The faith to be idle

Longtime commenter on this blog Dan Kempin has posted on his church’s website these reflections on  Proverbs 23:4:  “Do not wear yourself out to get rich;  Have the wisdom to show some restraint.” (NIV)

 Ask the young what they want their life to be in ten or twenty years and you will hear a great variety of hopes and dreams and aspirations with one thing in common: “Oh, and I want to be rich.” (I know, because I ask the young that question every chance I get.) We live also in a land of great opportunity where work is rewarded and where those who are gifted and bold can literally build a fortune. It is the American Dream because it is the dream of the human heart. (And because it is possible in America.) And so we study. We work. We dream. We work. Sometimes we even buy lottery tickets or stop by the casino because, you know, it just might be our chance to get rich.

But the proverb warns us here, and the interesting thing is that it does not warn us against wealth. It does not denigrate the rich or even say that it is wrong to pursue riches. It says, “Do not wear yourself out . . .” Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.   It’s not worth it.

 So, then, let me pose a few questions: How have things been in your life lately? Hectic? Busy? Are you feeling a bit . . . worn out? Do you feel, at times, that there is not enough time in the day and that you are stretched too thin by your commitments? (Or do you just feel that way ALL the time?)
You see, I think our culture is in real trouble about this. For some reason we have gotten to a point where we fill our lives up to the point of bursting. Work, school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies . . . everything is an OBLIGATION, and it is relentless. Whether blessed with a highly successful career, or struggling to make ends meet, there seems to be no difference in this regard: We are so BUSY that we are wearing ourselves out. . . .

We can accomplish so much more so much more easily than previous generations with all of our labor saving devices. I seem to recall that those devices were invented so that we would have time to relax. Yet every minute we save, we quickly fill with something else! It is almost a cultural compulsion. Is this really good? Does it really serve God to rush through life at maximum speed by devoting ourselves to so many different things that we are too worn out to truly enjoy any of them? (And by our example teaching our children to do the same.)

Or perhaps we deprive ourselves of that joy because in some way we feel guilty doing so. It is a guilt that we accept without thinking by letting someone else set our agenda of expectation. I have to be THAT mom; I have to provide THIS standard of living for my family. I have to say YES to everything that is asked of me. I can’t let THAT person down. I need to be a starter in ANY sport I pursue. Do we devote ourselves to these things because we truly love them? Or do we, perhaps, wear ourselves out chasing them because we think that they will fulfill our deeper need to be accepted and approved? Yet even as we choose voluntarily to overburden ourselves, we paradoxically long to be free of the very things we choose to pursue. . . .

Have the wisdom to say no. Have the wisdom to be less than perfect. Have the wisdom to not be a hero without feeling like a failure. Have the wisdom to settle for less than your maximun potential. Have the wisdom to, you know, do nothing every now and then, and instead of chafing at your idleness or the things that are not done, remember that everything you see in creation was provided by God without your assistance. He didn’t need your reminder to send fall, even though you nearly missed it for being so busy. And your place in His kingdom was purchased and prepared (without your assistance) long before you became so important.

And it will be ready for you when it is time for you to set all of this busy-ness aside and come home.
The question is whether we will arrive at that day by collapsing in a heap of miserable exhaustion, or whether we can discover the Lord’s own command of “Sabbath.” Rest. Do you have the faith to be idle?

via “Do not wear yourself out . . .” – Pastors’ Blog – St John’s Lutheran Midland MI.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    These are really good insights! Comes down to greed and it’s nothing new, as the story of Icarus shows. It’s the basis for the proliferation of performance-enhancing medications in the athletic, academic and workplace settings and Dan is absolutely right that it is a huge problem in our culture. Excellent post!

  • Pete

    These are really good insights! Comes down to greed and it’s nothing new, as the story of Icarus shows. It’s the basis for the proliferation of performance-enhancing medications in the athletic, academic and workplace settings and Dan is absolutely right that it is a huge problem in our culture. Excellent post!

  • Susan

    After reading this post, I read another one by Rod Dreher that seems to put an exclamation point on Dan’s insights. I think others may find it worth reading also:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2011/09/30/community-long-loneliness-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-long-loneliness-america

  • Susan

    After reading this post, I read another one by Rod Dreher that seems to put an exclamation point on Dan’s insights. I think others may find it worth reading also:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2011/09/30/community-long-loneliness-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-long-loneliness-america

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    How true, how true.

    I’ve had conversations with my wife about this, how I don’t want our children to be doing a million things after school, but rather to do just a few things and develop skills in those areas. Greed and unchecked ambition can be slow killers.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    How true, how true.

    I’ve had conversations with my wife about this, how I don’t want our children to be doing a million things after school, but rather to do just a few things and develop skills in those areas. Greed and unchecked ambition can be slow killers.

  • Dennis Peskey

    “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Perhaps a reminder is in order to keep our eyes fixed on Christ who richly and daily provides all that we need.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Perhaps a reminder is in order to keep our eyes fixed on Christ who richly and daily provides all that we need.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Maybe its just me, but this problem seems enhanced to a very high degree here in Utah, especially amongst Christians, myself included, finding ourselves too often trying t keep up to a culture defined everywhere around us by an impoverished portion of grace set alongside a long long list of dos and donts and “words of wisdom”. Lord, give me grace to instead trust and be content and find my rest in Jesus alone and in the free and already-worked-for forgiveness of all my sins. Amen to Dennis @ 4.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Maybe its just me, but this problem seems enhanced to a very high degree here in Utah, especially amongst Christians, myself included, finding ourselves too often trying t keep up to a culture defined everywhere around us by an impoverished portion of grace set alongside a long long list of dos and donts and “words of wisdom”. Lord, give me grace to instead trust and be content and find my rest in Jesus alone and in the free and already-worked-for forgiveness of all my sins. Amen to Dennis @ 4.

  • LAJ

    Shall we return to Sundays of visiting friends and relatives and older people who don’t have enough to do? Sounds good to me! Someday we will be the older person who is bored silly because everyone else is running around being too busy. : )

  • LAJ

    Shall we return to Sundays of visiting friends and relatives and older people who don’t have enough to do? Sounds good to me! Someday we will be the older person who is bored silly because everyone else is running around being too busy. : )

  • MHB

    At times it helps me in this regard just to read fiction for pleasure, and lately it’s been Wendell Berry. His stories include hard working people — very hard working — who are not wearing themselves out to get rich.

    Thanks for the post!

  • MHB

    At times it helps me in this regard just to read fiction for pleasure, and lately it’s been Wendell Berry. His stories include hard working people — very hard working — who are not wearing themselves out to get rich.

    Thanks for the post!

  • fws

    laj @6

    Bless you in that thought!

  • fws

    laj @6

    Bless you in that thought!

  • DonS

    Well said, Dan.

  • DonS

    Well said, Dan.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Yes, I agree that it’s not good to wear yourself out to be rich…but then in his examples he describes people who fill up their time with all kinds of leisure activities, things that people do that have nothing at all to do with getting wealthy.

    As someone working hard just to keep up financially, I want to say, oh puh-leeze. It kind of implies that we all have the option to just slow down and smell the flowers whenever we want, that all our hard workdis driven purely out of vanity or false guilt.

    I don’t work Sundays, but it seems this article was about more than just “the sabbath”. It’s about problems rich people have (even if you don’t think of yourself as rich)

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Yes, I agree that it’s not good to wear yourself out to be rich…but then in his examples he describes people who fill up their time with all kinds of leisure activities, things that people do that have nothing at all to do with getting wealthy.

    As someone working hard just to keep up financially, I want to say, oh puh-leeze. It kind of implies that we all have the option to just slow down and smell the flowers whenever we want, that all our hard workdis driven purely out of vanity or false guilt.

    I don’t work Sundays, but it seems this article was about more than just “the sabbath”. It’s about problems rich people have (even if you don’t think of yourself as rich)

  • Dan Kempin

    Thanks, all, for the feedback and kind words.

    The nub of thought that led to this has been a consideration of our acknowledged tendency to overburden and stress and it’s relationship to the third commandment. In Lutheranism the third commandment has been understood and taught–rightly, of course–to encompass God’s Word and its proclamation. I wonder, though, if we are compelled to stop there. Is there more that we can understand from this commandment by the very command to “rest?” What does that mean, and how can it help us in this particular struggle? I wouldn’t mind hearing some of you kick that around.

  • Dan Kempin

    Thanks, all, for the feedback and kind words.

    The nub of thought that led to this has been a consideration of our acknowledged tendency to overburden and stress and it’s relationship to the third commandment. In Lutheranism the third commandment has been understood and taught–rightly, of course–to encompass God’s Word and its proclamation. I wonder, though, if we are compelled to stop there. Is there more that we can understand from this commandment by the very command to “rest?” What does that mean, and how can it help us in this particular struggle? I wouldn’t mind hearing some of you kick that around.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think Joel’s on to something (@10).

    The proverb says what it says, and it is, of course, good advice. The love of money (which would almost certainly lead one to wear himself out, in deeping with that “love”) being, you know …

    But that’s a different subject than addressing the hectic pace of life, isn’t it? I mean, of the things Dan lists — “work, school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies” — how many are actually about “getting rich”?

    And if “family” and “friends” are to be avoided for the sake of relaxing, that would certainly fly in the face of what LAJ got from Dan’s writing (@6). If anything, I would think that we would be urged to cut back on work, school, sports, facebook, clubs, and hobbies so that we could spend more time with family and friends. You know, the things that matter. Our vocations as, well, family members and friends. Loving our neighbors. Not chasing after the pointless things in life. No?

    Trust me, as the parent of a two-year-old, I know that it’s good to take some “me time” now and then so that I’m not worn out, so that I can perform my fatherly duties to the best of my ability. Which is why I thank God that my son still has a rather lengthy nap in the middle of the day. Or else I’d never have time to set up the raised beds.

    But then, might I be chastised for failing to relax? Ought I be merely lying there on the couch instead of working in the yard? But I enjoy working in the yard. It’s relaxing in emotional and mental ways, even if it also is a bit more demanging of my physical self.

    It’s always a danger to think that a pastor isn’t referring to you, but I have to wonder if this message is aimed at some other part of our culture — one I either am not terribly exposed to or have yet to join (perhaps when I have two teenagers some day, God willing).

    And yet, when I read Dan’s exhortation, I find myself confused. What, exactly, is the ideal being pictured here? I feel like I’m being exhorted to spend time doing literally nothing, instead of filling my “down time” visiting with friends, going out for coffee with the family, commenting on Facebook, or doing the crossword. But if those things are relaxing — and especially if they are acts of love to my family and neighbors — are they really to be decried?

    Or have I missed the point?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think Joel’s on to something (@10).

    The proverb says what it says, and it is, of course, good advice. The love of money (which would almost certainly lead one to wear himself out, in deeping with that “love”) being, you know …

    But that’s a different subject than addressing the hectic pace of life, isn’t it? I mean, of the things Dan lists — “work, school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies” — how many are actually about “getting rich”?

    And if “family” and “friends” are to be avoided for the sake of relaxing, that would certainly fly in the face of what LAJ got from Dan’s writing (@6). If anything, I would think that we would be urged to cut back on work, school, sports, facebook, clubs, and hobbies so that we could spend more time with family and friends. You know, the things that matter. Our vocations as, well, family members and friends. Loving our neighbors. Not chasing after the pointless things in life. No?

    Trust me, as the parent of a two-year-old, I know that it’s good to take some “me time” now and then so that I’m not worn out, so that I can perform my fatherly duties to the best of my ability. Which is why I thank God that my son still has a rather lengthy nap in the middle of the day. Or else I’d never have time to set up the raised beds.

    But then, might I be chastised for failing to relax? Ought I be merely lying there on the couch instead of working in the yard? But I enjoy working in the yard. It’s relaxing in emotional and mental ways, even if it also is a bit more demanging of my physical self.

    It’s always a danger to think that a pastor isn’t referring to you, but I have to wonder if this message is aimed at some other part of our culture — one I either am not terribly exposed to or have yet to join (perhaps when I have two teenagers some day, God willing).

    And yet, when I read Dan’s exhortation, I find myself confused. What, exactly, is the ideal being pictured here? I feel like I’m being exhorted to spend time doing literally nothing, instead of filling my “down time” visiting with friends, going out for coffee with the family, commenting on Facebook, or doing the crossword. But if those things are relaxing — and especially if they are acts of love to my family and neighbors — are they really to be decried?

    Or have I missed the point?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oof, such typos (@12)!

    The second paragraph should read “in keeping with that ‘love’.” And it should be “demanding of my physical self” in paragraph six.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oof, such typos (@12)!

    The second paragraph should read “in keeping with that ‘love’.” And it should be “demanding of my physical self” in paragraph six.

  • Dan Kempin

    Joel D, #10,

    Your response seems very appropriate for the proverb itself, which does not talk about leisure but the struggle to improve or maintain one’s position. But the warning is not a prohibition of work or even the struggle, but of devoting ourselves to the struggle in such a way (I believe) that we sacrifice our health. (Take that on any level you like–physical, spiritual, emotional.)

    The fascinating thing is that in OUR culture, there seems to be no finish line. Nobody, rich or poor, seems to know how to back off and be content. Those who are financially secure seem just as burdened with committments freely chosen as are those for whom letting up would have more dire consequences. That is truly amazing to me. So yes, you are right. This line of thought is very much about the problems that rich people have.

    I would even say that it is more about attitude than it is about actual work load. I don’t think it is the amount of work that is “wearing us out.” I think there is a deeper, spiritual issue.

  • Dan Kempin

    Joel D, #10,

    Your response seems very appropriate for the proverb itself, which does not talk about leisure but the struggle to improve or maintain one’s position. But the warning is not a prohibition of work or even the struggle, but of devoting ourselves to the struggle in such a way (I believe) that we sacrifice our health. (Take that on any level you like–physical, spiritual, emotional.)

    The fascinating thing is that in OUR culture, there seems to be no finish line. Nobody, rich or poor, seems to know how to back off and be content. Those who are financially secure seem just as burdened with committments freely chosen as are those for whom letting up would have more dire consequences. That is truly amazing to me. So yes, you are right. This line of thought is very much about the problems that rich people have.

    I would even say that it is more about attitude than it is about actual work load. I don’t think it is the amount of work that is “wearing us out.” I think there is a deeper, spiritual issue.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #12,

    A clarification: The part of the proverb that caught my attention was not the “to get rich” part, but the “do not wear yourself out” part. Does it fly in the face of the third commandment to wear ourselves out? That is what I am wondering. It doesn’t matter, really, if it is for money or approval or the expectations of others. I think the wisdom of the proverb applies in a larger context.

    My point, I suppose, is that so much of what we do (if I may be permitted to speak in generalities) we are DRIVEN to do. We are chastized by expectations both implicit and explicit to add a bit more, and then, as you say, we are “chastized for failing to relax.” The point isn’t what we do, but in whether we have the freedom to enjoy what we do without feeling driven. I agree with you that a day of physical work can be a most relaxing and refreshing time. But that relaxation is largely destroyed if I feel guilty for taking the time to do it.

    But the question I pose is diagnostic: Do we have the faith to be idle? This is not to extol the virtues of idleness, but to test our assumptions. I remeber a dear family friend who loved to entertain and constantly bustle about in the kitchen. As she grew older, her children would sometimes insist that she sit down for a while and let them work. I never saw her as miserable and uncomfortable as during those five or ten minutes that she chafed in the chair.

    So no, I am not decrying those activities in which we find relaxation. I am concerned that some people are losing the ability to relax. No, not to relax. That is too limited. I am wondering if the idea of “Sabbath rest” defines a wholesome type of relaxation that is based on more than just a “break” from work, but on a larger perspective of faith that allows us to work joyfully, rest peaceably, and truly enjoy life.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #12,

    A clarification: The part of the proverb that caught my attention was not the “to get rich” part, but the “do not wear yourself out” part. Does it fly in the face of the third commandment to wear ourselves out? That is what I am wondering. It doesn’t matter, really, if it is for money or approval or the expectations of others. I think the wisdom of the proverb applies in a larger context.

    My point, I suppose, is that so much of what we do (if I may be permitted to speak in generalities) we are DRIVEN to do. We are chastized by expectations both implicit and explicit to add a bit more, and then, as you say, we are “chastized for failing to relax.” The point isn’t what we do, but in whether we have the freedom to enjoy what we do without feeling driven. I agree with you that a day of physical work can be a most relaxing and refreshing time. But that relaxation is largely destroyed if I feel guilty for taking the time to do it.

    But the question I pose is diagnostic: Do we have the faith to be idle? This is not to extol the virtues of idleness, but to test our assumptions. I remeber a dear family friend who loved to entertain and constantly bustle about in the kitchen. As she grew older, her children would sometimes insist that she sit down for a while and let them work. I never saw her as miserable and uncomfortable as during those five or ten minutes that she chafed in the chair.

    So no, I am not decrying those activities in which we find relaxation. I am concerned that some people are losing the ability to relax. No, not to relax. That is too limited. I am wondering if the idea of “Sabbath rest” defines a wholesome type of relaxation that is based on more than just a “break” from work, but on a larger perspective of faith that allows us to work joyfully, rest peaceably, and truly enjoy life.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Well Dan (@11), if nothing else, you got me to read Luther’s explanation for the Third Commandment from the Large Catechism. So that’s a good thing. You all should go read it, too. I was edified.

    Anyhow, yes, I believe that there is something to be learned from the command to “not do any work”. As Luther points out, such rest is good

    for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.

    Of course, in the modern world, even many in the working class automatically get two days off to rest, not just one. But, yes, there is a tendency to make those days every bit as wearying as the days on which we actually work for a living. This wears down the body, the mind, and so on.

    And yet, any of the things you list besides work — “school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies” — could be used rightly to our refreshment or abused wrongly to our detriment.

    I’ll speak to my own predilections. Facebook is certainly a gift from God in that it allows us to catch up with friends and find some entertaining stuff with which to pass some idle time, perhaps with a nice cup of coffee. It is, however, easy to make it an obsession, something that demands your time, possibly to such a degree that you have less time to do other things you need or wish to do, which means your future will be even more hectic. This, of course, is not at all relaxing.

    But I think I better understand what you mean by the “faith to be idle”. That is, the faith to believe that it is God, not you, in control. That God will — in fact, has — provided for you. To rest is to celebrate God’s provision, to acknowledge that He has given you what you needed, and that you cannot add to it by your own labor.

    Still, I wonder if it’s right to consider the command to “not do any work” separately from the command to observe a time as “holy” — that is, to meditate on God’s Word. After all, it is only in God’s Word that we read about the True Rest that we receive from God, and that not by our own efforts or busyness. There we read God’s promises which are the only thing that could truly cause us to relax.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Well Dan (@11), if nothing else, you got me to read Luther’s explanation for the Third Commandment from the Large Catechism. So that’s a good thing. You all should go read it, too. I was edified.

    Anyhow, yes, I believe that there is something to be learned from the command to “not do any work”. As Luther points out, such rest is good

    for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.

    Of course, in the modern world, even many in the working class automatically get two days off to rest, not just one. But, yes, there is a tendency to make those days every bit as wearying as the days on which we actually work for a living. This wears down the body, the mind, and so on.

    And yet, any of the things you list besides work — “school, sports, friends, facebook, family, bills, church, clubs, hobbies” — could be used rightly to our refreshment or abused wrongly to our detriment.

    I’ll speak to my own predilections. Facebook is certainly a gift from God in that it allows us to catch up with friends and find some entertaining stuff with which to pass some idle time, perhaps with a nice cup of coffee. It is, however, easy to make it an obsession, something that demands your time, possibly to such a degree that you have less time to do other things you need or wish to do, which means your future will be even more hectic. This, of course, is not at all relaxing.

    But I think I better understand what you mean by the “faith to be idle”. That is, the faith to believe that it is God, not you, in control. That God will — in fact, has — provided for you. To rest is to celebrate God’s provision, to acknowledge that He has given you what you needed, and that you cannot add to it by your own labor.

    Still, I wonder if it’s right to consider the command to “not do any work” separately from the command to observe a time as “holy” — that is, to meditate on God’s Word. After all, it is only in God’s Word that we read about the True Rest that we receive from God, and that not by our own efforts or busyness. There we read God’s promises which are the only thing that could truly cause us to relax.

  • Helen K.

    following..

  • Helen K.

    following..

  • http://www.liturgysolutions.com Phillip Magness

    Amen. One of my favorite sermons was preached by the sainted Rev. Gerald V. Freudenburg in Peoria about 15 years ago in Peoria, where he focused on exactly this point and encouraged us hearers to be “human beings” rather than “human doings”. This was not a call to idleness, but an exhortation to be content with our vocations – and our baptisms.

    The freedom to splash around in our baptisms and enjoying our “being-ship” – i.e. simply being whom we are called to be – is not the only reason we homeschool, but it is a significant one. And it has freed our children up to accomplish far more than I believe they would have in the busy-ness of most institutional settings. Many of our fellow homeschoolers have noted the same thing.

    Thank you Dan, and Gene, for reminding us that our true fulfillment is in the Lord – and encouraging us to stay focused on that even as we are tempted by so many enticements and distractions in this technological age.

  • http://www.liturgysolutions.com Phillip Magness

    Amen. One of my favorite sermons was preached by the sainted Rev. Gerald V. Freudenburg in Peoria about 15 years ago in Peoria, where he focused on exactly this point and encouraged us hearers to be “human beings” rather than “human doings”. This was not a call to idleness, but an exhortation to be content with our vocations – and our baptisms.

    The freedom to splash around in our baptisms and enjoying our “being-ship” – i.e. simply being whom we are called to be – is not the only reason we homeschool, but it is a significant one. And it has freed our children up to accomplish far more than I believe they would have in the busy-ness of most institutional settings. Many of our fellow homeschoolers have noted the same thing.

    Thank you Dan, and Gene, for reminding us that our true fulfillment is in the Lord – and encouraging us to stay focused on that even as we are tempted by so many enticements and distractions in this technological age.

  • Cincinnatus

    First world problems.

    The reason no one in America knows how to relax properly is that we lack a leisured class (an aristocracy). In fact, we lack the notion of class altogether (yes, I am pooh-poohing the trite rhetoric of “class” indulged by the punditry, elected and otherwise). We are an aspirational culture. The only measure of success is money or material success. We thus have no conception of proper “station,” of the capacity to say that, at some point, I have reached my appropriate material status and I ought not strive for more. Such thinking is, in fact, repugnant to American ideals.

    Meanwhile, I’m with tODD. While my job isn’t exactly the hand-to-mouth type, my desire for a career is waning. I’m working to feed myself and my family so that I can enjoy my life and my family.

    On the other hand, tODD, sitting around and doing “nothing” used to be a highly sought temporal space. Such time was time for reflection. Who reflects anymore? Academics least of all.

  • Cincinnatus

    First world problems.

    The reason no one in America knows how to relax properly is that we lack a leisured class (an aristocracy). In fact, we lack the notion of class altogether (yes, I am pooh-poohing the trite rhetoric of “class” indulged by the punditry, elected and otherwise). We are an aspirational culture. The only measure of success is money or material success. We thus have no conception of proper “station,” of the capacity to say that, at some point, I have reached my appropriate material status and I ought not strive for more. Such thinking is, in fact, repugnant to American ideals.

    Meanwhile, I’m with tODD. While my job isn’t exactly the hand-to-mouth type, my desire for a career is waning. I’m working to feed myself and my family so that I can enjoy my life and my family.

    On the other hand, tODD, sitting around and doing “nothing” used to be a highly sought temporal space. Such time was time for reflection. Who reflects anymore? Academics least of all.

  • Cincinnatus

    I meant to say that “meanwhile, I’m with Joel D.”*

  • Cincinnatus

    I meant to say that “meanwhile, I’m with Joel D.”*

  • Robin

    My, my what a timely piece as I struggle maintaining my sanity with three jobs and a spouse. Thank you!

  • Robin

    My, my what a timely piece as I struggle maintaining my sanity with three jobs and a spouse. Thank you!

  • LAJ

    Many very good thoughtful comments above. May we all have a Sunday where we delight in God’s gifts of His Word, our churches, family, gardens, fall color, etc.

  • LAJ

    Many very good thoughtful comments above. May we all have a Sunday where we delight in God’s gifts of His Word, our churches, family, gardens, fall color, etc.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@19), this discussion may well be indicative of “first world problems”, but I’m not sure that said memetic rejoinder is quite as trenchant as you might think. At least, not in this discussion.

    After all, Pastor Kempin is a pastor … in the first world. It is, therefore, his duty to take care of the problems that those in his congregation have. And they are real problems — real spiritual problems. He is, after all, ultimately discussing the lack of faith, that root of sin.

    And while that root cause may manifest itself differently in the third world than in the first, I’m fairly certain it is a universal issue, all the same.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@19), this discussion may well be indicative of “first world problems”, but I’m not sure that said memetic rejoinder is quite as trenchant as you might think. At least, not in this discussion.

    After all, Pastor Kempin is a pastor … in the first world. It is, therefore, his duty to take care of the problems that those in his congregation have. And they are real problems — real spiritual problems. He is, after all, ultimately discussing the lack of faith, that root of sin.

    And while that root cause may manifest itself differently in the third world than in the first, I’m fairly certain it is a universal issue, all the same.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D.

    Cincinattus, “first world problems” was exactly the phrase that first came to my mind. I wasn’t sure anyone else here would recognize it.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D.

    Cincinattus, “first world problems” was exactly the phrase that first came to my mind. I wasn’t sure anyone else here would recognize it.

  • larry

    Dan you hit a homerun on this one. I love that last statement, “Do you have the faith to be idle?” That is Luther to the tee! We had a pastor a few years ago warn of this, the unbelief of the “workaholic”, of which he was admittedly himself. We don’t see it in this country because emphasis is on the “work” syllable and not the relax syllable. But there’s a lot of sin and unbelief that goes under the guise of the virtue of “work hard”. I find myself all too easily falling into this trap.

    It’s kind of like Lewis’s analogy of what a glutton really is. There’s the overt glutton, the fat dude that eats and shows it. But then there’s the socially acceptable glutton, the prime and proper lady that turns her nose up at too much food. A more modern analogy would be the fixated on “getting in shape”. As I told my wife, “Do you ever note how the Schwartzeneggers and Jillians of the world are just as fixated on food as is the guy/gal who eats too much. Yet the former is socially pleasing and even touted while the other is condemned.”

    Same thing here. No one, well almost no one, in America today would say they are “lazy”, it’s a hidden sin that is shameful to our eyes. But many, would love to sugar their sin with a wink of the eye and say, “yea I too am a bit of a workaholic”. It’s kind of like that old interview question when asked what is your worse quality…always answer in a positive, “Oh my worse quality is I just work too hard”. Yea riiiiiighhtt!

    But you’ve nailed it. This incessant busy bodyness so inherent to American culture is worse sin than outright sloth. It’s rooted in anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief, for we all too much in this country “spin and toil” in unbelief.
    Holidays are hardly holidays in the country anymore, not in any historical sense understood. They’ve become inconvenient expectations needing checked off of the list to get back to busy bodyness, something to “squeeze into” the rest of our work life. Families are pulled further and further apart by their work and labor. Children suffering more and more the lack familial interaction because BOTH mom and dad have to work X days a week. Spouses drawn further and further apart because one works one shift and the other another. Grandparents hardly finding time for their grandchildren because they too are so busied up. Children jerked to and fro week to week to this and that “have to” sports activity, gotta keep up with the Joneses! It keeps on and on until hour passes into hour, day into day, week into week month into month and year into year until there is no longer any real demarcation between hours, days, weeks and year. Finally it all becomes one big cyclic grey mélange of purposelessness, but we will work real hard to keep it going – like a dog chasing its tail with GREAT fury.

    Very good Dan, in fact excellent. Thanks for writing it!

  • larry

    Dan you hit a homerun on this one. I love that last statement, “Do you have the faith to be idle?” That is Luther to the tee! We had a pastor a few years ago warn of this, the unbelief of the “workaholic”, of which he was admittedly himself. We don’t see it in this country because emphasis is on the “work” syllable and not the relax syllable. But there’s a lot of sin and unbelief that goes under the guise of the virtue of “work hard”. I find myself all too easily falling into this trap.

    It’s kind of like Lewis’s analogy of what a glutton really is. There’s the overt glutton, the fat dude that eats and shows it. But then there’s the socially acceptable glutton, the prime and proper lady that turns her nose up at too much food. A more modern analogy would be the fixated on “getting in shape”. As I told my wife, “Do you ever note how the Schwartzeneggers and Jillians of the world are just as fixated on food as is the guy/gal who eats too much. Yet the former is socially pleasing and even touted while the other is condemned.”

    Same thing here. No one, well almost no one, in America today would say they are “lazy”, it’s a hidden sin that is shameful to our eyes. But many, would love to sugar their sin with a wink of the eye and say, “yea I too am a bit of a workaholic”. It’s kind of like that old interview question when asked what is your worse quality…always answer in a positive, “Oh my worse quality is I just work too hard”. Yea riiiiiighhtt!

    But you’ve nailed it. This incessant busy bodyness so inherent to American culture is worse sin than outright sloth. It’s rooted in anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief, for we all too much in this country “spin and toil” in unbelief.
    Holidays are hardly holidays in the country anymore, not in any historical sense understood. They’ve become inconvenient expectations needing checked off of the list to get back to busy bodyness, something to “squeeze into” the rest of our work life. Families are pulled further and further apart by their work and labor. Children suffering more and more the lack familial interaction because BOTH mom and dad have to work X days a week. Spouses drawn further and further apart because one works one shift and the other another. Grandparents hardly finding time for their grandchildren because they too are so busied up. Children jerked to and fro week to week to this and that “have to” sports activity, gotta keep up with the Joneses! It keeps on and on until hour passes into hour, day into day, week into week month into month and year into year until there is no longer any real demarcation between hours, days, weeks and year. Finally it all becomes one big cyclic grey mélange of purposelessness, but we will work real hard to keep it going – like a dog chasing its tail with GREAT fury.

    Very good Dan, in fact excellent. Thanks for writing it!

  • Dan Kempin

    larry, #25,

    ” This incessant busy bodyness so inherent to American culture is . . . rooted in anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief”

    Yes! That is very good. You help to articulate the point that I am groping to find. “Anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief.” Yes, I think that strikes at the heart of what troubles me.

  • Dan Kempin

    larry, #25,

    ” This incessant busy bodyness so inherent to American culture is . . . rooted in anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief”

    Yes! That is very good. You help to articulate the point that I am groping to find. “Anxiety that is ultimately rooted in unbelief.” Yes, I think that strikes at the heart of what troubles me.

  • larry

    Thanks Dan. I loved what you wrote. I read it to my wife because we’ve been on and off discussing this issue. It was so encouraging. I think, no rather, I know you’ve nailed it. That last sentence was golden, “do you have the faith to be idle”. It rings of Luther’s similar statements recognizing unbelief hidden inside “virtues”. Few between Paul and Luther, and damn few after Luther recognize the devil’s real tricks. Even a pagan recognizes the “black” devil as Luther put it, few recognize the “white” devil (the angel of light) as he also put it.

    E.g. when Luther was once asked what he’d do if he found out Christ was coming today his reply was “plant a tree”. He recognized the unbelieving trap behind the question of Christ’s sufficiency. Similarly Luther points out numerous times the good works, that false piety or unbelief guised as faith would never in a thousand years allow as good works as being when the believer eats, drinks, sleeps, etc… Luther in kind commented on he and Phillip drinking beer while the Word delivered the blow to the pope.

    An analogy might be a child completely secure in his/her home who simply eats an apple or play in the mud with great joy. They do not toil and spin in anxiety over satisfying their parents as if to “merit” their love, they believe their parents love them, so in this earthly faith over earthly parents they play and laugh in perfect secure faith in their parents supplying all they need. They believe their parents. They know supper is coming because they are children and not slaves or rejected whereby they must merit their meals, bed, clothes, shelter, etc…

    The scriptures a pregnant with this. Christ Himself says the lilies of the field and birds of the air do not toil and spin but in perfect created placement know their heavenly father knows their need and gives to them. Jesus sleeping on a cushion as the storm waves rage about the boat in PERFECT faith, yet the disciples start to become anxious and then toil in their unbelief. It apexes at the cross where Christ on one hand cries out “why hast Thou forsaken me”, then “into Thy hands I commend my spirit”.

    But we don’t do that, and America has become the nation now that is most unbelieving as a whole. Not so much by its immoral issues, but because of its virtues it thus toils and spins in rank unbelief. It eschews, in reality, its holidays, it’s restful weekends. Oh we give it “lip service” but we don’t really enjoy these gifts of God. Israel as the nation of God had entire feast months, seasons and years, forgave debts, etc…” This is unheard of in America. Decades ago the old Soviet Union early on attempted in its anti-christic state to shift to 10 day work week in order to grow the nation powerfully and be “more productive”. At length it found that diminishing returns increased as it exhausted itself. God has ordained 7 days with at least one day of rest, man in vain usurps this. Now America has never “officially” ordained a 10 day work week, but we all well know it de facto has gone there for the most.

    This is no legalism on “you can’t do anything on the Sabbath” but recognizing the creature gift of God of rest and leisure. Luther comments in his LC on the third commandment for example: “But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of it [holy days]), but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.”

    It’s like I tell my wife concerning both sides of our families doing this and missing out on their grand kids, they buy them stuff all the time and show up here and there for “quick fix check list visits” but are loosing the humanity of the one on one connection and its all due this incessant busy bodyness. It’s worse now than it’s ever been. I’m old enough to recall my grandparents and family, they spent time with us. THAT’s what a child or adult later remembers, not all the things one got, not the absenteeism, not the rush through holidays. Thanksgiving for example in my childhood was wonderful, its was an event centered around, prepared around, the cooking and planning were integral too it, the meal was to be enjoyed, the leisure there after treasured, etc… Today its more about, “Well we know turkey and dressing is a meal item we need so how in our busy day and age can we FIT INTO our otherwise center lives this holiday.” While everyone is looking for the door because they “have to get back home for X”. That’s just one example.

    Carl Trueman, I believe he is Reformed, writes well on this: “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness. As Kierkegaard once said, ‘Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good’ — a truly amazing theological insight. Some may think that that maybe going a bit far, but compared to the idea that the essence of humanity is busy-ness, it is much to be preferred.”

    “… laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.”

    Who of us unbelieving workaholics among us exhausted by the incessant work we think is a virtue does not secretly feel deeply the need for this and laments its loss!

    I love that line, “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness”, its just like “do you have faith enough to be idle.”

  • larry

    Thanks Dan. I loved what you wrote. I read it to my wife because we’ve been on and off discussing this issue. It was so encouraging. I think, no rather, I know you’ve nailed it. That last sentence was golden, “do you have the faith to be idle”. It rings of Luther’s similar statements recognizing unbelief hidden inside “virtues”. Few between Paul and Luther, and damn few after Luther recognize the devil’s real tricks. Even a pagan recognizes the “black” devil as Luther put it, few recognize the “white” devil (the angel of light) as he also put it.

    E.g. when Luther was once asked what he’d do if he found out Christ was coming today his reply was “plant a tree”. He recognized the unbelieving trap behind the question of Christ’s sufficiency. Similarly Luther points out numerous times the good works, that false piety or unbelief guised as faith would never in a thousand years allow as good works as being when the believer eats, drinks, sleeps, etc… Luther in kind commented on he and Phillip drinking beer while the Word delivered the blow to the pope.

    An analogy might be a child completely secure in his/her home who simply eats an apple or play in the mud with great joy. They do not toil and spin in anxiety over satisfying their parents as if to “merit” their love, they believe their parents love them, so in this earthly faith over earthly parents they play and laugh in perfect secure faith in their parents supplying all they need. They believe their parents. They know supper is coming because they are children and not slaves or rejected whereby they must merit their meals, bed, clothes, shelter, etc…

    The scriptures a pregnant with this. Christ Himself says the lilies of the field and birds of the air do not toil and spin but in perfect created placement know their heavenly father knows their need and gives to them. Jesus sleeping on a cushion as the storm waves rage about the boat in PERFECT faith, yet the disciples start to become anxious and then toil in their unbelief. It apexes at the cross where Christ on one hand cries out “why hast Thou forsaken me”, then “into Thy hands I commend my spirit”.

    But we don’t do that, and America has become the nation now that is most unbelieving as a whole. Not so much by its immoral issues, but because of its virtues it thus toils and spins in rank unbelief. It eschews, in reality, its holidays, it’s restful weekends. Oh we give it “lip service” but we don’t really enjoy these gifts of God. Israel as the nation of God had entire feast months, seasons and years, forgave debts, etc…” This is unheard of in America. Decades ago the old Soviet Union early on attempted in its anti-christic state to shift to 10 day work week in order to grow the nation powerfully and be “more productive”. At length it found that diminishing returns increased as it exhausted itself. God has ordained 7 days with at least one day of rest, man in vain usurps this. Now America has never “officially” ordained a 10 day work week, but we all well know it de facto has gone there for the most.

    This is no legalism on “you can’t do anything on the Sabbath” but recognizing the creature gift of God of rest and leisure. Luther comments in his LC on the third commandment for example: “But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of it [holy days]), but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.”

    It’s like I tell my wife concerning both sides of our families doing this and missing out on their grand kids, they buy them stuff all the time and show up here and there for “quick fix check list visits” but are loosing the humanity of the one on one connection and its all due this incessant busy bodyness. It’s worse now than it’s ever been. I’m old enough to recall my grandparents and family, they spent time with us. THAT’s what a child or adult later remembers, not all the things one got, not the absenteeism, not the rush through holidays. Thanksgiving for example in my childhood was wonderful, its was an event centered around, prepared around, the cooking and planning were integral too it, the meal was to be enjoyed, the leisure there after treasured, etc… Today its more about, “Well we know turkey and dressing is a meal item we need so how in our busy day and age can we FIT INTO our otherwise center lives this holiday.” While everyone is looking for the door because they “have to get back home for X”. That’s just one example.

    Carl Trueman, I believe he is Reformed, writes well on this: “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness. As Kierkegaard once said, ‘Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good’ — a truly amazing theological insight. Some may think that that maybe going a bit far, but compared to the idea that the essence of humanity is busy-ness, it is much to be preferred.”

    “… laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.”

    Who of us unbelieving workaholics among us exhausted by the incessant work we think is a virtue does not secretly feel deeply the need for this and laments its loss!

    I love that line, “Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness”, its just like “do you have faith enough to be idle.”

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