Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –
for He grants sleep to those He loves.
– Psalm 127:1-2
I never quite knew what to make of those last two lines. But I think I get it now – it is God who provides all things, not our work and efforts or intelligence.
Seems simple enough, but that’s a hard thought for most of us to deal with. It offends our dignity, insults our pride. How could you say my work is in vain? All my hard work!
And then, if it isn’t our work that puts food on the table and a roof over our heads, why are we working??
Does this mean we don’t need to work? No. What it does is give new meaning to our work. Wait, what? Meaning? You said it was in vain! Yes, well, here’s the thing: If you look at the work people do and the outcomes they get, oftentimes, they make sense – you work hard, you earn money, you live well. But a lot of times, they don’t – you work overtime, harder than anyone else, but then you get laid off. A kid works hard in school, does amazing things outside of the classroom, has a dazzlingly bright future ahead of him, but then he dies. Look around – signs of the futility of our work and efforts are everywhere. Christians attribute this to God’s sovereignty, and with that come a whole lot of questions about God’s goodness and the problem of evil and etc that I won’t get into right now.
For now, I’m just going to write from the perspective of someone who trusts God’s goodness and will, even though she doesn’t always understand it. The fact that God tells me my work is in vain is a relief because it means that I am safe in God’s hands. What I do or don’t do doesn’t negate His care for and attention to every detail of my life. He is Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. He promises to provide. And because my well-being is not dependent on my work, I no longer need to strive (work) to earn anything or to prove myself. He has done that for me. I now work only to bring Him glory – by allowing His work to define me.
More on this another time, perhaps. It seems to be the lesson of the week – learning to rest in His finished work on the cross.