"DO NOT WORK FOR FOOD THAT PERISHES, BUT FOR FOOD THAT ENDURES TO ETERNAL LIFE, WHICH THE SON OF MAN WILL GIVE YOU. FOR GOD THE FATHER HAS PLACED HIS SEAL OF APPROVAL ON HIM."
[ JOHN 6.27 ]
Labor Day has been a national holiday in America for 87 years.The purpose is to honor the working people of our land.
In 1956 a commemorative Labor Day stamp was issued with a picture of a strong man holding a sledge hammer, a pick, a hoe, and an ax over his shoulder.
His wife was seated by his side with a book in her lap showing a small child how to read.
In the lower left hand corner was a large block with words of Carlyle carved into it: "Labor Is Life."
The meaning was clear and I think it is true: without industrious labor there will be no life—no means to feed, clothe, house, and educate a family or oneself.
But it is an amazing and disconcerting thing how a true statement (like "Labor Is Life") can mislead us and devastate generations when it is isolated from other truths.
If you look at your life solely in terms of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, machines, books, and toys, then the statement, "Labor Is Life," will mean that you should work mainly with a view to providing those things.
But in spite of the fact that it seems so natural to work for such things, Jesus said to the Jews in [John 6:27]:
"Do not labor for the food which perishes."
And of course Jesus didn't mean it is just food that's ruled out, but clothes and homes and cars are okay.
Anything that perishes, anything that wears out, anything of no eternal worth—all that is implied in "food that perishes."
And we are not to labor for food. Do not labor for house. Do not labor for clothes, car, appliances, books, sporting gear, etc.
Now we are in a precarious place, because you believe in your heart it is legitimate and good to work in order to buy food.
Yet you hear Jesus saying, "Do not labor for the food which perishes."
I call experiences like this crises of spiritual discovery.
You can discover two things in the next few minutes.
First, you can discover the measure of your submission to Jesus as Lord.
There are two very different attitudes you may be experiencing right now.
One is resistance and hardness.You may be saying, "Well, I don't care what it means; I'm going to keep on working just the way I always have."
Another is humble, open submission to Jesus. You may be saying, "Well, Lord, I never thought from your Word that it might be wrong to work for food and clothing.
But, Lord, there is nothing I want more than to do what pleases you in the way that pleases you.
I know how bent I am to sinning, so please help me understand your surprising command and make me willing to obey gladly."
There is a quantitative and eternally significant difference between those two attitudes.
The first one is not of the Spirit, but of the flesh.
The second one is a gift of the Spirit, fragrant with the grace of humility and submissiveness to Jesus.
It is not naïve, but is thoughtfully and soberly ready to say:
"Anything, Jesus, anything, anything in my mind or in my behavior I am willing to change if you say the word."
The other thing you may discover in the next few minutes, if you are open to the voice of Jesus, is a new dimension of obedience in your work.
Many of you have already made the discovery and simply enjoy hearing it reaffirmed from Scripture.
Others of you may discover for the first time an aspect of Jesus' will for your life which you have neglected.
"Therefore take heed how you hear," Jesus said, "for to him who has, will more be given, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away" [Luke 8:18].