“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
- I once worked for a very large and profitable company for about eight years. I worked hard, never missed work, and I put all my energy into it. I worked my way up the ladder quickly and was being compensated very well with money for my work, my skills, my integrity, and my dedication. Many would say that I had “made it”. I, however, did not “find enjoyment in my toil”. My wisdom and knowledge revolved around that company. Every day I felt as though I was gathering and heaping all in vanity. I saw people everyday who lived their lives with their kids and families through their cellphones, missing events and chances for special moments every day, all as we worked tirelessly “chasing after wind”.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
- I began to realize that this work was “a stumbling block” to me. I was setting my mind not on divine things but on human things. The work required focus and commitment that left little time or ability to take up my cross and follow Jesus. But, for years I kept at it. My thoughts were that I was in this place to be a light. I was there for a reason, and the financial blessings were all in God’s plan for my family and extended family. I felt a superficial burden of needing to continue so that one day I could financially bless my parents, siblings, aunt and uncle, cousins, and do great things with money for the church and the mission. “These ‘six figures’ are going to change all of our lives,” is what my heart was focused on. All the while I knew Jesus’ words, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it,” and “what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life.” Looking back, my intentions seemed great, but although they were based on philanthropy, they were not set truly on divine things, but on worldly things.
Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying, and give me neither poverty nor riches:
Feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.
- I left this career path, on great terms, 2.5 years ago. I only halfway picked up my cross though, in some sort of internal compromise, as I joined the ranks of another large company that demanded the same things from my heart. My heart freely gave in to the grasping of worldly hope . My “falsehoods and lying” to myself continued until God took me out of this situation. I thank him often for understanding my failures in this story, and thank him for pushing me towards where he wanted me to go even if it was forcefully.
- I now spend a lot of time with my family. I do not live my two year old son’s life through my cell phone. My physical health is so much better. My mental health is starting to improve once again. Most importantly my life is centered (daily refocusing needed, of course) on divine things, and I am on a journey with God once again that is not in conflict with the rest of my life. Today I pray this Proverb regularly in one way or another!
- My point is this: Reflect on what you spend your time doing. You can have all the best human intentions, and good faith plans. You can even be happy. But if your heart is not set on divine things, then you have dropped your cross and are trying to save yourself. If you cannot pick up your cross and deny yourself in what you spend your time doing, then maybe you should reevaluate if you are toiling in vain on a path that leads away from Jesus.
-Doing Theology 04/13/2017