Sermon Recording – Hard Honest Work (Proverbs 31)

Message: Hard Honest Work
Scriptures: Proverbs 31:10-31
Message 2 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

earn save give cover
Mason Wartman
quit his job on Wall Street to open Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia. The menu includes a $1 slice of cheese pizza, which makes for a nice meal for the neighborhood’s low income and homeless folks.

A customer had the idea to “pay it forward” by purchasing an extra slice of pizza for the next person who couldn’t pay for theirs. Mason grabbed a post-it note,  marked the gift, and put it up on the wall for someone to use. The idea exploded and now Rosa’s walls are covered with post-it notes of smiley faces, prayers, encouragement along with a slice of pizza.

Rosa’s serves 50-100 persons daily who pay by post-it note. The practice transformed the neighborhood, building goodwill and community, breaking down barriers of loneliness and classism. One person wrote a thank you note on a paper plate, which also went up on the wall,

“God bless you. Because of you, I ate off this plate. It is the only thing I ate all day. I am a homeless veteran and get treated rudely. When I ask for help, Rosa’s treats me with respect. Truly a blessing. Thank you. Rob H. Do unto others as others do unto you.”

John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote

Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.

For Wesley, gain means to earn, to work. I suspect Mason’s shop brings a smile to Wesley’s face, and Jesus’.

Mason is modeling what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ about work:

  1. Money itself is neither good nor evil and is used for both good and evil. Money is  a powerful tool and gift of God
  2. Wisdom is more valuable than money
  3. A wise person is in right relationship with money
  4. There is a meaningful connection between work, money, and faith
  5. Work is good for us and the community we live in

If you’re retired, this applies to you as well. You’re just in a new season of work. Followers of Jesus never retire from Kingdom work.

Hard Honest Work
What makes a great employee or employer, the type of person you want to do business with? That person is diligent, attentive, responsible, put’s forth their best effort, strives for excellence and consistent improvement, is servant-hearted, passionate, self-motivated, a team player, teachable…

Wesley puts it this way

Never leave anything till tomorrow, which you can do today. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner.  

Where do we find this kind of integrity and work ethic today? It should be with the people of God. True followers of Jesus should be the folk’s people want to hire and the folk’s people want to work for and the folks people want to do business with. When we fail to live and value hard work, we fail in our Christian witness.

The Shadow-side of Hard Work: Underwork and Overwork (Lazy and Work-a-holic)
Proverbs 14:23
There is profit in hard work, but mere talk leads to poverty.

Proverbs 13:4
The lazy have strong desires but receive nothing; the appetite of the diligent is satisfied.

Proverbs 23:4
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; be smart enough to stop.

Imagine a continuum with healthy, hard work in the middle. On one end, laziness, and the other, work-a-holic. Strength and focus from the Holy Spirit save us from laziness. Sabbath saves us from destroying our bodies, minds, and relationships with overwork. In practicing Sabbath, we show we trust God’s strength and provision more than our own.

Hard Honest Work
Proverbs 1:19
These are the ways of all who seek unjust gain; it costs them their lives.

Proverbs 10:16
The wages of the righteous lead to life; the earnings of the wicked lead to sin.

It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you don’t also practice Sabbath. It doesn’t matter how hard you work if it isn’t honest work. Some jobs are out of bounds for us as followers of Christ.

The litmus test for honest work: Does it bring glory to God and does it bless and build up the community? Honest work is rooted in loving our neighbor. This value prevents us from work which does injury to our neighbor. Wesley reminds us that as followers of Christ we refrain from work that unfairly affects another’s economic stability, that injures our neighbor’s health, or that contributes to another person’s sin.

Hard Honest Work is your calling from God
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. Your calling is just as sacred and important as that of a pastor or missionary. Reframe your idea of work as fulfilling your part in God’s greater purpose, God’s best purpose for your life. Focus your talents, skills, opportunities, and experience for God’s greater good. This is our “why” of work. This is worth getting out of bed in the morning and worthy of our best efforts. This is why we don’t bury our talents, nor hide them under a bushel. This is why we don’t sell out to something unworthy of our calling and God.

Jim Harnish puts it this way

Seeing our work as a calling from God puts the challenge to “earn all you can” in the context of the larger purpose for our work. Wesley’s instruction is not merely to earn money for its own sake but to earn it for the higher purpose of fulfilling God’s intention for our lives. 

Contemplate the example of hard, honest work in Proverbs 31:10-31.

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

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