The Work of Our Hands

working hands“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” Surely Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:30 is meant as hyperbole. Still I must confess that my hands (and the rest of my body) can get me into a great deal of trouble.

Why did God save you from the sins of your flesh only to leave you inhabiting that flesh for the rest of your life, abandoning you, so it would seem, to an endless parade of temptations and inevitable failures? That’s a curious question, one of those when-I-get-to-heaven-I’m-gonna-ask sort of questions.

While I don’t have an absolute answer for that question, I do assume that God did this not by oversight but on purpose. The question we can answer is how to live in that flesh. Do I succumb to gluttony or pride when I consider my body? Do I invest too much attention into my work or too little, yielding to sloth? Marshall Segal has written persuasively on how we are to properly navigate this problem (although the title of his essay seems misleading to me).

Our tendency toward idolatry in our work is no indictment against work (just like pornography is no indictment against sex (in the context of marriage), and drunk driving is no indictment against the automobile). Even before sin entered into the world, God wanted us to work (Genesis 2:15). In fact, he made us to work (Psalm 8:6). It was woven into the goodness of God’s perfect creation. All work is God’s, and it serves as a brilliant shadow of his own sovereign, just, creative, and sustaining work (Hebrews 1:10Psalm 143:5).

It’s so easy to become enamored with the work that these hands can do. It’s so easy to lapse into idolatry. Yet it’s just as easy to fold my hands (and all the rest of my flesh) and ignore it. While I cannot answer with certainly why God saved me from my flesh and then left me in it, I can discern directions in how I am to live out those flesh-bound years. Perhaps that’s enough.