Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Priests of Success Don't Sleep

"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2).

Modernism and the industrial revolution have left us not only with conveniences that have made life much easier but, as I've argued elsewhere, an unthinking breed of men. Another offshoot of this is the undue quality of virtue that has been stamped upon workaholism. Wide-eyed adulation is heaped upon the man (or woman) who can work long hours, who has the mettle to forego personal relationships and amusements, all on the altar of the workbench.

Enter SAP India CEO, Ranjan Das. By all accounts, the SAP India head honcho was a health nut. He ate right, exercised regularly, and was even an avid marathoner. But at the unripe, young age of 42, Das drops dead of a massive heart attack. The reason? Sleep deprivation!

Ranjan Das was a poster boy for modernism and industry. He was one of its priests, and he sacrificed his life for sacred success.

I don't know about you, but that's certainly no way to live! Nor die.

John Calvin has some words to say on the matter:

It is vain for you in hastening to rise early. Solomon now expresses more plainly that men in vain wear themselves out with toiling, and waste themselves by fasting to acquire riches, since these also are a benefit bestowed only by God. The more effectually to move them, he addresses himself to every man in particular. It is, says he, in vain for you. He particularizes two means which are thought to contribute in an eminent degree to the amassing of riches. It is not surprising to find those growing rich in a short time who spare no exertion, but consume night and day in plying their occupations, and allow themselves only scanty fare from the product of their labor. Solomon, however, affirms that neither living at a small expense, nor diligence in business will by themselves profit anything at all. Not that he forbids us to practice temperance in our diet and to rise early to engage in our worldly business; but to stir us up to prayer, and to calling upon God, and also to recommend gratitude for the divine blessings, he brings to nought whatever would obscure the grace of God. Consequently, we shall then enter upon our worldly avocations in a right way when our hope depends exclusively upon God, and our success in that case will correspond to our wishes. But if a man, taking no account of God, eagerly makes haste, he will bring ruin upon himself by his too precipitate course. It is not, therefore, the design of the Prophet to encourage men to give way to sloth, so that they should think upon nothing all their life long, but fall asleep and abandon themselves to idleness- his meaning rather is, that, in executing what God has enjoined upon them, they should always begin with prayer and calling upon his name, offering to him their labors that he may bless them. The expression, the bread of sorrows, may be explained in two ways, either as denoting what is acquired by hard and anxious toil, or what is eaten with disquietude of mind; just as we see parsimonious and close-handed persons, when they have scarcely tasted a bit of bread, pulling back their hand from their mouth. It is of no great importance which of these senses is adopted; for we are simply taught that parsimonious men profit nothing — no not even when through their own niggardliness they grudge to eat as much as nature requires.

For thus will he give sleep to his beloved. The inspired writer intimates that the blessing of God, of which he has spoken, is actually seen in his children and servants. It will not suffice to believe this doctrine — that whatever, men attempt is to no purpose; it is necessary that the promise be added, in order to their being led with assured hope to perform their duty. The sentence may be read either — he will give sleep to his beloved, or, he will give in sleeping; that is, he will give them those things which unbelievers labor to acquire by their own industry.....He indeed speaks as if God nourished the slothfulness of his servants by his gentle treatment; but as we know that men are created with the design of their being occupied, and as in the subsequent Psalm we shall find that the servants of God are accounted happy when they eat the labor of their hands, it is certain that the word sleep is not to be understood as implying slothfulness, but a placid labor, to which true believers subject themselves by the obedience of faith. Whence proceeds this so great ardor in the unbelieving, that they move not a finger without a tumult or bustle, in other words, without tormenting themselves with superfluous cares, but because they attribute nothing to the providence of God! The faithful, on the other hand, although they lead a laborious life, yet follow their vocations with composed and tranquil minds. Thus their hands are not idle, but their minds repose in the stillness of faith, as if they were asleep. If it is again objected, that God’s people are often agitated with distressing cares, and that, oppressed with pinching poverty, and destitute of all resources, they are anxiously concerned about the morrow, I answer, that if faith and love to God were perfect in his servants, his blessing, of which the Prophet makes mention, would be manifest. Whenever they are tormented above measure, this happens through their own default, in not resting entirely upon the providence of God. I farther add, that God punishes them more severely than unbelievers, because it is profitable for them to be agitated by disquietude for a season, that at length they may attain to this peaceful sleep. In the meantime, however, God’s grace prevails, and always shines forth in the midst of darkness, in respect of his cherishing his children as it were by sleep. (Commentary on Psalm 127:2, italics original)

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