There once was a man named Walter, he lived a long, long time, and he had a few things to say about hard work.
Born in 1896, Walter Breuning’s life story pretty much encapsulates the rise of modern America. Breuning, who died recently at 114, could remember as far back as the turn-of-the-century when his father told him about killing Southerners in the Civil War.
The Minnesota-native started working for the railroad at the age of 16 and signed up to fight in World War I at age 20, though he was never called up for service. In 1919, the year women earned the right to vote, Breuning bought his first car. He lived through the great Depression. By the time America joined World War II, Breuning was too old to fight, and by the time the Beatles released their first album, the rail veteran had retired.
Breuning lived long enough to see things most of us only know from history books.
Here’s some quotes from Walter:
- “Don’t retire until you’re darn sure that you can’t work anymore. Keep on working as long as you can work and you’ll find that it’s good for you.”
- “Everybody says your mind is the most important thing about your body. Your mind and your body. You keep both busy, and by God you’ll be here a long time.”
- “The more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”
Now, I wouldn’t call this man a prophet, but his words ring true. Living almost a century and a quarter, he could speak with life-proven authority.
The all-wise Solomon not only commended work (like Walter), but even called it a gift from God:
“Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
Our society has demonized hard work, as if it were something we must avoid. Modern thinking encourages gaining wealth, but in the easiest manner possible.
The truth is, life just doesn’t happen that way.
The infamous get-rich-quick schemes sell as well today as they ever did; people are forever trying to find the easy road to success. Why? Because most people are lazy and not interested in producing value.
This is unfortunate because the human body and psyche are designed to produce – it’s in our very nature. Play-time may be fun, but play-time brings minimal satisfaction and no long term benefits. Work, on the other hand, is immensely satisfying and always results in good.
Work is beneficial in many ways. Here’s a few:
1. Work Keeps Us Occupied
When we are not working, we are doing something else. Usually, that means being idle, which ushers in a host of problems. When people are idle, it is painfully obvious what results: the breeding ground of crime. “Idle hands are the workshop of the devil.”
2. Work Provides for Our Needs
You’ve heard the saying “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s true, there isn’t (or ain’t). Somebody has to pay for that lunch, and anything else of value. Food, shelter, transportation, medicine… they all cost money. We are responsible to provide for ourselves and our loved ones (regardless of what some modern sociologists might say), and that necessarily means we have to produce. Producing comes from working. It’s an essential principle in human life. Ecclesiastes 11:6
3. Work is Satisfying
As mentioned above, playing can be fun for a time, but the real satisfaction in life comes from hard work. There is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment of diligent labor. It is a reality hard-wired into humanity. People who don’t agree with this assessment have likely never worked hard or accomplished much because working is what God designed people to do. And He tells us it will be fulfilling. Ecclesiastes 5:11
Scriptures references the benefits of work: building wealth, bettering the lives of others, producing things that endure, etc. We don’t have space here to discuss them all, but you can see them in the Bible: Proverbs 10:4 Ecclesiastes 5:18 Proverbs 12:24
Of course, everything can be overdone and we must take heed not to obsess with work any more than we should avoid it. Working can be overdone, without question. Moderation is always the lofty goal.
Not only is hard work productive and fulfilling for us, it brings benefits to others. And that is the most significant aspect of this gift from God: to be able to bless others and build their lives. More on that great subject in a post to come… 🙂