“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (NIV)
“Hustle” has got to be one of the most popular buzzwords in startup culture today. Shark Tank investors press entrepreneurs to “hustle” harder to generate sales. Everyone seems to be working on their “side-hustle” while keeping their 9-to-5 job. But what does the Bible have to say about our hustle? On the one hand, Scripture clearly celebrates hard work. Colossians 3:23 commands “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” But while Christians can join in culture’s celebration of hard work, we must also wrestle with the Biblical truth that it is God, not us or our hustle, that produces results (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). As Christians, we must embrace the tension between hard work and trusting God in order to find true rest.
Joshua 6 provides an excellent case study for what it looks like to embrace this tension well. While the Israelites were being led by Joshua to the Promised Land, they came upon a major impasse: the seemingly impenetrable city of Jericho. As Joshua 6:2 records, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands,’” but instead of giving Joshua and the Israelites superhuman strength and agility to take Jericho on their own, God required them to place an inordinate amount of trust in Him. God instructed Joshua to lead the Israelites in a seven day march around Jericho, concluding with an ear-splitting shout at the city’s walls.
Like so many other times in history, God chose to use “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” Rather than allowing Joshua and the Israelites to win the battle on their own strength, God laid out a plan to ensure that He alone would get the glory. Before giving the Israelites victory, God asked them to trust Him to provide. Without blinking, Joshua did just that. The Israelites trusted in God’s plan. Then, they hustled: marching, blowing their trumpets, and shouting until Jericho’s walls collapsed.
Of course, it wasn’t the Israelites’ marching, shouting, and hustling that brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down. It was God. And that’s exactly what I think God wanted the Israelites and us to see. Our hard work is a good thing! But believing that our hustle is what is responsible for producing results in our work would be like the Israelites believing that shouting brought an impenetrable fortress crumbling to the ground.
As Joshua and the Israelites show us, we shouldn’t seek to resolve the tension between trusting and hustling; instead, we should embrace it. These ideas aren’t in conflict with one another, they are meant to be married together. But as Solomon shares in Proverbs 16, there is a sequence to trusting and hustling that honors the Lord and brings us true rest. It is that passage that we will focus on over the next three weeks.