Work With Returns
“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” (Psalms 128:1-2)
“From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. (Proverbs 12:14)
I’ve been tracking Hurricane Michael as it moves through Florida and up the East Coast of the U.S. My six family members all decided to stay put in Tallahassee to ride out the storm. The wind damage there wasn’t nearly as severe as it could have been but they have been without power now for about twelve hours. I wonder what I would do during hurricane season if I lived in Florida. It’s certainly a good time to test your ability to live without conveniences and to refine a good routine for food storage, communication, and patience. It reminds me of preparing for elective surgery. When we know difficulty is coming, and we prepare wisely, the results should be good, unlike dealing with an unexpected storm or a sudden injury or illness.
Psalm 128 contains a description of [a] “man’s blessedness: in the context of ancient Israel, it consisted of a productive farm, and a faithful wife and children around the table together.” (1) The person who has these benefits is the one who fears God and lives by his commands (v. 1). Proverbs 12:14b echoes this truth, speaking of good work that returns to us in good results and blessings. The first part of the verse is harder to understand, but Matthew Henry writes, “When men use their tongues aright, to teach and comfort others, they enjoy acceptance through Christ Jesus; and the testimony of their conscience, that they in some measure answer the end of their being.” (2) Our speech and work are both parts of our purpose, to enjoy God and glorify him forever; they also bring satisfaction within ourselves, spiritual well-being, and sometimes material sufficiency.
However, you might argue that not all who love the Lord are blessed with well-being. Some people who are prepared for a storm might have a tree fall on their house, and some Christians are sitting in prisons right now, experiencing anything but blessedness for their faithful witness. I find helpful the commentary in the Reformation Study Bible about Psalm 128:2, “The psalmist envisions justice where the righteous proper from their work, unlike the situation now, as a result of the fall, where the wicked prosper.” (3) And even though we may not receive what we deserve, regarding the work of our hands, or our testimony for Jesus Christ, we are called to do it in faith, just like a person preparing for a storm. Furthermore, righteous verbal testimony of God’s grace has benefits such as building up strong biblical relationships and respecting God’s creation and work, with rewards of its own.
While it may be good to think of our words and work as that which will yield a good result for ourselves, the benefits are never meant only for individuals. In Deuteronomy 18, the Lord, through Moses enumerated all the behaviors that would bring blessings to Israel, and then all those that would bring curses upon the nation. Individuals may have sin, but everyone suffered, as the world has from Adam and Eve’s fall, and so many others who brought calamities on Israel.
All that we say and do has an impact on someone. Will the “fruit” of your mouth bring satisfaction to others today? What benefits do you expect from your work? Will a life of sufficiency in Christ and spiritual well-being be enough blessing for you?
(1) ESV Study Bible Notes, Psalm 128:2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(2) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 12:14, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/
(3) The Reformation Study Bible, Psalm 128:2 Note, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.