Toil, Labor, and the Christian Life (Boston)

The Complete Work of Thomas Boston: Volume 9 There are many texts and stories in the Bible which tell us that the Christian life is sometimes a kind of labor or toil.  For example, the young Thessalonian church was known for its toil of love (1 Thes. 1:3).  Paul has to remind the Corinthian church that their labor was not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Paul and his missionary team labored and toiled day and night (1 Thes. 2:9).  The Christian preaching and teaching that elders do is called “labor.” (1 Tim. 5:17). And so on.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy.  It’s hard to do the right thing when no one else is doing it.  Sometimes when we have a tough choice to make and want to please the Lord we find it difficult to know the way forward.  And sometimes loving people as the Bible calls us to do is toilsome.  But, in a word, it’s totally worth it!  Like Paul said, our labor is not in vain!  I appreciate how Thomas Boston wrote about this in a sermon on Matthew 11:28 (“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” NIV):

(1.) If it is hard labor, it is worth the pains, the other kind of labor is not so, for, Prov. 2:4, 5, “If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” There is hard labor in digging stones, as well as in digging for gold; nay, it is hard labor digging disappointments, that which is not; whereas the gain of the other is precious and certain. 1. The promise, Prov. 8:21, “That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures.” 2. The experience of all the laborers confirms the certainty of it: “I (God) said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye my face in vain.”

(2.) If it is hard labor, it is short; if the work is sore, yet it is not overly long. You shall soon rest from your labors: Rev. 14:13. He that is tired with his journey, his spirits will revive when near the end. The shadow of the evening makes the laborer work heartily, for free-time is at hand. The trials, afflictions, weeping, etc. of the saints, endure but for a moment. On the other hand, the labor of other persons knows no end; no rest abides them, but an everlasting toil under wrath that never ends.

 Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Sixty-Six Sermons, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 9 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1851), 195–196.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002