This is a continuation of my Watermelon Sermon from August 8, 2010 and my Watermelon Part 2 sermon from August 15, 2010
The watermelon metaphor helps us to understand that transformation in the Christian life from the before Christ state (old man) to the after Christ state (new man) is a transformation from the inside out and that new man is different. The first area we talked about was The New Man Speaks Truth, secondly the New Man Expresses Anger Without Sin. We continue with…
The New Man Gives
We were created to work, as God works. The Biblical paradigm for working is found in the creation story and the creation commandments (or mandates as many call them). We find a model for our labor practices in the creation story which speaks of the work of God in creation as consisting of 6 days, and of resting on the Sabbath. Often when we speak of the Sabbath it is reduced down to one day, but the Sabbath command is as much about the 6 days of labor as it is about the one day of rest. The labor is the reason for the rest – don’t work and you won’t need to rest. In Exodus where Ten Commandments are listed, the Sabbath day command consists of four verses whereas murder gets one simple phrase. The sabbath command is as much a command about 6 days as it is about 1 day. The sabbath controversy today is a detour. It keeps us focused on the wrong emphasis. The Sabbath is not about what day we worship, it is about resting after labor. The resting part is only one part of the whole command and emphasis though – the underlying foundational assumption of Sabbath is labor!
To labor is to fulfill our purpose. We were created for work, we were redeemed so that our work might become “good work” that we might perform good works. Work finds its root in the mandates given at creation. We are told to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, and subdue the earth and rule over it. We can fit our labor into these broad categories: producing, creating, building, managing. We do these things in our environment with the resources and strengths that God has given us. When we do our labor in the broadest sense to manage the earth, serve people and glorify God we have put our labor into the context of the sacred and obedient. It becomes fulfilling, meaningful and important.
Paul also mentions stealing in this passage, and giving. There is a Ten Commandment connection here as well. Two command correspond: Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not covet. These are related to labor and the reasons that we labor. Here are some basic reasons that we work:
We work so that we won’t steal.
7 Two things I asked of Thee, Do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9 Lest I be full and deny Thee and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.
(Pro 30:7-9 NAS)
We want to connect this verse with the theme of Ephesians 4, truth. Stealing is lying about our possessions, it says that something rightfully belongs to me when in fact it belongs to others. Stealing is lying with regard to what is ours.
We work so that we might not burden others
1Th 4:11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; 1Th 4:12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
2Th 3:6-8 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
2Th 3:11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
There is this basic reason for work, God has no room for freeloaders. We are called to take care of our own needs by working. The sloth is berated in the Psalms, looked down on in real life. The new man is not a slacker. When I work, provide and have good things from God and couple that with a joyful and grateful heart, coveting diminishes.
We work so that we might help others
Act 20:34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.
Act 20:35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. “
Like the words of Jesus in the beatitudes, Paul takes us beyond the simple command of not stealing or coveting. The higher calling of our work is not simply to keep our hands clean from the dirt of thievery, or to get us enough stuff to not have to covet my neighbors stuff, rather it is to put myself into a position to give.
The New Man is like Christ in that he takes the commands to their highest possible expression – not simply the managing of the old fleshly habits and the restriction of their expression, but he begins to press on to be like Christ who gave to the point of death on the cross. We labor so that we might have the resources to bless others, not increase our pleasure. The New Man recognizes that the pleasures of this life are passing and exchanges the pursuit of them for the pursuit of the servant and sacrificing character of Christ that recognizes it is more blessed to give than to receive or accumulate, and that since we freely received we should freely give.
I split this weeks sermon into several blog posts…so still to come this week from Ephesians 4:25-32:
- The New Man is Gracious
- The New Man does not Grieve the Spirit