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FIRST-PERSON: The worth of work

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) — Most people wake up in the morning to go to work. During rush hour, cars are bumper-to-bumper while people on public transportation often are jammed-packed like sardines.

From the beginning of time, humans have labored for the development of civilization. It’s amazing to think about what human ingenuity and effort have produced — massive dams that produce electricity, bridges that span across waterways, endless highways, skyscrapers that reach for the stars, not to mention the breakneck pace of cutting-edge technological advances in medicine, communications, artificial intelligence and much more.

Where can we find the origin of work? Whose idea is this that man has to labor?

We read about it in Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” It was God’s command to Adam to work and be productive, as it was a reflection of God Himself, who worked for six days in creating the world and rested on the seventh day from all He had done (Genesis 2:2).

The heavens and the earth are proof of God’s divine work through His Word. We are mere stewards of His creation and we have the responsibility to maintain the beauty of His world. He is the creator and the owner of this world and it is a God-given privilege to live and to work in it.

It wasn’t until I immigrated to Hawaii from Korea in May 1967 that I experienced a hard day’s labor for a wage.

I found a summer job at a bakery where I started work at 4 a.m. The shop was less than a mile from our home on the same street. It was toward the center of town, a short distance from the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Since I had no previous work experience; everything was new to me. So whatever the chief baker told me to do, I obeyed his instruction. What a learning experience, my very first job in America.

And how proud I was to have earned my first paycheck. It was a different era then. My hourly wage was $1.20. For context, gas was only 32 cents per gallon, a first-class postage stamp was 6 cents, a brand-new car was only $3,000. Today’s youth would not believe my college tuition at the University of Hawaii at Hilo was just $114 per semester.

After that summer, as I thought about what I’d like to do for my future, I found myself wanting to volunteer for the Vietnam War, so I enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 in 1967. The Army sent me to Fort Ord, Calif., for basic combat training and advanced infantry training for 16 weeks. But instead of sending me to Vietnam, they transferred me to Fort Lewis, Wash., where I served as the artillery unit’s supply clerk for the remaining 19 months.

During those two years on active duty, I developed a life of discipline and a lifelong work ethic. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was preparing me for a future as an Army Reserve chaplain and a life in pastoral ministry.

Reflecting back as a pastor emeritus after 38 years of ministry, I see the guiding hand of God in every job I had beforehand.

In John 9:4, the Lord Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” I want to be able to finish the God-given task to be faithful to Him to the end and abide in the everlasting promise of God that our labor in the Lord will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

    About the Author

  • Paul Kim

    Longtime pastor Paul Kim currently is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

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