The difference between effort and earning
- Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2015 - 10:00am

Not many people read the works of Leonard Sweet. He is too controversial. The religious people brand him a heretic, the non-conformists regard him as a hero, and I treat him as a very wise person who writes very well.

People who can maintain their belief system while respecting other belief systems display maturity and wisdom.

Leonard Sweet, in one of his books, confronts the issue of too much ministry work. This “too much” work drove loads of people into burnout and depression.

I may disagree with many of Sweet’s thoughts and principles, but I certainly agree with this particular piece of observation. He says that serving God should be a product of delight in His Presence, not a chore that is imposed.

There is a difference between worship and work.

One story from the Bible that fascinates me is the one with Martha and Mary. Martha was so busy doing chores for the Lord’s visit. Martha was so absorbed in her “work” which eventually irritated her while Mary was so engrossed in worshiping her Lord. Martha got so upset and pointed the obvious fact that there she was laboring for the Master and Mary was not doing any activity at all.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Many people mistake work for worship and then they become fatigued. They are made to feel guilty by religious authorities.

Leonard Sweet said something that made me laugh so hard. Sweet said when you meet these kinds of people, their faces “shout”. Sweet said, “When I hear people talk about, with an almost pharisaic pride, the merits of hard work and the desire to be better disciples by adhering to laws and labors rather than grace and quiet, it is like chewing on barbed wire.”

God is not opposed to effort. If He is, then He would not include the part that says, “Faith without work is dead.” But God is opposed to earning. Because what Christ has done on the Cross is work that He alone can do and no amount of human work will earn salvation apart from faith in Him.

There is so much we need to learn about the message of the cross. Some people say the cross represents a problem that needs to be carried. Many housewives attribute this to their problematic husbands.

I don’t think this is a correct understanding of the cross.

One, during the time of Christ, dying by the cross was a capital punishment. Second, when Jesus was carrying the cross, it was not because He was carrying a problem. He carried the cross because He had a mission to die on it as a perfect sacrifice in substitution for all of us who have sinned. Yet by faith in Him, we are granted salvation.

This is the beauty of the message of the cross. You don’t have to be a tycoon to donate millions and earn salvation. The thief on the cross (only one of the two) chose Jesus and he was saved. You don’t earn salvation by slaving and laboring with no element of worship and delight at all. Service is merely an after-effect of genuine love and worship.

Jesus Christ said the following words that have been put into songs, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

In other words, you can be spiritual but you don’t have to be impractical.

Many people have found rest in Him. I did. And I hope you will, too.

(You can connect with Francis Kong through Facebook at or listen to his program called “Business Matters” from Monday to Friday at 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. in 98.7 dzFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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