Back in the Day: Hard Work

“Back in the day, we used to walk to school 12 miles uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow.”

Okay, as we’ve introduced this theme of “Back in the day…” I wonder how many of you all have thought to yourselves…what do Jason and Joanie know about back in the day?  They’re probably gonna tell us how our meandering thoughts about how good things were back then are just crazy and we need to let go of them.

On the contrary.  We want to take a deeper look at these phrases and see where they come from.   And to today’s phrase…”we walked to school 14 miles uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow…” , I wanna say…”Amen.”

So, what about this phrase? What makes it so Godly?

“Back in the day, we used to walk to school 12 miles uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow.”

What is the moral behind this saying?  What is the “dream” that was being lived out?  What was good about walking to school 12 miles uphill both ways?

Not lazy.

And was it only that way back in the day?  I want to suggest otherwise.  I want to suggest that those who remember walking to school barefoot in the snow uphill 12 miles both ways laid a foundation.  I want to suggest they laid the foundation of hard work that following generations would build upon.  And quite frankly might have built a little too high.

According to Business Insider article, in the 1890s the government started tracking work hours.  Manufacturing employees were working more than 100 hours a week.  That started a development of Unions and governmental pushes to regulate the work week.

Do you know what May Day in America really is?  On May 1, 1867 Illinois Legislature passed a law that mandated a 8 hour work day.  Many employees failed to comply and so strikes began by employees every year on May Day. Slowly, the government and other large corporations began adopting 8 hour work day policies.

It wasn’t until 1940 that Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act limiting the work week to 40 hours.

Fast forward to the 21st century.  In many jobs now, workers stay longer than ever…they are expected to stay until the work is done…not when the day is over.

American factories workers average 12 hours a day 6-7 days a week, according to a Bloomberg Study.

A 2014 Gallup poll put average American work week at 47 hours per week.

In practically every profession, people work more hours per day now that they did 40, 50 or 60 years ago.

To the point of hard work…The bible is full of scripture and proverbs that declare the significance of hard work.  The bible is full of stories of people that worked hard for what they had.

There is an ethic of hard work that runs throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Just imagine this one:  “Honey, remember back in the day, when you were willing to work for dad, (as a farmhand) for SEVEN years, in exchange for my hand in marriage!!  And remember, he tricked you and gave you my sister, and so you were willing to work SEVEN more years in exchange for my hand in marriage.”

Jacob knew hard work.  Jacob knew that one of the greatest expressions of love is hard work.

Paul also values hard work. There are several times in his letters where he is commending himself or other people in the community for their hard work in the Lord.

And how about the one from today’s scripture reading…from the Israelites exodus from Egypt?  “Back in the day, we had to walk hundreds of miles through the desert without food, go backwards to camp in the path of our enemies, get hunted down, and then walked through a path in the water to get to our freedom.”

The Israelites knew hard work.  Not only had they been enslaved to the Egyptians for 400+ years, now they were having to work hard for their freedom.  And the work of freedom was so difficult, they were looking back to slavery.

William Johnstone, in his commentary on Exodus 14, suggests that it fears and terrors in the present time that causes the Egyptians to temporarily forget the awful past in Egyptian slavery and the “hope of future blessings that YHWH offers”.

Is that what causes us to forget about where we are going and the blessings of the present?  Do our fears of what might happen keep us focused on the good that happened in the past instead of the good that is happening now?

Could it be that the expression “Back in the day, we walked to school 15 miles both ways uphill in the six foot of snow” was crafted in a time of fear? Was someone surveying comforts of modernity and becoming afraid that we would forget hard work?  Or maybe grandpa was scared of where his grandchild’s behavior would lead him, so he focused on his own hard work of the past?

One of the back in the day expressions I hear often, in most churches I have worked in is…”Back in the day, we used to send Mission teams out every summer and we spent weeks on work teams., etc. etc.”

My friends…take heart that this legacy continues.

We work hard for the kingdom of God.

I wonder if fear and terror also plagues the church?  We see someone who is lost, hungry, homeless, and we think why haven’t we fixed that?  We think all is calm and then there is storm that disrupts our lives and we get scared that things will never be the same.  Are we scared that someone will think we are not doing enough?

Jason and I had a ministry partner once who refused to take a break.  And even when they took a break, they found a way to take care of other people.  They were always creating new programs, stressing over new ideas, and pulling others into the stress.  After years of this stressful lifestyle, this partner finally admitted they were afraid they weren’t doing enough and it was that fear that was driving them never stop and to pull others into that chaos.

Fear is a part of reality.  We shouldn’t dismiss it.  And we should take time and be diligent to look through the fear to what is in front of us now AND the hope the future provides.

For the grumbling Israelites, it was the fear of the enemy and of the unknown and of their present suffering that had them paralyzed to move forward. And Moses reminded them, “The God you serve is in control and will certainly take care of you.”

Let’s look through our current fears now to see how we work hard for the kingdom.
We send out missionaries.
We share our tithes with Week of Compassion that serves those in emergency situations.
We show up to help serve linemen working around the clock after a hurricane.
We collect and gather items for clean up buckets.
We serve the hungry at the food pantry twice a month.
We work with Harnett County to provide food for the hungry.
We prepare food and plan lunches to raise money for our children so they will have a safe place to play and learn about Jesus.
We share our gifts of music through worship and with the community.
We make sure people who need counseling have a safe place.
We provide educational opportunities for children who may not otherwise receive support.
We spend hours pumping water, and cloroxing walls, and cleaning up bits of ceiling in the place we call church, the place we understand as God’s house, the place where we meet God.
We weed the community garden and pick watermelon size zucchinis.  We transform the zucchini into loaves of bread that feed the hungry when they need a bite to eat.
We sit with someone who has been displaced and help them find options for a place to stay.

We work hard for the kingdom of God.

What was Moses, answer to the Israelites when they expressed fear of what they were experiencing and what was head?


“Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . .(he keeps going) The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

And the Lord encouraged Moses, “Tell the Israelites to go forward.”

And because the Israelites listened, and continued to move forward…then they were able to observe how God fulfilled Moses’ words.  God indeed delivered the people of Israel…v. 31 says “Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians.”

We work hard, we take a moment to recognize God, and then we see how God has brought us through!

Just as the Israelites, we need to build on the experiences of the past.  We need to use our “collective” story from history to provide hope for tomorrow.  And after we have shared the memories of how we walked to school 12 miles, or drove the school bus for other children, or stayed home to care for the other children in the family…we be still and take a look at how God is still working through us.

We do need to keep going.  Keep working hard. We need to continue to greet our fears.   I’m suggesting, as Moses did, that we take time to calm down, be still, and evaluate how our fears and pain of the past have led us forward.  We work hard, we take a moment to recognize God, and then we see how God has brought us through!

Consider the ways you are contributing to kingdom of God.  What fears may have led you there?  And how is that making for a better future?  Remember, as Moses reminded the Israelites, “God has you in the palm on God’s hand and God will deliver you.”  Don’t turn back…keep moving forward.


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