4–10 February 2018.
One of the most common worries that people share with me is their worry about work. That’s not surprising given how stressful the work situation is here in Taiwan. Jobs here aren’t easy to find, and when one does have a job, the work is stressful, long, and often badly paid. As a result so many people feel trapped, and feel that work is not something fulfilling but rather a burden that destroys their lives, destroys their joy, and even destroys their family relationships. But it’s not meant to be that way – and God doesn’t want it to be like that either.
In ancient Egypt, the Hebrews knew what it was like to have work destroy their lives. Pharaoh didn’t look at the Hebrews as people, just as workers to be abused, used up for his own profit, and then thrown away. God saw this, and he stepped in to stop it. Through Moses, God sent the demand to Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, to let them have time off to rest and to celebrate life. I think if we told our bosses today that the Lord wants us to have time off, they would probably give us the same answer as Pharaoh: “Who is the Lord that I should listen to him?” (5:2). In our world, it seems like Money and Profit are the only gods that get listened to. So it’s no wonder that today many business leaders aren’t willing to listen to this God of the Bible who talks about just treatment, rest, and fair work.
But do you notice how even daring to raise this topic leads to anger and punishment? In v. 4 Pharaoh shouts at Moses and demands that the Hebrews get back to work. Pharaoh punishes the Hebrews, giving them more to do, increasing their workload and increasing their suffering (5:7–8). And when the workers cry out in despair under the pressure of this work, Pharaoh just accuses them in 5:17 of being “lazy, lazy”!
How often we hear Taiwanese business leaders saying the same thing. People today are forced to work in terrible conditions, to work longer hours, more shifts, to meet higher targets with fewer resources. We struggle with stress and abuse, we struggle with wage slavery, we watch as our lives are used up for someone else’s profit. But if we dare say anything, the only answer we get is Pharaoh’s words: that workers are just “lazy, lazy.”
The Hebrews had given up hope that things would change. And many of us today have also given up hope on ever finding a healthy work-life balance. But the good news of Exodus is that change *will* come. The good news is that God doesn’t just care about our spiritual lives, he cares about our *whole* lives, including our work lives. Exodus tells us that God heard the cry of his people (3:7), he saw the suffering of those oppressed through work – and he saw the way that Pharaoh hardened his heart and just didn’t care. So in chapter 6:1 God makes a frightening announcement. God says to Moses: “Just wait and see what I will do”.
For those of us suffering under poor work conditions today, don’t give up – because God gives us the same promise too. If things look hopeless, if it feels like nothing at work will change, don’t give up. Because God sees what we are going through, he hears our prayers for fairer work and for a better life, and he promises us too: “Just wait and see what I will do”!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis