Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Christianity addresses itself to man as he is — as a citizen of the world, having work in the world to do. But as he belongs to another, and owes duties to it — the perfection in obedience consists in maintaining a just equipoise between the two. Religion is a discipline for the whole man. The workshop may be made as good a sanctuary as the cloister.
I. A LIFE OF ACTIVE USEFULNESS IS OBLIGATORY UPON ALL OF US.
1. Neither rank nor wealth can confer a prerogative to be idle. All God's gifts to us are for some beneficial use, and we dishonour them by allowing them to lie idle. Circumstances may determine for each what his work shall be. But the command to work is universal, and came in with the Fall.
2. And, for a fallen being, there is no reason but to believe such a command is merciful and wise. Continual employment keeps the soul from much evil. Active engagements, so long as they are not so engrossing as to draw our hearts away from better things, give a healthy tone to the mind and strengthen moral energy. Next to devotion (and a man cannot be engaged in that always), there is no relief against wearing anxieties so effectual as the necessity of engrossing work. With nothing to do but to sit still and hear the enemy of souls make the most and worst of our troubles, we should soon get to think ourselves the most ill-used people in the world, and murmur in secret both against God and man.
II. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE BUSIEST LIFE, AS SUCH, WHICH IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE CLAIMS OF PERSONAL RELIGION.
1. Scripture teems with examples of those who, while laborious in the duties of their station, were most exact in the duties which they owed to God. Leaving the greatest of all, look at Joseph, Moses, David and Daniel. And like examples the Church has had in all ages. Xavier among churchmen, Sir Matthew Hale among judges, Wilberforce and Buxton among statesmen, Gardiner and Havelock among soldiers, have all left records that prayer never spoiled work, and that work must never interfere with prayer.
2. But this compatibility of business with godliness does not rest upon specific acts or examples, though Hebrews 11 is full of them. Religion consists not so much in the super-addition of certain acts of worship to the duties of common life, as in leavening the latter with the spirit of the former, and life's common work will be accepted as worship if we set about it in a religious spirit. The husbandman when he tills the ground with a thankful heart, the merchant when for all success he gives God the glory, the servant who in all fidelity discharges the duties of his trust, each offering to God a continual sacrifice.
III. SO FAR FROM THE ACTIVE DUTIES OF LIFE PRESENTING ANY BARRIER TO OUR PROFICIENCY IN PERSONAL RELIGION, THEY ARE THE VERY FIELD IN WHICH ITS HIGHER GRACES ARE TO BE EXERCISED, AND ITS NOBLEST TRIUMPHS ARE TO BE ACHIEVED. We sometimes repine at the spiritual hindrances connected with our outward lot: but the hindrance is in ourselves. We have not practised ourselves in the worship of God in the world; the religion of the toiling hand or brain. Yet this is what is required of us, and that which has always distinguished the hard-working saints of God from the common run of men. Every lot in life will serve us with occasions of serving God. We may be diligent in business — even more diligent than other men — and yet the world will soon be able to take note of us that we have been with Jesus. Conclusion: Wherefore be it ours to find out the golden mean. "Be not righteous over much," as if saying prayers were everything. Be not careful over much, as if bread for the body were everything. We cannot neglect either, and may not disparage either; and therefore that which God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
(D. Moore, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;