Who likes work? Why do people work? Do you think work is about money? Is money important to you? What would you do with a big jar of cash? I’ve got one right here. Can you guess how many coins are in the jar? What do you think?
Four years ago, a sixty-two-year-old Frenchman was rushed to the emergency room. This poor man was suffering severe stomach pain. There was an enormously dense mass in the patient’s stomach that weighed twelve pounds. It was so heavy that it had forced his stomach down between his hips. Five days after his arrival, doctors cut him open and removed his badly damaged stomach and its contents, but the man died a few days later from complications.
What is so astonishing about this man’s story is what the doctors found inside of his stomach. The dense twelve pound mass was not a cancerous tumor. Rather, the patient had swallowed around 350 coins: the equivalent of 650 American dollars! The doctor said he was suffering from a rare illness that makes people want to eat money.
Now you are probably saying to yourself, “That’s simply INSANITY! I am nothing like this mentally unhealthy fellow! I would never swallow coins, especially 350 of them.” Honestly, I am glad to hear this. Because I will tell you in all sincerity, “Swallowing coins is dangerous. Don’t do it!”
One of the things you will learn as you get older is that some people are obsessed with making money. They spend all their waking hours focused on making more money. For some people work is the means to get what you want. And when we focus so much on what we want, work becomes hard and we are not happy.
Solomon was the King of Israel. He had more money than anyone else in the whole world. In fact he had everything he wanted, except one thing, he wanted to be happy and he wasn’t. So he wrote down his feelings and we can read them today in the Bible. The book he wrote is called Ecclesiastes. And what he learned that is important for us is that everything is meaningless if you don’t know God.
That is because God gives us work as the means of taking care of His world. When we are obsessed to make money, then work becomes a curse and the curse is that we are not happy and will never be happy. But work is intended to be a blessing. And the blessing is that when we work to produce or to manage or to create then we are doing what God wants us to do and then we are happy.
One of the things we learn in the Bible is there is a difference between Law and Gospel. Law is the stuff we do believing we can save ourselves. Gospel is the thing we do believing that Jesus only has saved. So we are being Gospel people when we listen to Jesus’ voice. Let me tell you a story about the difference.
A greedy mouse saw a basket full of corn. He wanted to eat it. So he made a small hole in the basket. He squeezed in through the hole. He ate a lot of corn. He felt full. He was very happy.
Now he wanted to come out. He tried to come out through the small hole. He could not. His belly was full. He tried again. But it was of no use.
The mouse started crying. A rabbit was passing by. It heard the mouse’s cry and asked: “Why are you crying my friend?”
The mouse explained: “I made a small hole and came into the basket. Now I am not able to get out through that hole.”
The rabbit said: “It is because you ate too much. Wait until your belly shrinks.” The rabbit laughed and went away.
The mouse fell asleep in the basket. Next morning his belly had shrunk. But the mouse wanted to eat some corn. So he ate and ate. His belly was full once again. He thought: “Oh! Now I will go out tomorrow.”
The cat was the next passerby. He smelt the mouse in the basket. He lifted its lid. He ate the mouse.
You see the mouse worked to take care of himself. The rabbit told him how to get out of the trap he was in. But the mouse didn’t listen, did he? He didn’t trust the voice that offered a way out. And what happened to him? The cat ate him. I bet that mouse wished he had listened to the rabbit don’t you?
Sometimes we are like the mouse who won’t listen to what God tells us and we keep on doing what will end up hurting us, just like the mouse. The Law is that the mouse couldn’t get out of the basket by himself but the Gospel told him the answer.
It is the same thing with us. When we work to find happiness in money we are like the man who gobbled up all that money and ended up killing himself. But when we listen to Jesus words of do not worry, or Solomon’s words that our work is a gift given by God for us to enjoy trusting that God will take care of us then we will find happiness.