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What We Might Have in Common With Amazon

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

James 2:1-17

I love to work. Ironing. Gardening. Painting. Cleaning. Washing dishes. Writing and sharing essays like this one.

Groomed by my hard-working Dad, who awakened my sister and me early on Saturday mornings to “work while the day is light,” I fully embrace the virtue of labor. Almost nothing warms my soul like a tough job completed. As my labor-loving Dad exhorted us countless times, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

But does all my working bless the kingdom? Is my toiling the “work” James burned so deeply onto our spirits? When I move heaven and earth to complete a job, feeling a bit prideful that I beat the clock to “get her done,” have I offered real value to God?

I reflect on that this morning, working on a writing deadline, but also detecting the urgency that drives me. Will this work be good enough? Will it meet the specs? Will the editor approve?

Or in truth, when I have finished this task, will it please God? Even more: Will I?

Such approval-worry must account for much of the “Christian busy work” of which we all know. The psalmist called it “anxious toil” (Ps. 127:2 ESV), our scurrying and hurrying to satisfy arbitrary lists of appointments, schedules, assignments, and duties.

The problem is endemic, especially in America where we don’t work to live but “live to work.”

The New York Times, writing recently about the “bruising” work culture of retail giant Amazon, ignited a firestorm of feedback with its depiction of 80-hour work weeks and callous managers lacking empathy for family tragedies or sick employees.

“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” said one former book-marketing “Amazonian.”

Added another former worker: “I would see people practically combust.”

Reading such comments, I nodded with recognition. I’ve worked at such places. Or it felt that way sometimes. Working now for myself, however, I still crack the whip and watch the clock. And to what end? So my faith isn’t “dead”?

There is a sad tyranny in such toil. It forgets the psalmist’s timeless reminder that:

“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.” (Ps. 127:1)

Overlooking that reality—that God alone makes our work truly matter—we then forget James’ iconic point. Don’t just talk about faith, put feet on it.

Not to beat the clock, but to share the living and balanced Christ.

So here comes a test: Midway through finishing this article, my husband pops into my office—inviting me to take a break. “Let’s go get breakfast,” he says.

Oh, I long to put him off. To argue “another day.” To plead my deadline. But this is the day the Lord has made, and anxious toil is not on the agenda. So I push back from my desk, take a deep breath, and away we go.

And as we are going, adding balance to our work, God now seems well pleased.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What’s your attitude about work? Does it haunt or hinder you? What makes work useful to God? Why is work-deprived faith a dead faith? How do you balance your work with God’s grace?

PRAYER: I’ve been watching the clock, Lord—toiling anxiously trying to please others and you. Inspire me instead to watch you, laboring in your way—not to gain the world’s approval, but to rest in the salvation and life you already earned. Amen.

BIBLE PASSAGE:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:1-17

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