Salt and Light: Living Righteously in an Entitlement Culture
Text: Genesis 2:1-2; 3:15, Exodus 23:12; Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
Theme: In a culture that increasingly “expects” the nanny state to take care of them, how should Christians living out being salt and light?
Date: 11172013 File Name: Salt_and_Light_05.wpd Sermon ID: 27
Christians are called to be Salt and Light. We are to live righteously in an unrighteous world as an example of God's ability to changes lives. There are certain behaviors and vices and activities we should not participate in. Not because we’re Baptists and Baptists don’t do certain things. Rather, because we’re Followers of Jesus who is the Christ.
In His Sermon of the Mount, Jesus told the crowd, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled," (Matthew 5:6). First and foremost that is a reference to His saving righteousness which brings eternal life. But He also calls us to care about living righteously in this world. Just a few verses later, Jesus goes on to say:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. " (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV)
These are powerful metaphors. Salt is a preservative that works only when it penetrates into food, and becomes useless when contaminated or diluted by other substances. It must remain pure to do its job. Jesus says that Christians, likewise, must penetrate society while keeping themselves from being influenced by sin in the world.
Similarly, light penetrates darkness. To know the truth and fail to stand for it, Jesus says, is as senseless as lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket. In other words, we’re not created to merely live out our faith inside the walls of our church and home. We are not to be “of the world” but we are compelled “to be in the world.” We are citizens of an Eternal Kingdom, who must participate in a fallen, reprobate culture as we seek to extend God’s Kingdom among the kingdoms of the earth.
One of the areas of life in which we need to be examples is in our work. Every able body Christian is to work. And when you work, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. Our last topic in this “Salt and Light” series is living righteously in an Entitlement Culture.
I. THE BIBLICAL TEXT
• “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:1–2, NIV)
• “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV)
• “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12, NIV)
• “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23–24, NIV)
1. from these texts and others, Christians understand labor as a duty
a. we discover in Genesis 2:15 that God put Adam in the Garden to work it and take
care of it
b. in Exodus 23:12 we’re told that our labor is for six days, and after that comes a day
of leisure and rest
2. what we sometimes forget is that labor is also a gift from which we reap blessings
a. God created us able to work—to manipulate things, to cultivate the ground, to
manage herds, and to invent microprocessors
b. furthermore, labor is a gift in that we can often see the result of our labors ...
1) the farmer sees the result of his labors in the orderly rows of crops
2) the carpenter sees the result of his labors in the beauty of his cabinet
3) the teacher sees the result of her labors in the education of students
4) the doctor is fulfilled in the recovering patient
5) the pastor is satisfied in the changed lives of his parishioners
3. still, many people have difficulty seeing labor—especially their own labor—as a gift
A. GOD AT WORK SETS THE EXAMPLE FOR US
1. Genesis 2:2 tells us that God had finished the work he had been doing
a. God is a worker
1) most of us don’t think of God this way, but that is how He initially reveals Himself
in the Scriptures
b. God is not idle—He is active in the universe He creates
1) and even though we’re told that God rested on the seventh day, it means that
God rested from His creative work, but not His sustaining work
2. God is not sitting on His throne merely admiring the handiwork of His universe
a. this was the Deist view of God—that He is like some great supernatural watchmaker
who created the universe, wound it up and now simply watches it tick by
b. the Biblical view is that God Created and continues to actively Sustains the created
c. this is the truth behind one of the great Christological passages of the New
"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15–17, NIV)
1) Jesus holds the material universe together—not only did Jesus create the
universe, He also sustains it—He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life's existence
4. the point? the Godhead is still at work in the universe He created
a. this leaves mankind an example to follow
B. MAN WAS CREATED TO WORK AND EMULATE GOD IN SO DOING
1. work is forever rooted in God's design for human life because we are God’s co-workers
a. our vocations are an avenue that allow us to contribute to the common good and as
a means of providing for ourselves, our families, and those we can bless with our generosity
2. God, therefore, invests work with intrinsic value and honor
a. Christians error when we divide life into two disconnected parts—the “sacred” and
1) we have been fooled into thinking that there is “God” and the “spiritual dimension
of our life”
a) this is what we do on Sunday and, perhaps if there is time, on Wednesday
2) then there is “Us” and the “real dimension of our lives”, including work and
everything else and the two have nothing to do with each other
a) God stays in His corner of the universe while I go to work and live my life, and
these different realms never interact
b. this is not how God intended for us to live
1) from the Biblical point of view there is no such area of life as the “secular”
because everything in the Christian’s life is about the “sacred”
3. one problem with this secular/sacred dichotomy of life is that it sets us up for
a. if you leave God out of the picture, you'll have to get your sense of importance,
fulfillment and reward from someplace else
1) for most Americans, that someplace else is our work or vocation
ILLUS. Think about it. One of the first things you find out about a person when you
meet them is what they do. Our identity as human beings is closely tied to the job that employs us.
b. in this secular/sacred dichotomy, work becomes the answer to the question, "Who
am I, and why am I important?"
1) that is a very shaky foundation—because what happens if you lose your job?
2) you're suddenly a "nobody," and you are not important because you are not
4. a second problem is that a purely secular view of work can make an idol of
career—career becomes the number one priority in your life, and God gets left out
a. this is particularly unacceptable for Christians, because God calls us to make Him
the center of our life
ILLUS. Dennis Crowder and the deacon who was “blessed”. Dennis prayed that God
would take the “blessings” away so the deacon would have time for church again.
1) for this deacon work had become an idol
b. God wants us to have a biblical worldview that weaves Him into every aspect of our
lives, including work
c. He wants to be invited into our work; He wants to be Lord of our work
C. SIN DISTORTED OUR WORKING PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD
1. Adam and Eve became self-centered, with the desire to take instead of give, and to
dominate instead of serve
a. the result of the Fall is seen in Genesis 3:17—work would now involve painful toil
b. toiling for God and with God was always part of the plan, but sin would now
complicate the effort
2. our work would no longer be completely efficient but would involve thorns and thistles
ILLUS. These thorns and thistles can be real—as any farmer, or landscaper, or gardener
could tell you. Thorns and thistles also come disguised in people. Ever have a co-worker who was the proverbial “burr under your saddle”?
a. the challenge for us is to recognize that even though labor can be hard and
challenging, we’ve been designed to work in tandem with God, not just for ourselves
II. THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
1. the doctrine of work teaches us that every Christian has a vocational calling to serve
God in the world in every sphere of human existence, lending a new dignity and meaning to ordinary work
2. and of course, from our biblical texts, we discover the there are some axioms or
principles about work that we need to learn
A. THROUGH WORK WE SERVE PEOPLE
1. most vocations are part of a huge network of interconnected jobs, industries, goods and
services that work together to meet people's physical needs
a. most of us work in jobs where we are cog in that interconnectedness of a larger
b. if we fail to do our job and do it well, we affect the whole
ILLUS. [Play Honda “The Cog” commercial].
2. through work we serve other people and Christians ought to be the very best servants
in whatever their vocation might be
B. THROUGH WORK WE MEET OUR OWN NEEDS
1. work allows us to exercise the gifts and abilities God gives each person, whether paid
2. God expects adults to provide for themselves and not mooch off others
a. the Apostle Paul was pretty blunt with the Thessalonian believers
b. he tells them "If one will not work, neither let him eat!" (2 Thess. 3:10)
“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7–10, ESV)
3. in this passage we see a number of “work principles” that Christians are to “flesh out” in
their daily lives
a. idleness should not be part of the Christian’s lifestyle
b. mooching off of other’s should not be part of the Christian’s lifestyle
c. toil and labor should characterize the life of the believer
1) both the word toil and labor imply hard work to the point where one feels a
weariness as though they’ve been beaten
2) the Apostle states that’s the kind of labor he and his compatriots experienced
3) they worked hard so they wouldn’t be a burden to those around them
d, our toil and labor becomes a witness and an example to those around us
4. when we toil and labor our own needs are meet
a. not only is their compensation for our work, but there will be satisfaction that we are
fulfilling our God-assigned role in His creation, and that brings glory and honor to the Father
C. THROUGH WORK WE MEET OUR FAMILY'S NEEDS
1. God expects the heads of households to provide for their families
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV)
ILLUS. One of my mother’s favorite phrase was, “Charity begins at home.”
a. in it’s proper balance there is a lot of wisdom in that statement
b. Christians work to provide for the needs of their family
2. in this verse, the Apostle Paul ties our faith and our labor together
a. Christians work to provide for their families
b. those who don’t reveal that their faith is not real!
D. THROUGH WORK WE EARN MONEY TO GIVE TO OTHERS
1. in both the Old and New Testaments, God tells us to be generous in meeting the needs
of the poor and those who minister to us spiritually
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28, ESV)
ILLUS. Early in the 20th Century, Milton S. Hershey became one of the wealthiest men of
his day. But working to amass wealth was not how Hershey defined his life. He measured his financial success in terms of what he could accomplish for others. He built a town that provided pleasant living conditions for his employees, a medical center, a family amusement park, and a school for underprivileged children. Milton Hershey loved to make chocolate, but to him, work was primarily a means to serve God and provide enjoyment to others.
2. working “only to have” is an American ideal, but it’s not biblical
a. the most radical thing about this text is that we’re commanded to work with a view
toward meeting the needs of others
b. in Christ, God calls us to have a new attitude toward work, and a new attitude toward
c. this is counter-cultural and radically revolutionary
E. THROUGH WORK WE LOVE GOD
1. here is the center of the Puritan Work Ethic—work is a spiritual activity!
a. we thoroughly misunderstand our Puritan forefathers if we think that they saw
personal industry as an end in itself
b. the Puritan doctrine of vocation sought to integrat life in the world with one’s spiritual
2. when the Puritans spoke of the rewards of work, they almost automatically paired
serving God with serving humanity
ILLUS. William Perkins, a 16th century Puritan theologian and clergyman, wrote: "The
main end of our lives is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings."
3. to work is to serve God by serving others
4. through work, therefore, we
• We Serve People
• We Meet Our Own Needs
• We Meet Our Family’s Needs
• We Meet Other’s Needs
• We Express Our Love for God
III. THE CULTURAL CHALLENGE
• The cultural challenge we face is a society where many of its citizens have developed an entitlement mentality. Society will always have that segment of its population who do not want to work, and, if you pay them not to, won’t. Given the choice between working and freeloading they would choose the latter. There are those in our society who like living off the largess of others—as if they were entitled. Now, before our retirees storm the pulpit with pitchforks and scythes, understand that I am not including Social Security or Medicare in my criticism. In Social Security and Medicare, the public is not looking for a handout. They are looking for a return on money invested throughout their working years.
• ILLUS. Shortly before his death, Mark Twain specified that his autobiography not be released until he had been dead for 100 years. He wanted to make sure that everyone he insulted in his final work would also be dead, along with close relatives. The autobiography was released in 2010, and there are plenty of the dead and buried insulted in it. But one group he insults is not only still alive—it’s growing by leaps and bounds. This group consists of people who look to nanny government for their sustenance, a group that has come to be known as the entitlement generation. In his autobiography Twain comments that “Any man who is satisfied to be fed by another man rather than by the honest sweat of his own brow should be shot.” Twain cites numerous occasions in his life when he was taken advantage of while trying to do a good deed for another man. Twain’s well-intentioned deeds typically consisted of providing for people who claimed to be down on their luck. In variably, the person “helped” did not appreciate the help, did not pay back the money Twain loaned him, and did not change their profligate ways. This situation should sound familiar to anyone aware of what has happened to America over the last twenty years. Mark Twain might have over stated his solution to this problem, but he at least recognized the need for a solution.
• A government that, for whatever reason, feeds an entitlement mentality in its citizens, is not doing those citizens any favor. To allow a man to live off the earnings of others is to rob that man of his dignity, ambition, and self-worth, not to mention robbing the giver of his hard-earned income.
• Reward sloth through government entitlements or any other means and you will get more sloth. It is really that simple. The entitlement mentality is more addictive than cocaine and it can spread faster than a virus. Allow a man to get used to being idle and he will want to be idle forever. Reward idleness with government entitlements and people will make a living from being idle.
IV. THE BELIEVER'S RESPONSE
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23–24, NIV)
A. CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE INDUSTRIOUS IN WHATEVER THEIR VOCATION
1. regardless of your vocation—whatever you do—Paul says, work at it with all your heart
a. the attitude that guides your industriousness is that you are working for the Lord and
not for human masters
b. ultimately it is the Lord Christ you are serving
2. God created us to be industrious as a reflection of His image in us
ILLUS. In his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, Kent Hughes writes: The way we work will
reveal how much we have allowed the image of God to develop in us. There is immense dignity in work and in being workers.”
Con. Believers are to be examples in all things including our work ethic. God's people are to be industrious and honest when it comes to our secular work. The reason is that even our “secular” work is not really secular at all, but has a spiritual purpose behind it.
ILLUS. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian of the early 20th century, once wrote; The first hour of the day belongs to God in worship, the other hours of the day belong to God in work.