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You're Going to Have to Work For It

Years ago I had a friend who was an expert vegetable gardener. Whenever he would sow his garden, he would be sure to plant enough seeds for his family but also for any of his friends who might want fresh vegetables. Come harvest time, he would ask people if they wanted some tomatoes, okra, etc. Of course, most people did. He would then say, “Okay, come over tomorrow and pick what you want.” Undoubtedly this took some folks by surprise as they certainly figured he had the produce already picked and ready to give to them. His thinking was that if you want something worthwhile, you should be willing to work for it.

The principle stated above is Biblical. Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10). The wise man said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). There are more than a dozen proverbs that address the issues of laziness and industriousness. There is one section of Scripture, however, that affirms the work principle in a rather subtle manner. It’s contained in a portion of the Word of God that we typically skim over.

In Joshua 17:14-18, we find the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh complaining about the property they received when the land was distributed to the tribes of Israel after their conquest of Canaan. It seems like they felt they deserved more property because they had so many more people than the other tribes. They said to Joshua, “Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto?” (Joshua 17:14). Joshua replied, “If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.” (Joshua 17:15). The Lord had said that once He had led Israel into Canaan, He would give them houses which they had not built, wells which they had not dug, vineyards and olive trees that they had not planted (Deuteronomy 6:11). Apparently Ephraim and Manasseh figured that they wouldn’t have to work for anything at all and that God would just hand everything over to them. Joshua said, “You have more land available to you. Go out and clear the trees and make yourself more room.”

As might be expected, the two tribes had an answer for Joshua’s reply. “And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.” (Joshua 17:16). They hadn’t even started clearing the woods and already they were saying they still didn’t have enough land. If they wanted more, they would have to go and drive out the Canaanites, something they apparently thought they shouldn’t have to do. As in his previous response, Joshua suggested that if they were as great as they said they were, they shouldn’t have any trouble running off the Canaanites and then taking that land. He told them they could have the wooded area as well as the Canaanites’ property. They would just have to work for it.

All blessings come from God (James 1:17) and sometimes it seems that gifts are just handed to us without us having to put forth any effort at all. Perhaps that’s why we take so much for granted. On the other hand, sometimes we have to work hard to receive what we need or want that is in accordance with God’s will. This applies in both the physical and spiritual realms. Anything that is worthwhile is worth working for, again, as long as it is in accordance with the will of God and does not distract us from our primary purpose of serving the Lord. In a time when it seems like many are wanting things handed to them, it’s good to be reminded that the Lord rewards those who are not afraid to work.

Mike Gifford

2462 Oak Bluff Drive
Dacula, GA 30019

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