May 25, 2019 A Religious and Political Commentary

Work Brings Reward

“It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.”~ Charles Peguy.

With that brilliant comment in mind, I can’t help but feel sorry for the “progressives” of today.

Just when you think you’ve figured out all the proper progressive rubrics and nomenclatures, the rules and designations change – seemingly, with the wind! Once you think things have settled down, you’ve figured out who the bad guys are, who the good guys are, and what terms to use to describe these groups, the justice warriors and the virtuecrats change the rules!

It reminds me of the weather in North Texas.

The latest example is the “Admissions Scandal,” where wealthy American parents used their money, clout, and wherewithal to get their kids into prestigious American universities (For full disclosure, I used my money, clout, and wherewithal to get my child into NCTC). On the one hand, this scandal is about as shocking as discovering Harvey Weinstein and his Hollywood ilk were creeps.

On the other hand, the admissions scandal fits the progressive narrative. One need only to harken back several years (2011) to the protests by the 99 percenters who marched around our own Denton County Courthouse, or listen to the diatribes today of those pushing the “Green New Deal.” Or read the DRC’s regular column from Leonard Pitts (3/18/2019) who took a vacation from his usual race baiting to discuss the evils of the rich. Of course the rich will use their wealth to benefit their progeny! It isn’t fair!

We hear that the rich’s perfidy in this scandal “was an insult to the hard work of honest students everywhere, including real student-athletes (DRC, Admissions Scandal, March 14).” The Washington Post’s article, reprinted by the DRC, continues: “Students of color said they felt vindicated. Often…they are forced to deal with classmates’ suspicions that their skin color, not their academic achievements, got them into college.”

So which is it? When someone gets a spot – at a university, on a team, at a job – because of something other than merit, is it “fair?” Should they get a spot because of money? Because of race? Because of gender? Or should they get a spot because of merit – because they worked hard and earned it? What about the person that loses the spot? Is that fair?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas writes of this extensively in his memoirs, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He was told he had done well in seminary despite his race, but was told he was at Yale Law because of his race. In order to prove his detractors wrong, he took a rigorous curriculum of courses to prove he belonged. It turns out, he did belong. He excelled because of merit. Today, he stores his Yale Law diploma in his basement with a 15 cent cigar sticker on the frame. Fortunately, John Danforth and George Bush saw beyond the diploma and skin color. They saw his capacity as a person and as a brilliant intellectual, not the color or his skin or an affirmative action post needing filled.

Much has been made of the “Christian/Protestant Work Ethic” that helped shape America. That’s the idea that hard work and thrift bring rewards – the bedrock of capitalism and the antithesis of the “Green New Deal.” America is a great nation because this is our foundation: hard work and thrift.

Rome fell, at least in part, because of profligacy. They believed spending was the purpose of wealth and the preferred approach to work was to have someone work for you – and if that wasn’t possible…to do as little as possible (Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, 62).

But Christians lived lives in opposition to this and consequently outlived Rome. The Bible describes work and reward before sin entered the world: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden… (Genesis 2:15-16).”

Before sin entered the picture, before what theologians call “the fall,” work brought satisfaction, joy, a sense of accomplishment, and reward for labor. After Adam’s sin we read this description of work: “…through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return (Genesis 3:17-19).”

Work, which God created as a positive, fulfilling, joyful experience, had now become a painful toil, complete with thorns, thistles and the sweat of your (and my) brow. Here are the Proverbs’ descriptions:

  • “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth (Proverbs 10:4).”
  • “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it (Proverbs 10:22).”
  • “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment (Proverbs 12:11).”
  • “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor (Proverbs 12:24).”
  • “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14:23).”

The “ideal” of work has changed over time. It was meant to bring fulfillment to us. But today it is more often painful toil, done by the sweat of our brow. We’d rather not do it ourselves. Like the ancient Romans, we feel someone should do it for us. If we can avoid work altogether, and have someone else pay the bills – that’s the new American Dream, the Green New Deal. The question is, can that nation survive?

The Apostle Paul gives us the definitive, final statement on the matter of work: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).”

Work is good. It naturally brings reward for labor. The Bible says we should do our work as “unto the Lord (Col. 3:23).” Our work – and college admissions – should be evaluated on merit, and nothing else. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed “…My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Content of character, merit, work, brings reward.

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