Almost a year ago, I wrote in an editorial, “Would we be ready if Christ were to return today? Not that He will — but ARE WE READY, NOW?… Rather than trying to figure out when, exactly, Christ will return, we should concentrate on getting READY for that event… ‘Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:44).” (Editorial, “Are We Ready–Now?”, Update #152, July 16, 2004).
In about two months, baptized members of the Church of God will be partaking of the annual Passover. Before they do, they will examine themselves as to their spiritual condition, so that they may eat the bread and drink the wine in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). When they are ready to eat the Passover, they proclaim “the Lord’s death till He comes” (verse 26).
Some have wondered what being “ready” for Christ’s return means, in practical application. We must be SPIRITUALLY ready, not living in spiritual darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Rather than sleeping and being drunk with the ideas of this world, we are to be “sober” and to watch our own spiritual make-up (verse 6). But, getting or being “ready” does definitely NOT mean, ceasing to work hard, pursuing a career, or putting our whole being into the necessary activities of this physical life. It may be tempting to say: “Since Christ will be returning soon, why should I concentrate on going to college, getting an education, finding a satisfying and somewhat stable job, getting married, having children, or enjoying this physical life in the right way?” But such thoughts are not in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible’s timeless admonition in this regard is very illustrative, and must be carefully applied, especially by members of God’s Church. Notice just a few examples, dealing with our duty to work:
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13).
“Let him who stole steal no longer [including wasting time — the time of others, as well as God’s time given to us, by not doing what God has instructed us to do], but rather let him labor, working with his hands [and with his mind and energy] what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
“He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity [Lit. vain things] is devoid of understanding” (Proverbs 12:11; compare Proverbs 28:19).
“In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter [Lit. talk of the lips] leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23).
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
“In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)
“The hand of the diligent will rule [including preparing diligently for a career in which one will ultimately excel; compare Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty…”], But the lazy man will be put to forced labor [e.g., he will have to work in an unsatisfying position]” (Proverbs 12:24).
“Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15)
“Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers BY LABOR will increase” (Proverbs 13:11).
Of course, God warns us not to overwork for the purpose of becoming rich (Proverbs 23:4), and not to “trust in uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17). But this does not mean that we should cease working, if we are able to work (We are not addressing, of course, those who are unable to work because of health reasons or old age). In fact, Proverbs 27:23-24 tells us: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds; For riches are not forever…”
In addition, God commanded that a man and a woman should get married — provided, that they are compatible. If we are patient, God WILL provide the right mate for us. Proverbs 18:22 tells us: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.” We also read that “a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Proverbs 19:14). And notice that a prudent or virtuous wife works hard, as described in Proverbs 31:
“(Verse 13) She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands… (Verse 16) She considers a field and buys it; From her profit she plants a vineyard… (Verse 21) She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. (Verse 22) She makes tapestry for herself… (Verse 24) She makes linen garments and sells them… (Verse 27) She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness… (Verse 31) Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.”
At the same time, we are told that we are to first prepare financially for marriage through our work and a good education: “Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house” (Proverbs 24:27). Some may feel that they should not get married or have children, because of the times that we are living in. There may indeed come a time in the future, when this might be an appropriate advice (compare 1 Corinthians 7:26-27). But that time is not here yet! And we don’t know, exactly, when it will arrive. In the meantime, we are to live by obeying the specific commands of God.
To get ready for the return of Christ INCLUDES living diligently in obedience to God’s laws of labor, so that we are able to provide for ourselves and those in our care (compare 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 13:22). Our physical labor will have a reward, and the way we conduct our work may even determine whether we will inherit eternal life. Proverbs 10:16 says: “The labor of the righteous leads to life, the wages of the wicked to sin.”