Monday, September 5, 2016

Willy Wonka and a biblical worldview of work

The world grieved this past week when it was reported Jerome Silberman passed away after a three year bout with Alzheimer’s. He was 83 and a 1951 graduate of Washington High in Milwaukee. Always, a great admirer of Thornton Wilder, he first became interested in acting at age 8. His mother had been diagnosed with rheumatic fever. Her doctor told him to “try and make her laugh.” It’s when he began to realize how much he enjoyed making others laugh and knew he “was successful when I made her run to the bathroom.” Ultimately, he played 37 different roles but it was his mother’s illness that first got him into acting. He may be most famous for his role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While he may not have known it, Gene Wilder, lived out God’s Creative Mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 2:28). He “subdued” the earth, living out the abilities God created him with.
  Work is not part of the Curse, yet many Christians have a pagan worldview of work. Since it’s the Labor Day weekend, can we have a brief chat about a biblical worldview of work? I’m not suggesting I have all the answers, yet many commonly ones accepted by believers are unbiblical.
  Livin’ for the weekend is not a biblical mentality. We’ve been fed a lie that pleasure and fulfillment come from non-work time. It can quickly devolve into a repulsive narcissism of, “Me Time.” For the believer, work is as much worship as Sunday morning church. The polar opposite is just as wrong. One can make an idol out of their career and it becomes their number one priority. Their relationship with God takes a back seat along with marriage and family. Relationships become secondary to work. Life is filtered through: “What impact will this have on my career?”
  It’s helpful to envision that behind every company and employer stands the Lord Jesus. He sees everything we do. He appreciates it and will reward us, regardless of the type of work we do. We need to see the most menial job as a labor of love for Jesus. He notices it even if no one else does. In other words, work for an audience of One. As believers, we’re to view work as God’s good gift to us! He gave Adam and Eve the responsibility of cultivating the Garden, exercising dominion over the world before sin entered it. We’re created to work and to work for His glory (Eph. 6:5-8).  
  For the child of God, there is no “this world” retirement plan. Should Christians keep working until they unwrap their fingers from the keyboard? Absolutely not! Yet, read Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and you’ll never find “retirement” as most picture it. Work venues may change. The pace may slow. This outlook though I’m going to travel, golf each day, play cards, etc. and enjoy life for ME is selfish and sinful. While we may retire from our vocations, we never retire from serving the Lord, though the way we serve Him may change. Scripture overflows with accounts of elderly saints who had their greatest ministries after they were supposedly put out to pasture. Then, Titus 2 commands godly older men and women to teach, by example, younger men and women how to live for Jesus. It’s a biblically proactive choice instead of grumbling about younger people.  
  Scripture minces no words that an elderly person who lives for pleasure is dead while alive (1 Timothy 5:6). This is not to say retirees can’t enjoy pleasurable pursuits, but it’s wrong when it’s the primary focus of one’s life at any age. Many retirees miss their last best opportunity to invest in the spiritual welfare of their children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren because they’re self-absorbed. Most plan an inheritance. Yet, the greatest thing to “save up” for is one's spiritual heritage, to be passed on generationally. Future generations can be impacted by the godly example and faithful prayers of an elderly patriarch or matriarch.
  Labor unions are not evil…they’re a response to evil. (Jeremiah 17:9) I’m not suggesting Unions don’t sometimes go out of control. Personally, I’d be a bigger advocate of Unions if they’d self-monitor members, rather than having management go through hoops to terminate someone who’s slothful and irresponsible. Years ago I worked for UPS for a brief time. I remember thinking, “I’m glad we’re Teamsters. If we didn’t have a union, they’d kill us.” Unions are often a needed tool to protect workers from evil employers. I’ve worked for a few. Some sadly called themselves “Christians.” Our first loyalty must always be to King Jesus, not the Union.
  Government mandated increases of minimum wages is a political ploy with marginal results. Scripture states, “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). When the government becomes involved, it usually complicates things. Recently, I attended a conference where the barista only cost Starbucks electricity. It was a computer. Raising the minimum wage primarily hurts small companies. Even $15 an hour isn’t a livable wage for most, particularly someone living in an urban area or a married couple with a family. Unskilled labor is worthy of an unskilled wage. Raising the minimum wage will limit job opportunities for young people.
  If government wants to make a true societal difference, eliminate marriage penalties, increasing benefits to those who marry. Study after study corroborates that children raised in married, two parent homes do much better than those raised by a single parent or a cohabitation situation.  
  Personally, I believe it’s wrong when CEOs are paid exorbitantly while their employees are paid minimally. Yet, it seems hypocritical to complain about corporate CEOs, while those in the arts or sports are given a pass. Jennifer Lawrence may be a good actress but $205 million in one year is over the top. Is LeBron James really worth $100 million annually? And that doesn’t include his off court deals. Add to that, taxpayers are frequently asked to fund business remodeling for these millionaires, i.e. Miller Park. Yet, those same taxpayers often can’t afford to attend events their hard earned money is being extracted for by government edict. 
  Work isn’t part of the Curse. It’s God program for Kingdom advancement. For us to embrace this, we must take time to study Scripture, educating ourselves in a biblical worldview of godly labor practices. 

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