Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lydia - a successful executive

We noted last time that Paul, who had changed his missionary partnership as well as his travel plans, listened to the Spirit of God and heard -- and obeyed. He met the woman (who also was listening to the Spirit) who would be the foundation of the church in Philippi. In many of Paul's letters to the churches, we read that some churches really gave him grief, and reasons to stress out. Philippi? A world of difference . . . they are a constant source of support for him, both financial and spiritual, and his letter to them is one of the warmest of all.

So let's look some more at this special lady -- a successful entrepreneur, and a passionate follower of God.
We sometimes read about the virtuous woman in Proverbs, and we can quickly become overwhelmed with what seems like a very long "to do" list! But perhaps Lydia can be a model for us of a working woman, a mom, and a Christian.
We've noted that Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth, and that she came from Thyatira, which was the epicenter of fabrics and dyes -- especially purple dyes and purple cloth. She is a woman who works outside the home, and probably the owner of her own enterprise. Not only that, but she is a mother, and in this passage, she is a new Christian. (The virtuous woman matches up here, since she makes money outside the home, and helps pay the bills!)

We see that Lydia is very industrious. She's not afraid of hard work. She has a home in Thyatira, and another home in Philippi. Just to give us a perspective, those cities are about two hundred and fifty miles apart. So, I guess you could look at this and say that Lydia's headquarters for her purple fabric business is in Thyatira. Perhaps she has gone to Philippi to restock the store there, or maybe to extend her reach even further, by meeting other business people there. She might even have other stores, since she is traveling up and down the coast between the two cities.

Her second home in Philippi is large, since her whole household would have included servants, children, even grandparents. And she could also house some missionaries!  This tells us that she is very wealthy, because to own a large house in that day you had to be pretty well off. And she owns two homes - so we can see that she has worked extremely hard . . . there was no other way in that day and that culture for a woman to own two homes. Lydia is indeed a successful executive.

Scripture commends diligence, right?

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night. (Proverbs 31:15-18)

Lazy hands make for poverty,    but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4)
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. (II Thessalonians 3:6-13)
The verse from Proverbs illustrates what happened in Lydia's life...her hands were diligent, and she was wealthy. In the verses from Thessalonians, Paul warns against idleness, because if we are not busy at home or at work, we may be busy in other peoples' business and starting gossip! We need to work.
We should work hard, and pay attention to our responsibilities. There is nothing at all wrong with a woman and mom working outside the home and being successful.

You knew that was coming? (Grin) Well, the Bible does talk about how we make our wealth. It also talks about it's priority in our lives, and even what we do with it. Whether men or women, if we work outside the home, it's God's command to be diligent in our work. We should be witnesses for Christ by how we conduct ourselves in the plant, the office, the market. If we are a poor worker, that doesn't honor God. If we are grumblers or don't shoulder our share of the work, it's not a glory to Him.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
And the verse before that one says that we are to work just as hard when the boss isn't watching! Whether at-home-woman or outside-the-home woman, or outside-the-home man, it's His will for us to work diligently, to work hard, just as Lydia did. Are we bored with our at-home chores, or with our office work? Perhaps we can invest more time into our family, or into our home-making. Invest more time into volunteer service if we are blessed with extra time. Perhaps we need to develop new skills so we are enjoying more challenges in the plant or the office. Whatever we do, we need to work diligently.
Of course, if both man and woman work outside the home, then it is fair to divide the household duties and work as a team. One person cannot do it all. And the person who has the toughest role is the single mom or woman. She has no one to divide the work with, so it is important for family and friends to offer help and lighten her load.

One other note: being diligent doesn't mean that we work massive amounts of overtime. Nope.
That's not diligence. That is serving money instead of God. Some overtime hours when our family is in need of more resources? Sure. But not a constant thing. That is not what God intended.
Part of diligence is working smarter -- not longer!
It's important to keep balance, and remember the priorities that God gives us.
But we'll talk more about that tomorrow.

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