Toughness Trivia 47 - God's Temple in a Working World

There are four areas of concern that we will discuss that relate to God's temple in a working world. We will consider:

1.    Survival in a working world.

2.    Relationships in a working world.

3.    Reputation in a working world.

4.    Security in a working world.


1. Survival in a working world.

Let's look at some neglected Scriptures.

"Take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat?', or 'What shall we drink?', or 'Wherewithal shall we be clothed?' (For after all "these things" do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all "these things." But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all "these things" shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:24-34).

Ironical, isn't it? Could Jesus have been talking "tongue in cheek" when He said, "after all 'these things' do the Gentiles seek?" Temples of God don't make food, drink, and clothing the object of their seeking ... not at all! Ha!

Note that Jesus acknowledged that temples of God need "these things" just as the Gentiles do. The difference is that whereas "these things" are the object of Gentile seeking, the kingdom of God and His righteousness is to be the object of temple seeking.

But now let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Does this mean that God's temples should not participate in a strike for higher wages inasmuch as wages are not the object of their seeking?

And how about belly-aching about low pay? Do temples grumble?

Or how about leaving an area of meaningful ministry to follow a higher paying job? Are God's temples materialistic?

And what have we done with the Scripture that says, "Having food and raiment let us therewith be content”?

Or, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Have we reached the place where we are unwilling to accept the teachings of Jesus? Are we saying that Paul's principles will not work in our present working world? I firmly believe that we will go on in malcontent misery until we are ready to accept the Word of God for what it really says. Happy is the man whose wants are few, and who doesn't make his needs the object of his seeking!

We are talking about survival in a working world. Let's talk about the "haves" and the "have-nots." What should God's temples do about the Scripture that says," Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"

Several questions immediately arise. One is similar to that asked by the lawyer in the parable of the good Samaritan.

Who is my brother? Is my brother anyone in need ... or is he one of the family of God?

A second question we might ask is, "What is the difference between a need and a want?"

And a third question would be, "Who makes the decision as to what is a need and a want?

I think the answer to the first question would have to include anyone with a genuine need, whether he is a Christian or a non-Christian. Real love is not sectarian. It is not selective. The need itself determines the action ... not the color or creed of the man with the need. "Charity begins at home" has grave implications, and is usually quoted by those who are looking for an excuse for not responding to valid need. None of us deny that we are most responsible for those closest to us ... but that in no wise frees us from responding to those totally different and removed from us.

The Bible says we should respond to genuine "need." It does not obligate us to pander to "wants." The present world's idea of "needs" is far different from the Bible's definition of needs. Food and shelter are the needs the Bible refers to. These are things essential to survival and are the "things" promised by God to those who seek His kingdom first. It would be interesting to know whether God classifies cars, television sets, tennis racquets, furniture, boats, and lake cottages as "needs." I have an idea, but it's not one we like to hear, so I'll not say it.

The answer to the third question has to be that the "haves" make the decision as to what is a "need" rather than the "have-nots." However, the "haves" must not take the matter lightly. If the man who has this world's good violates his conscience in making the decision, he will have to answer to God who is "greater than our heart and knoweth all things." that is, God knows the other hand, if we make the decision conscientiously "if our hearts condemn us not," then we have the assurance that our prayers will be answered. In other words, if we live selfishly and callously, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers! (1 John 3:17-22).

2. Relationships in a working world.

Relationships are vital in a working world. It is imperative that the temple of God get along with his fellow workmen. The key to good relationships is self-denial. If I always have to have my own way ... then I'll clash with the fellow who also wants his own way. But if I "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness"... God will help me to relate smoothly and peaceably to those with whom I work. Good working relations will be one of "those things" added because I put God's kingdom first.

There is a meaningful verse in 2 Corinthians 5:16 where it says, "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh." The world divides men into categories according to race, class, nations, and education ... according to their differences. These "differences" make for animosity and misunderstanding. Paul says that, for the believer who is constrained by love, differences no longer make a difference. He says that temples judge themselves to be "dead" to the differences! If God's kingdom, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond or free, is at the top of my priority list, then my problems of relationship with those who are different "after the flesh" ... will be solved.

But once again to the nitty-gritty. I confess ... I deny not... to an involuntary disapproval when I see people of different races dating each other. Is my concern prejudice ... or am I genuinely exercised by the thought of the difficulties of the offspring of such a marriage would encounter? And what can I do about the disapproval I feel? Should I feel condemned for it?

Think about this: If God were to remove all my prejudice there would be no virtue in accepting people who differ from me. If God were to make us all a beautiful brown, there would be no triumph in the unity of differences. There would be no need for love to "constrain" us. If all my sex drives were taken from me, there would be nothing noble in self-control.

Christ does not promise to remove the differences. Rather He gives us grace and power to overcome our prejudices. That is what makes for character and Christ-likeness. We do not become strong by removing all the differences. We become strong by overcoming latent emotions and attitudes.

So I don't have a guilt complex over these latent forces within me. If I let them control me, then I feel guilty ... and should. I would not need the Paraclete if I had no need of help. With Him alongside ... with the love of Christ constraining me ... I can be aware of the differences without letting them make a difference in my relationships.

Let's talk about employer/employee relationships. In Paul's day temples were often slaves ... whose only pay was board and room. He told them to serve their masters ... "doing service as unto God and not unto men. ” Maybe we should remember that the next time we want to grumble about our pay.

Then, of course, there is a world for employers. People are not just numbers. They have feelings. They have families. They have needs. The Bible says that bosses should remember that they will be accountable to a higher Boss for the treatment of their employees. And while we read nothing in the Scriptures of the "right to strike," we do read some rather strong words addressed to employers. James 5:4 says, "Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth ..." Every temple who is an employer should consider these words soberly and see to it that his employees receive just pay.

3. Reputation in a working world.

One of the requirements for a bishop is that he have a "good report" of them which are without... that is, of the working world. This is in contrast, seemingly, with the Scripture that says, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you" (1 Timothy 3:7 and Luke 6:26). Then, again, there is the Scripture in Matthew 5:11 where it says, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

First Timothy 3:7 and Matthew 5:16 are, I believe, the norm. We should let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. As bishops are to have "a good report of them which are without," so God's temples are to live an exemplary life before men. But what about Luke 6:26 and Matthew 5:11?

Luke 6:26 pronounces woe upon those who curry the favor of men by telling them the things they want to hear. People with "itching ears" want preachers who will condone carnal living ... who will tell them they are doing well even though both they and the preacher know they are not doing well. The prosperity gospel is a case in point. God is not against riches. Neither is He against prosperity. But when preachers encourage men to use God's promises for selfish purposes ... then woe unto them ... even though their hearers speak well of them!

Matthew 5:11 is just the opposite. Here we see men who are evilly spoken of because they speak and do the truth.

This working world will honor a man whose word is as good as his bond ... who lives what he talks. When man lives for himself, he stoops to many unsanctified actions in pursuit of his own way. When God's will and God's kingdom come first, selfishness

goes out the window and the reputation of the temple causes the wicked world to "glorify" our Father which is in heaven.

4. Security in a working world.

Remember the unjust steward in Luke 16? He looked out for the future. He did things today that would benefit him tomorrow. True, he did it the wrong way, but the fact is, he did it. And the master commended him saying that "the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light."

The "generation" of the children of this working world is this working world. So they provide for it. They assure their security in it. The "generation" of the children of light is the world to come. We should provide for it. We should assure our security in it. The children of the working world invest their money to make their last years in this world good years. The children of the world to come invest their money to make eternal years good years.

We are promised that, if we seek first the kingdom of God, all "these things" will be added. I believe security is one of "these things." God will add the security we need to "make it" in our declining years in this world ... providing we put His kingdom first. If we leave God out of our plans for the future, all our accumulation in the name of security will not satisfy. The working world is full of unhappy old people whose "food and raiment" does not leave them content.

Back to the nitty-gritty. Should God's temple make no provision for security in this working world? Should he take out no insurance? Should he let the state care for him in his old age? Should he allow himself to be dependent upon the world's taxes "here" since he is giving all he has to provide for himself "over there”?

When Jesus talked about God's care of the lilies and the sparrows, He was not teaching against providing for our security in this working world. He was teaching against "worrying" about our security in this working world. "Take no thought of the morrow" does not mean that the temple of God should let other people care for him. It addresses fretting about tomorrow. The believer should provide for the morrow. He should lay up for the "rainy day." God makes him responsible for his family. However he should not be overanxious about his security. He is secure in seeking first the kingdom of the God who holds tomorrow.

So, while we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we provide for old age. We insure our lives and properties against earthly disaster ... knowing that God will bless our precautions and make them "things added" because we put eternity ahead of the present.