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There is an interesting story in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah has been granted permission by Artaxerxes, King of Persia, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall around the city that lies in ruins.
When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he gathers a few men, and they walk together around the city in the middle of the night as Nehemiah views the condition of the broken down wall. Once his inspection is complete he confides in these men about the vision God has given him to rebuild the wall. He gives them an impassioned challenge to help him complete this task so that they will no longer be the laughing stock of the surrounding nations. Upon hearing his challenge, the Bible says the men’s stated reaction was, “Let us rise up and build” (Neh. 2:20).
Then they set (or fixed) their hands to do the appointed task.
It’s a fascinating story that unfolds in the following chapters that has many applications to leadership, organizational structure and completing a project when faced with tough opposition. And when it all comes down to it, the reason why the wall was completed can be found in a short phrase in Neh. 4:6 where we read, “…for the people had a mind to work.” You get the sense when you read this story, there was nothing that was going to stop them from completing this task because they were so focused and determined to get it done. They worked so hard it took them only 52 days to complete the entire project! Now that is some serious hard work.
Where Have All the Hard Workers Gone?
Does it seem that many people in our culture today have lost this passion for hard work? We see adults taking risky, unnecessary shortcuts (that eventually backfire) in an attempt to get ahead in their career. We see people playing the lottery to get rich quick instead of choosing to build wealth over time. There are people in tough financial situations that desperately need a job but won’t take certain ones because they consider them beneath their standards. And it seems many in our culture have developed a mindset they should be given things without working for them just because they deserve it or because that’s the governments job.
Sad thing is, I see these same attitudes spilling over into many of our young people. We have a generation of young people who bristle at the idea of doing a 30-minute homework assignment on a Tuesday night. When they finally muster the desire to attempt the work, they only put in half the effort. If they have to think about the answer to a problem for more than 2 consecutive minutes they shut down. (And then they just write down any answer – not the right one – just to get the assignment done.)
They don’t push themselves to do their work with excellence. And when they fail, the teacher is the bad guy because the grading standards are too high.
In All Labor There Is Profit
If we are going to succeed in life and with money, we have to clearly embrace the concept of work that is detailed in numerous passages in the Bible. Our core verse for this concept is found in Proverbs 14:23 where it says, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”
We find here that work, not talk, leads to profit in our lives. We can say all we want that our desire is save, get out of debt, go to college, have a nest egg for retirement, pay off our house, and build wealth, but unless we actually do some work none of it will happen. Daily, focused, hard work over the long haul brings profit, an increase of money that we can use to pursue our financial goals.
But there is more than external profit that comes when we choose to work hard. There is something that develops internally that you cannot really measure when we push ourselves to accomplish something great.
When I was in college, I pulled three of what I would call true “all-nighters” (being awake for more than 24 consecutive hours). Two of those were because I was studying for a semester exam in one class, History of Civilization. My professor was notorious on campus for being tough and I had truly learned why that semester. The content was enormous, his lectures were tedious – often over my head – and his tests were brutal. But I decided before the 6-week drop/add period expired that I was not going to quit the class. I would see it through to the end, no matter what. So, at the end of the semester, with a passing grade hanging in the balance, I settled down with a few classmates, some snacks and a case of Mountain Dew for our all night study sessions.
I remember the feeling I had walking out of that final exam knowing I had given it my best. And I remember the feeling not much later when I received my passing grade of C. In academics, C usually means “average,” but there was nothing average about that grade to me. I was so proud of that grade. But I really wasn’t proud of the grade…the pride I had was in myself. I had to generate considerable effort to accomplish that grade. I had pushed through a barrier of effort in that freshman level class that truly helped me understand what true work meant. Those long hours of focused hard work in that one class helped develop the character I need to propel me through the rest of college.
In labor there is profit. If we are going to win with our finances we have to embrace this concept.
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Dream big…work hard.
Questions: How has hard work helped shape you? Do you see a lack of effort in our culture today?
Prior Post: Core Concept #4 – Can Two Walk Together and Bring Financial Success? (Part II)