely refer not to natural creatures but to evil powers in the world (cf. Revelation 12 and 13). Thus Job is using the metaphor of powerful beasts to illustrate powerful forces of evil in the world.  

The teaching point for Job in this speech is that God will ultimately reward the righteous and punish the wicked. He is the source of justice, and without Him our sense of right and wrong would not exist. He is also the source of mercy, and exercises both in exactly the right balance. Man can no more impugn God’s righteousness than he can deny the light of the sun. As light is inherent in the nature of the sun, so righteousness is inherent in the character of God.

God restores

The Lord will not restore someone who is holding on to sin in their lives. Confronted with the unmistakable wisdom and power of God, Job repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:6). After Jeremiah went through a time of self-pity and doubt (Jeremiah 15:10, 17, 18), the Lord commanded him to repent so that he could be restored (Jeremiah 15:19-21). It is a bitter pill to think that man in the depth of suffering needs to repent of his sin before he is forgiven, for in modern times we use suffering to justify all sorts of bad behavior. God, however, expects obedience regardless of our circumstances. Suffering never excuses sin, and iniquity can never be condoned because the sinner is in pain or want.  

Sometimes repentance is not necessary. There is no indication that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego needed to repent of anything in their situations.

If repentance is needed and completed, God will restore His child. It may be materially as the Lord did with Job. It may be with a trusted successor as He did for Elijah. It may be not in this life at all, but in the next, as probably happened to Jeremiah. It may be through a gradual and natural process as He did with Daniel and his Hebrew friends. Regardless of the Lord’s timing, He guarantees that He will restore His people to Himself, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes (Revelation 21:4).

Conclusion

Our world is one of suffering, and none can escape. The most dedicated believers in Jesus Christ sometimes suffer the most of all. However, the Lord ministers to His people in their hour of need. He comes to them where they are, speaks to them, reminds them of His power, justice and mercy, and restores them. The bitterest suffering cannot overcome the comfort and healing of our All Powerful Lord.

Trayvon’s bereaved mother, Sybrina Fulton, expressed this hope. “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!”

Suffering and the Book of Job

The Background of the Book of Job

Uz was the first born of Nahor, brother of Abram (Genesis 22:20-21). Since Terah, the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran, lived near Ur of the Chaldeans, it is likely that Uz did as well. Job was probably a child of Uz, living in the lands of his father. Alternatively, the “Land of Uz” could have been near ancient Edom in modern day Jordan. Notably, Genesis 31:53 refers to God as “the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.” Since Job was not a child of Abraham he was by definition a Gentile, and the Book of Job is therefore the only Gentile book in the Old Testament. Given the timing it is likely that Job was a contemporary of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson.

Some argue that Job is not history but rather a fable. Bible writers treat Job as history (Ezekiel 14:14, James 5:11) and there is no reason for modern readers to behave differently. Job may have been written by Job in his later years. If so, it is the only Old Testament book written by a Gentile.

The Structure of the Book of Job

Prologue (Chs 1-2)

Dialogue (Chs 3-41)

Epilogue (ch 42)

Job’s righteousness and success (1:1-5)

Job’s opening lament (ch 3)

Job repents (42:1-6)

 

The First Arguments

 

Conflict in heaven (1:6-12)

Eliphaz (ch 4-5)

Job (ch 6-7)

God’s anger against Job’s friends (42:7-8)

Destruction upon Job’s family and wealth (1:13-19)

Bildad (ch 8)

Job (ch 9-10)

They repent (42:9)

Job’s faithfulness (1:20-21)

Zophar (ch 11)

Job (ch 12-14)

God restored Job double (42:10-17)

 

The Second Arguments

 

Conflict in heaven (2:1-6)

Eliphaz (ch 15)

Job (ch 16-17)

 

Sickness upon Job (2:7-8)

Bildad (ch 18)

Job (ch 19)

 

Job’s continued devotion (2:9-10)

Zophar (ch 20)

Job (ch 21)

 

 

The Third Arguments

 

His friends arrive (2:11-13)

Eliphaz (ch 22)

Job (ch 23-24)

 

 

Bildad (ch 25)

Job (ch 26-31)

 

 

Elihu (ch 32-37)

 

 

 

Concluding Argument – the Words of God (ch 38-41)

 

A Survey of the Book of Job

The book of Job, the subject of our current study, is the most famous and most useful study of suffering in the world. In it Job, a righteous and prosperous man who lived during the days of the Patriarchs in Genesis, is struck with disaster. In one day his wealth is stolen, his servants massacred and his 10 children killed (Job 1). Shortly thereafter he is struck with painful boils; probably what modern medicine would call follicular abscesses, from head to toe (Job 2). He had attributed his prosperity to the work of God, and true to his character, he attributed his disaster to the work of God as well. However throughout all of this, Job never cursed or renounced His Creator.

Three of Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, arranged to come to him and provide solace. After arriving they spent seven days in silence, mourning with their broken brother (Job 2:11-13). This is Job’s friends at their finest. They did not try to minimize his pain, their shared in it. They did not try to force Job to “get over it”; instead they went into the pit of despair with him. They did not, at least at this time, afflict him with foolish or insensitive words; instead they wisely avoided words at all. Their presence was the best thing that they could give.

Mired in the slough of despond, Job gave words to his thoughts in Job 3. He let his emotions run their course, not pretending to be coping when he was actually heartsick. He also shared his feelings, no matter how dark, with his three dear friends. Both of these actions evince a level of courage with himself and with others that few match; especially in the modern world. If one thing characterizes modern man it is deception; in a television world we feel the need to look as good as the characters do, no matter how we really are. Job’s curses betrayed poor logic and a lack of faith in the Lord, but at least they were truly his.

Job’s friends were highly educated, devoutly religious, and dazzlingly successful in their pursuits. They were leaders in their communities. When Job, one of their peers, began talking what they considered foolishness, they felt compelled to respond. Eliphaz, probably the oldest and most distinguished, began. The account of his rebuke to Job in chapters 4 and 5 is 840 words long (KJV), and his theme was that God does not punish the righteous. Since Job had been severely punished, he must have been severely unrighteous. If Job repented from this hidden wickedness, God would restore him.

What had been unrestrained misery (Job 3) turned to contentious self justification as Job replied to the accusations of his friend (Job 6). In the next chapter (Job 7), Job remonstrated God Himself. How many of us blame God, or even curse Him, when disaster strikes? God is sovereign over His Creation and, as in this story, suffering and pain do come ultimately from Him (Job 2:10). However when a man’s life plunges into sorrow, he can decide to accept God’s will with faithful obedience or reject the One who allowed it to happen. The first path acknowledges that man is subordinate to God, cannot fully understand the ways of heaven, and still honors the Lord’s power, justice and goodness. It maintains and even strengthens the relationship between man and God. The second path does none of these. For all of Job’s protestations of his righteousness before the Lord, he never rejected His Creator (Job 13:15).

Bildad, irked by Job’s implicit accusations of injustice against God, spoke second (Job 8). His theme was “how dare you accuse God of injustice”, and “if you repent you will be delivered”. Job counterattacked with accusations that God had abandoned him and with reminders of his misery (Job 9-10). Job 11 featured Zophar, the last of his three friends, joining the fray.  He opined that Job only indicted himself by questioning the goodness and justice of the Lord.  In Job 12-14, Job gave an eloquent reply. The debates continued in chapters 15-31 with much the same focus. Job’s friends finally ended the conversation in Job 32, because they weren’t getting anywhere, and because “Job was righteous in his own eyes” (cf. Luke 18:13).

Job’s three friends had differing thrusts for their arguments. Eliphaz was arguing from his personal experience (4:8), Bildad was arguing from cultural tradition (8:8), and Zophar was arguing from his assumptions; his strongly held personal dogmata (20:2). Much of what they said was true. God does punish the wicked and bless the righteous. Job did err in his focus on himself and his righteousness rather than focusing on the person and purposes of God. Experience, tradition and dogma are valid bases on which to argue, but it is possible to do more harm than good, unintentionally speaking half truths in judgment rather than whole truths in love. This was the crux of their failure. 

A fourth man, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram, joined the discussion (Job 32-37). He was angry at Job for promoting his own righteousness at God’s expense, and angry at Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar’s failure to give Job sound guidance. Job had not rejected God but had questioned His character.

God Himself spoke to Job to end the discourse (Job 38-41). He gave Job no answer for his suffering, and didn’t even reveal to him the conflict in heaven that the reader was privileged to read. Since it is in the Bible God must have revealed it to someone, perhaps Job later, but at the time God kept Job in the dark. God’s response to Job had little to do with Job at all – it had everything to do with the Lord’s own power and glory. Job had spent so much breath proclaiming his innocence and righteousness that he had failed to recognize that Jehovah, not Job, was the center of the story. The All-Knowing One has plans and ways that Job could never imagine, much less understand. The All-Powerful One orchestrates events that Job could never see, much less comprehend. God is so high above man that the only reasonable, healthy and proper response to suffering is trust and obedience.

This does not mean that Christians should fail to do what we can to prevent and mitigate disease, suffering and disaster. We are not to eschew modern medicine when confronted with disease or injury, use poor construction methods when building in earthquake, fire or flood zones, or let wrongdoers commit crimes without penalty. It does mean that despite our righteous obedience to the Lord, and sometimes because of it, we will suffer. When that happens, we rest our souls on Him.  

Following the words of God, Job repented of his sinful selfishness and prideful heart. As a man who truly knew the Lord, there was no other course of action. Satisfied with Job’s faithful response, the Lord turned His focus to his friends. Their sin was in speaking half-truths to a man who was suffering, thereby increasing his pain. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar had come to comfort their friend but the ended up attacking him. Their words added to the weight of his pain; they did not subtract. God demanded that they also repent and that Job pray for their forgiveness. Job could have been spiteful and refused to pray for his friends, perhaps wanting to return a little of the pain that they had caused him. Readers know that Job’s healing and deliverance was right around the corner, but he did not. As far as we know, at the moment that God asked Job to pray he was still wracked in pain, penniless and without heirs. Nonetheless, Job forgave his friends and prayed for them.

The end of the story is that God restored Job double the property he had lost, and gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. As any parent knows the new children could never compensate for the loss of the old, but the younger ones were themselves great blessings. Finally an old and satisfied Job died and was reunited with his older children in everlasting life. Eventually his descendents joined him before the throne of God.

Other Truths in the Book of Job

Job contains one of the earliest references in Hebrew literature to the bodily resurrection from the dead. Satan is also mentioned. He appeared as the serpent and in the antediluvian era in Genesis, and then reappeared after the Babylonian exile. Between Moses and Zedekiah, though, the devil is largely absent.

An important theme of Job is that man needs a mediator between himself and God (Job 9). Job understood his powerlessness before the Almighty, and yet knew that he had done nothing to deserve his disaster. God is infinite in power, in glory, in knowledge, in love, and in goodness. Man is finite. Therefore a gulf exists between God and man which is itself infinite. We would despair of knowing Him at all, much less receiving anything from Him, were it not for the One who is finite man and infinite God. This man-God, Jesus Christ, is the mediator between humanity and our Creator that Job longed for (1 Timothy 2:5). The great and mighty God of the Universe used even this ancient, Gentile-focused book to prepare for the coming of His Son and the salvation of man.

Another remarkable theme is Job’s development in faith. In chapter 9 he asked for a mediator, but in chapter 19 Job asked for a redeemer (Job 19:25-27). Early in his suffering, Job wanted someone who would argue for him against God. Through the pain of his life and the accusations of his friends, his weariness grew to the point that he no longer wished to argue against God; he wanted to be saved by God.