Working For Free

By: Jim O'Brien 

Would you go to work if you didn't get paid? I thought of that when a friend told me he had spent the day installing insulation in his daughter's attic. This was more striking because he owns a construction company and employs other men to do the same job simply because it's so distasteful to him. He will pay other men to do work he detests yet he does it for free for his daughter.

It's part of human nature to do what we love without payment. For example, a lot of people wouldn't take a job changing diapers-there's not enough money to pay me to do it-but I changed hundreds, it seems like thousands, on my children and grandchildren.

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 more strange than performing a task for free when you wouldn't do it for a salary.

By chance I once met a man who was a renowned artist. He showed me through his studio filled with incredible works of art he had painted. He told me he had attended medical school and quit during his final year, turning his back on a lucrative career as a doctor, to pursue something risky. He realized as he reached the end of the program that his fascination with the human body was painting it rather than medicating it. He specialized in portraits and Med School taught him about the skeletal and muscular structure which made him a better artist. "Most people paint what they see," he told me, "but I learned the structure of the body to paint what is not seen." His talent earned him an invitation to live at the residence of the Prince of Wales for six months to paint his portrait.

Choice is the heart of freedom that 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 force the Apostle Paul to endure beatings, stoning 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 a.m. 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. It is the great blessing of a free market economy and the great curse of socialism. The latter inevitably kills the spirit.

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 that 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 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:" (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

Joy is an essential part of our worship of God.

John Wesley once said, "Sour godliness is the devil's religion." He was right! The grim faced evangelists of the devil want to take the heart out of worship. Don't let them do it. God set you free so you could worship Him in joyfulness and gladness of heart.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

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