Our band was in Austin for a 5 day recording session at the Tree Fort Studio, a very cool studio in the hills overlooking Lake Austin. We were starting our days bright early for rock n roll, around 11am. Considering our start time, I was able to go visit one of these great Austin churches I had been hearing about. After 3 days of recording, I was longing for some worship time alone with Jesus. . . and 2000 of my closest friends.
I diligently followed the guiding orange flags of the parking posse into a prime visitors spot at the front of ONE of the sanctuaries. As I walked down the center parking lot isle almost to the front door, a nice shiny Bentley caught my eye. These are attractive vehicles and I usually notice them, though they are not really my style (I am more of an old Land Cruiser guy myself). It was parked strategically for all to see, like the valets usually do at nice hotels and restaurants. I kept my stride and did not really think anything of it, until the vanity plate stopped me in my tracks: “WRKHRD”!
I just stopped and stared. I am pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth. I was immediately transported back to 25 years old, fresh out of law school, one foot in the world, one foot in the word, and leaning pretty hard on that worldly foot. I thought with my 25 year old mind for a second, which is not hard to do. If I were going to church seeking to figure out LIFE and how I could “kill it” for Jesus, I would certainly try to find this guy. He clearly has figured out the secret to having it ALL, and who doesn’t want to have it ALL. But. . . does God want us to “have it all”? Did He give us the recipe, such that all we have to do is follow the directions and we will attain the worldly success we seek? Work hard boys and girls and you too can drive a Bentley and park on the front row at the Temple.
Now this guy might be a great dude, and there is clearly nothing wrong with owning nice things, but what does this message scream? Hard work leads to worldly success, the American Dream! We as Americans are working harder and longer today than any group of people in the history of man and some would argue that our wealth is a result of that hard work. If we make $48,000 per year we are in the top 1% of all wage earners in the world. But, can everyone who works as hard as this guy afford to drive a Bentley? Does God really want us to work hard so that we can be rich? Is this the message of the Bible, the way that God wants us to live our lives?
There is plenty of evidence in the Bible indicating that God intends that we work hard. But what is our motive? Are we working hard to build God’s BIG kingdom or our own little kingdoms?
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. Genesis 2:15
“If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” 2 thes 3:10
When I saw this license plate, I could not help but think of a story I had previously heard about an Indian man whose father worked in the quarries, and taught him to work in the quarries. This man was now teaching his underage son to work in the quarries. They lived in a quarry and chipped at rock from the time they awoke until dark. What would this man think of this license plate? “Hopefully my son will work harder in the quarries than I did, then maybe he can drive a Bentley”? Uhhhh…..sorry, but it does not work that way in India. “Wake up Merika!” Our brand of protestant work ethic = monetary reward does not translate in other parts of the world.
I say this all the time, we won the birth lottery (or for the more crass among us, we are all members of the lucky sperm club) dropping us into the most prosperous nation in the world at the most prosperous time in human history. Then we had people around us who helped us and had the capacity to be able to help us.
“Wait,” you say, “you did not grow with my dad, you have no idea how hard it was. I made this wealth on my own. I am a self made man.” Really? Was there ever a teacher, another parent, a coach, a friend, a colleague, someone at church who encouraged you along your way? Did you have anything to do with that? What about getting into college? Did people on an admissions committee have to accept you? What about your first job? Did someone have to hire you? Did you meet people in business who helped you along the way? I submit to you that these people and circumstances were not luck or coincidences. They were all divinely orchestrated by a sovereign God, and we should be asking Him this question:
God, for what reason or reasons did You divinely orchestrate my life such that I have accumulated and have the capacity to accumulate so much wealth?
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. 1 corinthians 12:4-6, 11
God modeled work for us in Genesis when he created the universe and everything in it. He created us in the image of himself to create. There is intrinsic value we should find in hard work because that is how God created us.
So what is the message we should be conveying?
Work hard and you will be rich or receive any extrinsic reward is the WRONG MESSAGE! Work hard and you will eat, RIGHT MESSAGE! Work hard and find enjoyment in the work itself, because that is how God created you, RIGHT MESSAGE! Work hard, because it glorifies the Lord and in turn will bring joy to you, RIGHT MESSAGE! I am wealthy because I worked hard to capitalize on the opportunities that were divinely given to me, and with such wealth comes great responsibility, RIGHT MESSAGE!
Unfortunately (or fortunately) none of these messages fit very well on a vanity plate, so please. . . just trade that one in for “HK EM”. Or at the very least, back into your parking spaces.