“ Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
How contrary is this psalm to the way we approach work today? Here the Psalm-writer (likely Solomon) expresses that all labor is in vain unless is it done through and to the Lord, similar to the sentiment in Colossians 3:23-24. Often in the modern world, a busy schedule, good grades, and a high paycheck are seen as the signs of success. However, in this psalm children, human relationships, are the reward and rest is given freely.
Eugene Peterson wrote, “People are at the center of Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies. We travel light. The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships: ‘Children are GOD’s best gift.’ We invest our energy in people." This is contrary to the consumerist view of work where accomplishments are gathered like trophies in a dusty, overcrowded case. Instead we “travel light” accumulating not material things, but transcendent things, by impacting the souls of those we come in contact with.
Look back at verse two. Is this verse suggesting that you hit snooze on your alarm tomorrow and show up a few minutes late to school or work? Certainly not. Instead the verse is calling you to rest in the Lord. This can happen early in the morning, before bed, or any time of day. Instead of viewing your time only as valuable to produce something else, homework, money, creative pursuits, view your time as eternally valuable because it was given to you by the Lord. He desires you to dedicate parts of your time to the rest He gives in his presence, the rest he modeled on the Sabbath. Human relationships and our relationship with the Lord should be central to every facet of our lives, including our day-to-day tasks.
Pause a moment in your day. Reflect and ask the Lord how he can be a part of your work life. Think about the people you have relationships with at school, at work, at church, in your home, and wherever else you spend your day. How can you invest in them today?