From Jim O'Brien
April 03, 2020

The Good Work

Hi Friend,

Why would a person do a job for free when he refuses to do the same job for pay? Is there a greater reward to work for nothing than to work for money? A friend told me a story about making repairs on his daughter's new house. He owns a construction company so he can choose what jobs he will do and which to delegate to an employee.

We were talking at church when I asked about his week and he replied, "I did something I haven't done in a long time. We blew insulation into the attic at my daughter's house and then I crawled into the attic to install a dryer vent. I hate climbing around in that stuff. I haven't done it for years."

"Isn't that odd," I replied, "that you will do for free things you won't do for pay?" He did those jobs when he first started business, but it has now reached a stage that he can employ other people to do it. Yet he does the same job for his daughter for free.

It's a characteristic God built into man. For example, would you take a job changing diapers? People couldn't pay you to do that, yet when your children were infants you changed their diapers for free and took special care to be sure it was done well.

The German philosopher Fredrick Schiller wrote "We are never our authentic selves so fully as when at play." What a strange thing to say, and yet it is no stranger than doing something for free when you wouldn't do it for pay.

When I was young one of my memorable jobs was working as a door-to-door dictionary salesman between college terms. One of the great advantages of canvassing neighborhoods was meeting fascinating people. My most unforgettable character was an artist who had been invited to live in a British castle while doing a portrait of the Prince of Wales. He told me he was in his third year of medical school when he realized his calling was to create portraits of humans rather than medicate them. He quit medical school, rejecting a lucrative career as a doctor, to start from scratch painting portraits. He appreciated med school because he learned skeletal and muscular structure. "Most artists," he said, "paint what they can see. Great artists see beneath the surface."

Choice is the heart of freedom which allows men to do great things. Albert Einstein wasn't forced by a government to create his theories. He chose what he loved.

So it was with all of the great patriarchs of the Bible. No church or church leader could have forced the Apostle Paul to endure stoning, beatings and hunger. He chose what he loved.

Schiller's point is that there is nothing that so clearly reveals what is in a man's heart as what he chooses to do when he is free.

The same man who has a hard time getting up in time for work at 9:00 am will be in the field to hunt deer before sunup. And there is no need to call him twice to get out of bed. He is willing to forsake his $3,000 mattress to sleep on the ground in a cold tent and spend the day in a tree stand waiting for the deer to emerge from hiding.

Why will a man suffer these hardships? Because it gives him joy. He will spend money, forget work responsibilities, leave important tasks undone until he returns, forsake comfort and do what he loves when he is free.

The "spirit" within us expresses itself most fully when we do something for the sheer intrinsic worth of the activity itself and not for anything external to it.

After the death of Moses Joshua took Israel into the Promised Land and told them what God expected of them now that they were a free nation. God wanted them to respond with the spirit an artist or musician brings to his work. "Take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God...to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Joshua 22:5)

When Israel lost her freedom, as much as anything else, the cause could be traced to the loss of joy in her relationship to God. Moses had warned Israel that if you don't serve God "with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: (Deut. 28:47-48)

New York politicians and elitist pundits may never understand why Franklin Graham spent a fortune to set up medical tents in Central Park to treat victims of coronavirus-for free. Nor will the arrogant ever know why a man who overcame drug addiction and started a company that made him a multimillionaire-would stand before the country in a presidential news conference to give credit to God.

They don't understand because they have never had the heart of free men! They just don't understand coming before God filled with joy.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien