The following message is taken from Exodus 20 and deals with the subjects of work, rest and purpose in life. It was preached on September 2, 2012 at the Central Schwenkfelder Church in Worcester, PA.
What is our Modus operandi? Maybe you’ve heard of that term. According to Wikipedia, Modus operandi is a Latin phrase, basically translated as “method of operation”. The term is used to describe someone’s habits or manner of working, their method of operating or functioning. In English, it is often shortened to M.O. The expression is often used in police work when discussing a crime and addressing the methods employed by the perpetrators. Today, I’d like to use that phase to talk about what we do with our lives. What is our “Modus Operandi?” Often times, I’m in the presence of other men, like at soccer practice or community functions where I’m meeting new people. One of the first things out of a guys mouth is “What do you do?” This morning, I would like for us to think about our purpose in life. What is our motivation for living? On this Labor Day weekend, let us think about our lives in relation to work, rest and purpose.
Some say that our work ethic in this country is wanting. A recently article by Wayne Allyn Root stated that the work ethic in this country is hurting. One seventh of our population is on food stamps. 20% of American children under 18 are obese. Almost 11 million citizens are on disability. In 1967, the ratio of able-bodied workers to disabled was 41 to 1. As of June 2012, it is now 16 to 1. Now, a little over 8 % of Americans do not have a job.
Yet, we have the most opportunity of anywhere. United States is often referred to as the “land of opportunity.” James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book The Epic of America. His American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. I am convinced that we do not know how good we have it in America.
I was having a conversation with Clifford Liu, one of our missionaries. He told me of the educational needs in China. The average for the last five years has indicated that 9.5 million students graduate from high school each year. Due to limited opportunities, only 5 million go to college. That leaves close to five million students that have nowhere to study. Many of them try to find jobs in China or study abroad. Only 400,000 study abroad in places like Europe, Australia or the United States. 128, 000 students have come each of the last two years to the United States to study. Last week, we met two such students: “Belle and Jimmie.” That brings up the subject of work. What is work?
WORK IS A NECESSARY ELEMENT OF OUR LIVES, BALANCED WITH REST AND WORSHIP.
In God’s moral law, what we know as the “Ten Commandments,” God instructs us in Exodus 20:8: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
We must recover a balance between work and rest. Some people call it rhythm. The point is to not get overextended in one or the other, as you live your life for Christ. Many of us do not see work as a privilege, do we? Your mind and ability are gifts. Do you count them as such? Laziness is our position by default. A recent article from USA Today spoke of how college students are earning extra money by doing what their classmates should be doing for themselves. For instance, consider the following entrepreneurs who have seized the opportunity to make money off of those who are lazy.
Clean rooms: Nate Andorsky’s own messy room at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., inspired the student cleaning service he founded with Mike Waterman, in April 2011. He says DC3 can do 60-70 cleanings a month because one crew can clean many dorm rooms in a single trip. Cleanings start at $39.
Clean laundry. Jeremy Young helped found HillFresh Laundry in 2011 as a Hamilton College sophomore in Clinton, N.Y. He says students are too busy to do laundry. However, Wendy Leone pays $349 a semester for HillFresh to wash and fold her 19-year-old son’s weekly laundry, because he doesn’t know how to do it himself, she says.
Pack and move. Students at Cornell University pay $38 an hour if they miss the dorm move-out deadline. Can’t meet the deadline? Students can pay $67 an hour for student-run Big Red Shipping and Storage to box up all the items in their rooms and load them in the car. Bubble wrap is extra.
Laundry-free linens. No matter how gross sheets get, some students never wash them. College moms since 2009, Beantown Bedding founders Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert released a solution July 30: Bedsox, biodegradable sheets that go into the compost instead of the wash, available online at $25 a set.”Basically, what it boils down to is, college students are lazy. They’d like to have clean sheets, but their moms aren’t there to wash them,” says Lambert.
Indentured slavery constituted over half of the Roman Empire in Paul’s day. Paul instructed Christian slaves in Colossians 3: 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
But if you found yourself in prison, a job within there is the most treasured privilege. Not that the pay is good, but it gives you something to do, to pass the time. I was recently told that at one of our state correctional facilities, there are 3,000 inmates, but only 300 jobs. For some, picking up trash is a privilege to pass the time. It doesn’t matter what the task is, it is a sense of duty and faithfulness that gives satisfaction. It is not about what you are doing, but how you do it, and the gratitude to have the opportunity to do it. The next time you feel like hating your job, imagine complaining to someone who has been unemployed for a year with no end in sight.
HOW MUST WE APPROACH OUR EXISTENCE AND PURPOSE FOR LIVING?
With such news, we wonder if we’ve maybe left out the notion that there is such thing as self maintenance and responsibility. I visited with a mom recently who had to lay her mother to rest. She did not know how to tell her 21 year old son of his grandmother’s passing. She told me that he keeps odd hours, so I offered to join her in order to break the news. I asked if it was his job that caused him to sleep during the day. She said “No. He just stays up most of the night playing video games.” Unfortunately, he did not attend his grandmother’s funeral.
Whatever we do, we must take an attitude of salt and light. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Our work ethic is our opportunity to witness. Remember: “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” Andrew Carnegie once said: “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work.” Work is something that you did. It was a part of life. Today, people don’t want to work. More toys equate to more laziness. We need to “man-up,” as someone said. We need to bring a work ethic to wherever we are employed. We need to be a good steward of our time. Maybe it means beginning our day with God. Someone once said: “If you give God time at the start of each day, God will work out the rest of the time.”
Oprah Winfrey once said: “I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.”
What is our primary purpose? The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that our primary purpose is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” From time to time, I hear from older adults that they lack purpose or direction in their lives. Each of us is called to be a good manager of his time and resources. Life is not defined by one’s sense of productivity. If you cannot do “x”, you can still “y.”
It was said of Savilla Frye, a church member who recently moved to California, that she took it upon herself to be a friend to others, to help out, and to pray.
Now that a person is retired or elderly, what purpose do they serve? Let me offer some things. Regardless of what shape you are in, you are able to …
Pray: Philippians 4:6 states: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” One of the most loving things you can do for this church and this ministry is to pray for it. Pray for the sick. Pray for the lost. In a day when so many are distracted from spending time with God, will you? For the benefit of others?
Also, you are able to love. Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Some of us are closer to meeting the Lord than others. Maybe there’s a relationship that needs work. Maybe there’s some forgiving to do. Maybe there’s some advice to give.
Mentor: What contributes to a good work ethic? Some say good training. Others say good parenting, or modeling. Could you be a role model for someone? Especially a father. Many of us grew up watching our dads go off to work. Sally House recently told me that she remembers when her father, Jack Gramm, a leader here at Central, would follow the snow plough to work.
When I entered the ministry, I wanted to spend time with an older minister, someone who would mentor me. I spent seven years in the ministry before I had that opportunity. Then I came to Central and met a man by the name of Dave Derstine. Dave was the solo pastor at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, then the first Director of Development for Dock Woods Community. I spent a significant amount of time with him, asking him questions, probing his opinions. I greatly valued my relationship with him. Maybe God is calling you to mentor someone?
Lastly, maybe God has called you to encourage others. Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Too often, we define ourselves by what we do; not by what we think and what we say. Maybe we need to get the focus off of ourselves. We need to see that every day is a gift. IT is not a matter of being fulfilled, but what you do in dedication to God and others.
You never know when you will pass. Recently, I have been made aware of young people who pass. I traveled to the Flight 93 Memorial near Bedford, PA. While there, it was revealed that on September 11, 2001 that by 9:30, the crew and passengers knew that they had been hijacked. They had under thirty minutes to figure out what to do. Todd Beamer is the man given the credit with saying: “Let’s Roll,” and storming the terrorist, overtaking the cockpit and bringing the plane down.
But as I stood listening to a local tell the story, he said: “Do you see that woman’s name down there? Sandy Waugh Bradshaw was a 38- year-old stewardess. Shortly before the takeover, she was talking with her husband and said: “I have to go. My water’s boiling.” She then got off the phone and threw scalding water on the terrorists, disrupting them, just before Todd Beamer said: “Let’s Roll.” Another 17 minutes in the air, the plane would have reached its designated target of Washington D.C. Who would have thought that boiling water would save the U.S. Capitol building from being destroyed and many of our lawmakers, who were in joint session, from perishing? From God’s perspective, nothing is insignificant. Whatever it is, it’s important to do it well.
 Wayne Allyn Root, “Why we are on the brink of the greatest Depression of All Time,” found at http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/08/23/why-are-on-brink-greatest-depression-all-time/print.