Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whistle While You Work #10: Love Your Neighbor, Work Well and Faithfully

I guess you could say I have a kind of posting ADD. I get doing other stuff, including preparing for sabbatical for the month of June (plus a few days in July), and my blogging fades to almost nothing. Anyhow, here’s the continuation of the work series: “Whistle While You Work” from my sermon more than a month ago. This is the last installment of how you love your neighbor with your work. It starts with a story, not sure if it is true or not, called “The Keeper of the Spring”…
There was once a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired by the young town council to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removing the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacations. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the millwheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farm lands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants was picturesque beyond description.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semi-annual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer.” By a unanimous vote, they dispensed the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was soon detected. The millwheels moved slower, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the

Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgment, they hired back the old keeper of the spring … and within a few weeks the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps once again.
You love your neighbor by doing your job faithfully. Whether you see it or not, or whether others appreciate you or not doesn’t matter. Doing your job well and faithfully is a legitimate and basic way to love your neighbor.

We know the counselor or doctor makes our lives better. Same with the police officer or teacher. Soldiers and firemen, too. But the trash man makes my world better, too. Really. Imagine the world without him – and we have diapers! I don’t know many farmers, but how thankful should we be for them? More thankful than I am, that’s for sure. I’m grateful for the scientists who come up with pain relief from the range of Advil for sore knees to numbing my body for surgery. McDonald’s may not be the dream job for many (or any) of us, but what a gift for a quick bite to eat when we’re in a rush (just don’t Super-Size Me!). You get the idea. (There’s an excerpt of The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell in Working: Its Meaning and Its Limits edited by Meilaender that does a great job in pointing out the value of coal miners).

Whistle while you work because your work is a way for you to honor God by fulfilling the second commandment…
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." – Matthew 22:35-40

How has God used your work for the good of your neighbor, or how are you challenged to do a better job of using your work to honor Him?

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