Pastoral Letter 16 Jan 2022
My dear readers,
“The Impetus to Toil”
Proverbs 16:26: “He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.”
According to https://revisesociology.com/2016/08/16/percentage-life-work/, an average person works 92,120 hours in his lifetime (calculated from the age of 18 to 68 years). “If we take the average amount of hours worked per week which was 39.2 hours in 2014 according to the annual survey of hours and earnings, then you will work a total of 92,120 hours in the course of your working life (based on a rough calculation of 39.2 hours *(52-5 = 47 weeks to take account of holidays)*50 years). Expressed as terms of a percentage of your life, this 39.2 hours a week spent working is equivalent to –
Why does man work so much and for so long of his short life? The answer from the Bible is the curse of God upon man! Genesis 3:17-19: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” [Emphasis added]
Man’s body came out of the dust of the ground. Therefore, on the dust of the ground he will depend for his survival. Before he sinned against God he did not have to toil to eat, but he still needed to eat. After the fall of man into sin, he would have to toil to live. Toiling is very good for man, even though he tries his best to make it as easy as possible to find food. The inventions of mechanised farming, air-conditioning to keep places of work more comfortable, and modern living are some of the evidences that man tries to overcome his curse. But toiling is good for man so that he has fewer hours a day to sin against God and man. Imagine if he does not have to work hard at all and food just appears on his table, he will spend all his waking hours sinning against God. All the hours he spent toiling to eke out a living are hours that he will not sin, and spend fruitfully to keep his body and soul together. Society will not be ruined and fall into total corruption so rapidly especially so if man lives eight to nine hundred years like before the global flood!
God’s people need to understand the reason for working hard.
Proverbs 16:26 restates this truth but with a spiritual significance when applied to God’s people. The literal translation is: “The soul who labours labours for himself; it craves upon him for his mouth.” The word “laboureth” means “to toil severely with irksomeness.” No matter how much man hates toiling, he must keep at it. He may try to have quick cash without toil such as gambling to lighten his load but it is to no avail. The reason is that “his mouth craveth it of him.” The word “craveth” occurs only here in the Old Testament. It means “to curve as with a burden.” What an accurate way to describe a mouth that must open because the body is desperately in need of food. The mouth is the only organ given to man by God for the sustenance of the earthen vessel. Hunger is a very powerful motivating force that is part of God’s design to keep man toiling till the end of his life. His sins will be curbed to delay the fullness of man’s sinfulness so that the wrath of God will not fall upon man so soon. This gives sinful man more time to repent and God's servants more opportunities to serve.
This craving applies also to the spiritual realm. The toiling of God's children in the study of His holy Word and in service is due to his hunger for God’s Word (the spiritual milk and meat). It is also a hunger to spend time with God due to the love of God that burns in every believer’s heart! Has not the love of God been shed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to ensure that this fire of love for God burns brightly? This “craving” constrained by the love of Christ enables every believer to serve with devotion, diligence and faithfulness asking nothing in return from the LORD and God’s people. It is a sacrificial joyful service of toiling till exhaustion to the last breath.
The believer knows that his witness for Christ is at stake. It is a holy witness that he has been building since the day of his first meeting with Christ, his Lord and Saviour. He never forgot that blessed day when his LORD transformed him from a wretched sinner to a glorious saint, even a child of God! From that point onwards he has been tasting the grace, mercies and goodness of his heavenly Father and his Lord Jesus Christ every step of the way and over every trial and obstacle. He experiences the inner strength of the Spirit of God helping him to stand firm and true to righteousness and not to succumb to the seductive temptations that the evil one places in front of him.
He never forgot the day when the Word of God became the light unto his path and lamp unto his feet to guide him every step of the way. It is a Book that he read before salvation but did not understand and experience its power until Christ opened his blind eyes to see into the past and future with faith! How can he not labour as an unprofitable labourer with the burning fire of love in his heart for his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?! His craving for service and worship and devotion to his LORD is sustained by the craving of his soul that is born again and made alive in Christ. He does not want it to stop, knowing that his labour on earth will soon be over and he will not be able to labour any further on earth.
This impetus of Christ’s love is the spiritual craving every child of God needs. He must realize it is present in every born-again believer’s heart. The Holy Spirit placed it there the moment we became children of God. Let us toil on faithfully for our Saviour, dear readers, till His glorious return. It will be worth it all. Amen.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew