Working to Rule

The term “Work to Rule” is familiar to most people living in England.  It means to work according to predefined minimum requirements for a given job.  Thus, the worker will work no weekends, no overtime, no relief.  He will make no effort to make up the time following a breakdown or delay.  He may refuse to use equipment provided to increase efficiency.  Realizing the paralyzing effect of such minimum effort, labor leaders use such action as a alternative to a strike.

“Working to rule” is common in the church.  Many establish what appears to them to be a reasonable set of minimum requirements for staying out of hell and then live accordingly.  Usually it involves attending Sunday for “breaking of bread” (unless on holidays), giving a certain percentage of their income, perhaps “saying a little prayer” before retiring, and avoiding the grosser forms of immorality.  They do not advertise or attend gospel meetings.  They seldom attend Bible classes or Sunday evening services. “These are not required,” they explain.  If all the members of a given congregation were “work to rule” people the church would be no more effective than an industry by such action.

The Lord has never stated any minimum requirements.  He speaks only in terms of total commitment, of seeking first the kingdom, of giving our bodies a living sacrifice.

The church in Ephesus, once a very zealous church fired by love for God, left their first love and settled down to “work to rule.” They maintained a minimum program of work and remained sound in teaching.  But the Lord said, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I come to thee and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:5).

We wonder how many churches may have had their candlesticks removed, and how many Christians have had their names blotted out of the book of life, not because they were on strike, but because they were working to some rule of their own devising.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).