Do not labor for the food which perishes but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for God the father sealed this one. John 6:27
Do Not Labor – The daily devotional of Oswald Chambers for July 27 is profound. One of the sentences reads, “No man ever receives a word from God without instantly being put to the test over it.” This is Chambers at his best. He recognizes the biblical approach is confrontational. If we won’t submit and obey what God offers us in His word today, we can be assured we will not discover anything tomorrow. We must eat today’s bread in order to be ready for tomorrow’s bread.
Yeshua simply follows that biblical pattern of confrontation when He tells the crowd that they have come looking for the wrong nourishment. They are in pursuit of what sustains the body. Yeshua offers them nourishment that sustains the whole person (not the soul – that would be a Greek dichotomy). Then He slaps them with the confrontation. “Do not labor.” The Greek is ergazesthe me. Both words are important.
First, the verb is ergazomai – to work. The second word is me, the conditional negative. It is “not” in a dependent sense. Me is about what is supposed or imagined. It stands in contrast with ou which implies an absolute negative; a negative that does not depend on conditions. For example, 7 + 3 is not 11 (that’s ou) and God is not many. But “do not (me) labor” imagines the condition under which someone works toward a goal. It is not a necessary event in life, but when it happens, there are some conditions that should not (me) be part of the work. What are those conditions? Answering that question is where the confrontation occurs?
Yeshua tells me if I work for the purpose of providing nourishment alone, I will automatically miss the mark. Let’s translate this concept into modern events. If I consider my job merely as a means of providing me with what I need to stay alive, then I will never find God’s eternal purposes in my work. I won’t see the hidden hand of God behind the blessing of work itself. I won’t recognize there is more to my work than merely filling the table for a meal. I will be caught in the seduction of the “now.” I will work for things rather than for purposes. My work will not endure because it will be work outside of the conscious awareness of God’s purposes. This kind of work characterizes most of the world. It is hand-to-mouth labor. And Yeshua tells us it is fruitless. The very thing that appears to be real is, in fact, deception. It doesn’t last.
We all know this, don’t we? We know that all the effort we put accumulating things just puts more on the piles of rust and rot. But still we pile them up. Yeshua asks us to look deeper – what lasts is the fruit of righteousness, work that is aligned with the Father’s purposes. By the way, that is a lot more than simply getting saved. There are things to do in the Kingdom but they are only of value when God directs the effort. My idea of what counts for righteousness doesn’t really matter. I can pile up noble rust just as I can pile up profane rust.
Notice how we are to make the distinction. The Son of Man will give us work that lasts. Ah, it isn’t my work or my inspiration or my evaluation. It is His. Work that endures is work He gives me.
So, now the question is really simple – and very confrontational. Are you doing His work? Have you been assigned? Is your effort according to His instructions? If it isn’t, then why are you laboring so hard?
Topical Index: work, not, me, ou, ergazomai, John 6:27, Oswald Chambers