Success has its privileges. People who are successful gain more power and prestige in the community. People respect those who have achieved success. The man or woman who is in business for themselves will often work long, hard hours to achieve that success and make many sacrifices in the process. Success also has its detractors: those who would seek to pull down anyone attempting to achieve more. Many of the lynching movements in the South were designed to keep former slaves and their descendants from succeeding. One man who sought to help these newly freed men was George Washington Carver. He taught everyone, especially the freed slaves, how to care for the land to get the best crops. He researched the properties of peanuts diligently so that a crop that was necessary, but not very profitable, might be used to enrich the soil.
Perhaps the greatest surprise to former slave holders and their friends was that these people, who were lazy as slaves in their eyes, were succeeding. What they didn’t understand is that people who can sit on a porch, sipping ice tea while watching other people work, often seem to think that the people who are working aren’t doing enough and are lazy. (I have never done a lot of work outside in the hot, South Texas sun, but I know enough that people who do aren’t lazy.) This attitude, though, has persisted long before America was ever founded. When the Hebrew people sought to worship God in the wilderness, Pharaoh exploded and made his slaves work even harder. “Pharaoh said, ‘Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.” Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.’” (Exodus 5:17-18)
The truth is very simple. It’s easy to call people lazy. They may in fact seem lazy if they see no hope, no future, in their work. I wonder how many people live down to the label “lazy” when they’ve been called that for years by people who don’t actually do the manual labor that they do. Even today we see people who are working minimum wage jobs with no hope for advancement, called lazy because they don’t do more. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that without hope, people perish. They give up. They do just enough to get by. They endure the taunts of others because they’re doing what they have to, and there’s no use working harder.
Moses brought hope to the Israelites. They didn’t like the results at first because Pharaoh made life harder for them. Ultimately, they gained freedom. In today’s world, we have a lot of people without hope. They are working dead end jobs every day, trying to survive. They may even be barely subsisting on welfare or charity. As Christians, it is not our responsibility to tell these people what they are doing wrong. It is our responsibility to give hope. We give hope by introducing people to God’s love in Jesus Christ. We give hope by drawing the best out of them and helping them to see their own potential. We give hope by training them how to set up a firm foundation in life and then helping them build. We give hope by being involved in their lives, letting them know that they are important to God, and to us. We give hope to the hopeless and build a better world.
Oh Lord, as I see people working every day, remind me that I should always be spreading Your hope. Some may have hope in their current situation, but many don’t. Let me be a beacon of Your hope and love to all, and find ways to help those who need it.