Genesis 3:19, "In
the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;
for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou
This morning, the discussion of "rights" very often is a counterfeit for
laziness. When people discuss their "human rights," they are speaking of
entitlement or things perceived as deserved on the part of the individual.
However, discussions about just desserts and human rights fail quite often on
the point that man must work at things to gain things in this life. For the
farmer that plants the fields, he understands that the crops do not come forth
without effort. For the man that works in other fields of endeavours, he
understands that his family will not eat without effort and diligent labour put
forth. The people that discuss their rights fail to see that the only "right" we
have in this world is to do what is right. Try to steal for your groceries and
see how many rights you really have. Try to undercut others to gain more
fortunes and see what rights are yours when the discovery of the action is made.
Therefore, the discussion of rights
(which are really more aptly termed privileges) is a shield for people to be
lazy and do nothing at all.
The verse before us is another verse most often misquoted. Firstly, the text is
quoted many times as, "By the sweat of thy brow." Notice that God is in the
midst of a pronouncement of many different curses. The ground is cursed, the
woman is cursed, the man is cursed, and the serpent is cursed. Thankfully, there
is a great promise of the woman's seed in the midst of all that cursing, but the
man's curse is to eat bread in the sweat of his face. Consider for a moment if
the text did read "brow" instead of "face." What is the difference? The
difference is that it takes more work to make the sweat appear all over the
face, and it takes very little to make it pop out on the brow. During a hot
Mississippi summer day, I can have sweat on my brow moments after walking
outside. Just walking across the parking lot can make me sweat, but my face is
not covered by it. The diligent effort it takes to make the face sweat is what
the Lord pronounced upon
man to be able to make bread and other things come forth from the ground.
There is effort involved in keeping the thorns and thistles out of the field.
There is much labour in keeping watch care over the tender plants so that they
will come to fruition. The amount of labour necessary will come with great sweat
that covers the individual, and not a little labour that makes for a little
sweat. Sadly, many today are benefiting in not working at all, which Paul
affirmed out not so to be. (II Thessalonians 3:8-10) For us to be able to eat,
we must work. For our food to come forth, we must work diligently and
consistently. Now, let us transition to the spiritual plane for just a moment
and then go back to the text at hand.
While we understand that the immediate thought here is natural labour for
natural food, consider the parallel between that and spiritual labour. Paul
makes the analogy for such in Galatians 6 in discussing sowing and reaping. How
do we labour in spiritual fields of service? How are we to eat from those fields
that we serve in? The amount of labour in natural fields for food is great
(sweat of the face), and the amount of labour in spiritual fields is great
(sweat of our soul). How many times do we pray once for something and then give
up when we feel the supplication unanswered? How often do we come to worship,
feel not to be blessed, and think about not going anymore? How often do we read
the Scriptures and not glean anything and stop reading? My own experience is
filled with such occasions and miserable circumstances. Just as natural fields
need continual tending for the fruit, so our spiritual fields need continual
nurturing to bear fruit
for the Lord's glory.
Weeds must be constantly uprooted. Plants must be watered, sunned, sometimes
fertilized, and pruned at times for the abundant, luscious fruit to come forth.
Finally, the fruit takes time from planting to reaping. The harvest does not
come overnight, but the time invested by the farmer is finally realized in
manifest fashion when the fruit comes off the vine. Our efforts are realized in
manifest glory when we labour patiently, do not grow weary in well doing, and
reap in due season if we faint not. Let us therefore patiently endure until the
Son of our Righteousness rains His merciful showers upon us for a rich harvest
in our lives.
Getting back to the text at hand, notice also that the text does not read, "By
the sweat of the face," but rather, "In the sweat of thy face." Again, what is
the difference? Let us examine the remainder of the text to discover the
difference. The Lord goes on from that to speak of Adam's eventual outcome
according to nature. We, as creatures of the dust (Adam's descendants),
will one day be laid to rest in the ground if the Lord does not return first.
While our soul and spirit (changed by the hand of God Himself) go back to God,
our mortal remains go back to the dust from whence they came.
The Lord says that the labour will transpire until that day that the body
returns to the dust. The sweat continues until the body is laid to rest. The
difference between "by" and "in" from the verse is that we must still labour
even while eating. There is a continuation that never ceases until our bondage
here is over. Should the text have read "by," one might declare, "I have
laboured, and my face has sweat. Now it is time to eat." The labours here do not
cease; even after harvest time, more work remains. Even when we are blessed to
eat, the labour must continue on as one cycle of sowing, labouring, and eventual
reaping is not sufficient. Our bodies must have food continually, and the labour
must continue for the food until our bodies no longer need it (death).
Likewise, our efforts in spiritual fields continue until the warfare between the
spirit and the flesh is laid to rest. One harvest in God's house is not
sufficient to carry us through the further scenes of life. One feeding from
God's bountiful storehouse will not give strength for all our remaining days.
One sermon on grace will not bring experiential peace for a lifetime. As one
piece of bread is not sufficient bread forever, one grace sermon is not
sufficient for the course of our journey. We need these things continually. Most
importantly, we need the Lord's abiding presence continually to avoid the
pitfalls and snares of life and the devil. May our faces sweat naturally to show
forth the diligent effort required to feed our families here, and may our souls
sweat and labour in God's vineyard to feed our brethren here with the growth and
glory for the labour going to the One who giveth the increase.