In our previous article we tried to face the problem that confronts us as Christians in the field of Labor—in that field with all its carnal strivings, with all its perversions of the meaning of the work of our hands.
Certainly for the Christian whose lot is cast into a daily first-hand contact with this sphere of life the problems must be overwhelming, the perplexities the temptations, the confusion would seem to make impossible any intelligent attitude toward it all.
And yet we believe that for the Christian the guidance also for this sphere is given in the Scriptures.
Do we not believe that the Christian is saved from the whole dominion of the devil over his entire creaturely human life? Do we not believe that the Christian is sanctified and redirected by the Holy Spirit so that his whole existence is changed? We believe that we are created unto Good works, we believe that we are thoroughly equipped unto these good works, we believe that all Scripture is given for this purpose of equipping us and that the Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
If this is our confession then we certainly believe that it covers every hour of our day. We cannot assume that the largest part of the Christian’s life, the eight or ten working hours of his day is somehow left outside of this redemption and restoration. Thus they would be left in the tangle of a crooked world, rather futile, rather meaningless, with no guidance or direction.
Also this part of our life as Christians has meaning, purpose, direction.
Is it not remarkable that the ordinances for this sphere of life can be traced and that they give direction in this respect.
I will not forget that on this point we have been especially warned in recent years. We have been set on our guard against natural theology, natural law, natural ethics, and have been pointed back to the word, to the written revelation of God as it is booked for our guidance.
Calvin said that God has revealed Himself to us through two means of revelation, namely thru nature and thru the Scriptures. But then he added that they are used in such a way that the Bible must first be taken and understood, and it must be the spectacles through which we look at nature and gather its God-inscribed thoughts.
Thus then we can learn from nature, its ordinances for life. In this work material which God has given to man for cultivation, the Most High has Himself interwoven the laws by which it must be cultivated.
In the prophecies of Isaiah we have a classic passage for this principle. In order to illustrate with a parable the wisdom and equity and timeliness of God’s deeds of judgment and salvation, the prophets refer to the farmer’s methods. He says, “Doth he that ploweth for sowing plow continually, doth he continually open and harrow his ground? When he has leveled the face thereof does he not broadcast the fitches, and scatter the cummin and put the wheat in rows and the barley in its appointed place and the spelt in the borders? For his God doth instruct him aright and doth teach him”. The prophet continues to show that the same wise care and discretion is used in threshing and preserving the various kind of grains. And again he comments, “This also cometh from Jehovah of Hosts who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom. (Isa. 28:23-29).
God instructs man how to labor intelligently, purposefully.
In the creatures, in the working material itself, the laws and ordinances for purposeful culture are given. If it is used in one way it gives usefulness and profit. If it is used or treated in another way it causes complications and trouble and loss.
This principle is true all along the line. If the farmer simply kept on plowing and harrowing without end it would get too late for sowing. And if he plants too deep or two shallow he will get only half a crop, but if he carefully strikes the right depth he gets a well-nigh perfect stand. And each grain requires its own particular kind of threshing implement and its own particular kind of treatment.
Delitzech in his Commentary translates the conclusion as follows: This also, it goeth forth from Jehovah of Hosts. He gives wonderful intelligence, high understanding.
And so there is no question but that our work, our daily occupation with the creature,, that God has placed in our hands that we should cultivate it and develop it, carries in itself the laws by which it must be developed.
This, which can be seen in the simple task of sowing and harvesting also extends through the more complicated forms of activity. The new Christian philosophy developed in the Netherlands is wont to emphasize that all human effort in the cultivation of the creature in the history of men is kept in certain bonds by the inherent laws which God gave it. Man is restrained by the very laws that lie in the creature that he handles. He is restrained from going to excesses which make life and society and development impossible. Thus life is hedged in and stays more or less in the middle of the road and moves on toward the end of history and development.
We understand that this has nothing to do with grace, common grace. It is God’s way of giving man his task and holding him to it.
Now if it is true for the natural man, the man without God, how much more true it is for the Christian.
If it is true that the rebellious sinner who does not with his cultivation of the earth, with his cultural activities, want to arrive at the goal, at the end station which God has set, how much more true is it of the Christian who desires to arrive, with all that he has and is, at the end which God has set before him.
Once more, if it is true that the rebellious sinner is for a long way restrained and held down the middle of the road, how much more will it not be true for the Christian whose conscious purpose is to follow this road of obedience and love and service of God to the very end consecrating all that God has placed under his hands and superintendence.
Now in earlier articles we have pointed out that the Christian takes this simple elementary knowledge of sowing and harvesting, of processing and developing and puts it to work in a higher plane. We as Christians carry this into the life of social relationships. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. We shall work with our hand the thing that is good, advance our neighbors welfare, feed the poor, clothe the naked, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also likewise unto them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).
To be sure even for the Christian with the light of God’s word shining on his pathway and on the work of his hands, this becomes a very complicated task in this world where also the field of labor seems completely dominated by the distortion and perversion of sinful men.
In a following article we shall advance a step in tracing this path of purposeful, beneficent, Christian labor.