1 Chronicles 4:21-23
The sons of Shelah the son of Judah were, Er the father of Lecah, and Laadah the father of Mareshah…
These verses set before us the interesting fact that God recognizes a man's occupation, and knows precisely his sphere and his work. Another striking illustration of the precision of the Divine knowledge, and the observation even of a man's handicraft, is found in Acts 10:5, 6, where God gives these minute directions: "Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside. In these verses different occupations are honourably mentioned; some wrought fine linen; others were potters and gardeners and hedgers; and so is suggested to us the honourableness and usefulness of all kinds of work. There was no such sentiment among the Jews as unhappily prevails in all so-called highly civilized countries, that there is a kind of degradation in having to work for your own living. Every Jewish boy was required to learn a trade, and the greatest rabbis preserved their dignity and learning along with service to the community in some humble occupation. Consider -
I. WORK AS A CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE ON THE EARTH. If there is one law more absolute for mankind than another, it is that they shall work. They are set in this earth-garden, as Adam was in Paradise, to win it, to use its forces, to dress it, to keep it. For work' man is endowed. He has muscles with the needed physical strength, and hands with the needed physical skill, and brains with the needed guidance and control. And he is in the midst of conditions that demand work; the earth will only yield her stores and her increase in response to man's work. If a man "will not work," then the law God has put into the very creation of the earth is, that, "he shall not eat." And this work-condition is designed by God to bear directly on man's moral training. Only by and through work can character grow and unfold. Toil is testing and trial, out of which alone can virtue be born. So all work is noble and holy.
II. WORK AS A CONDITION OF CIVILIZED LIFE. Here its simplicity is lost. It becomes a diversified and complicated thing. As men live together in cities a thousand fresh wants, real and fancied, become created, and trades are multiplied for the supply of the thousand wants. Work is divided and subdivided; sometimes it seems a higher kind, and sometimes a lower. While some must work by hand, others are called forth to work by voice, and pen, and brush, and chisel, and brain. Thousands must toil in various ways to supply the necessaries of life, and tens of thousands must toil to supply the ever-increasing demand for luxuries. And so, in civilized times, work seems too often to grow into man's curse; and he toils at sweat of brain as well as of face; and spends strength and health and life in winning bread from those who "fare sumptuously every day, and are clothed in purple and fine linen;" and we cannot greatly wonder that men should grow hard, and lose the high and inspiring thought of the "dignity of work."
III. THE ONE CONDITION THAT LIFTS ALL HUMAN TOIL INTO DIGNITY. Its usefulness to others. It must be done "not unto selL" And so God has "set the solitary in families," and put fathers and mothers under the pressure of family responsibility, that in toiling for others they may win the joy of work. Illustrate from the artist, the poet, etc., and see how the condition may apply to all workers.
IV. THE YET HIGHER CONDITION WHICH SETS WORK IN ITS TRUE PLACE. It must be done as service to God. Then work bears upon the culture of religious character, and becomes a stepping-stone upward to the heavenly. Character is both exhibited and cultured by it; and no kind of occupation can be regarded as mean into which character can be put, and by which others may be served, and God may be glorified. Potters, gardeners, hedgers, and workers in fine linen may all win the "Well done, good and faithful." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: The sons of Shelah the son of Judah were, Er the father of Lecah, and Laadah the father of Mareshah, and the families of the house of them that wrought fine linen, of the house of Ashbea,