When I hopped in the truck at sun-up this morning, my phone read -8 degrees. I turned the key and felt the warm air hit me in the face and had never been happier that I didn’t have a ranch to take care of. Yesterday, while I sat in my living room under a blanket, I saw pictures of guys, in blizzard like conditions, taking care of their animals, doctoring calves, and driving the feed truck with the windows down. I have been in those situations, the cold, the snow, and the rain, and I say this with the utmost respect, but I’m glad it was they and not I this day.
A few years back, I was feeding on a morning very similar to the ones we felt this week here in the Midwest. I had tried to ride in my coveralls, but coveralls in the saddle is a recipe for disaster. I chose to go with jeans and chaps, and about 5 layers up top. After 1 hour of checking cows, I didn’t think that I could get any colder. Then I had to chop open a hole in the pond. I thought before that I couldn’t get colder, then I knew. With no feeling in my fingers, I wrapped the reins around my forearm (I’m to manly to wear mittens) and finished checking cows. I had lost feeling from the knee down, and had icicles forming in my beard. I was taken back as to how men work in those conditions on a regular basis. Then it hit me…
There wasn’t a choice. Animals need to be fed and watered. Calves need to be checked and doctored. There is no putting-off-until-tomorrow, no out-sourcing or contracting-out. When it comes to days off, there are none. Hard work is what makes them who they are. Hard work is something that Paul made a focal point of his ministry. Paul lived out the proverb: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10.4) In Corinth he split time as a tentmaker and preacher (Acts 18.3). In Thessalonica he “worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (2 Thess. 3.8) Its clear from reading through the letters to the Thessalonians, the Paul expects them to follow his “model” (1 Thes. 3.9) and their “example” (1 Thes. 3.7).
As I was looking at facebook and reading through Thessalonians, I was reminded of the verses that I want my life to reflect. I want to live out Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 4.11-12: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Paul understood that our ability to work was part of our being. (Gen 2.15) I know people who hit the big bucks by suing a company. I also know others who put down hours they don’t work. I have seen laziness first hand, and can’t stand those who refuse to give their best. Paul would tell us “to never tire of doing what’s right.” (2 Thess. 3.13) In a previous life, this tiring of doing right killed me. I struggled to remain diligent in my work as I watched others around me. I want to get better at this…regardless of what is going on around me, continuing my work regardless of my surroundings.
So to you farmers and ranchers out there who work tirelessly, thanks for your example. For those of you who give your best every day, thanks for living out scripture. Hard work is essential to the Christian life and there are few things better than a hard days work. It is imperative, that we as disciples, live our lives, do our work, in a way that people look at us and are encouraged. Do we work in this way? Are the people we work alongside encouraged because of the effort we give? I want to be the kind of guy that Paul was thinking of in Thessalonians…and if I’m not, I sure aim to be!