By Chris Brennan
Hard work is rightly praised in Australia as vital and admirable. In early modern history no trait was more valuable.
Even as settlers moved into our region it was hard work or fail.
Our heavily-timbered land was cleared for pasture primarily by hand and axe. Hard work mattered beyond all else. Similarly today, we readily acknowledge the one who puts in the hard yards, who prospers by the sweat of their brow, be it expressed today by long hours at a desk, or by careful consideration of the figures rather than by the swing of the axe.
But hard work, by itself, is no guarantee of success.
The timing must be right and the direction of the labour likewise. In our local area, Wards Mistake is so named because of a notable misdirection of hard work.
Legend has it that Richard Ward and William Nowland both moved in I840 to squat the area east of Guyra in New South Wales.
Ward began the hard work of clearing the land, acre by sweat-drenched acre, making significant progress only to find that Nowland had gone through the registration process first.
Ward's hard work had been gifted to another, and the area became known as Wards Mistake.
We love the idea of hard work and we recognise its value and so the misdirection of it makes for a tragic story. Again, we recognise the danger in contemporary days.
We tragically hear of the spouse who gives all their energy and time to their work so that they might provide for their family, only to find that the family has gone. The relationship withered away because of inattention.
We hear of the sportsperson who "makes it" in sport because of their effort, but fails in life because they never considered what would happen after injury or age take their toll.
We love the idea of hard work, but lament at it being of little benefit. In the Bible hard work is also praised and the tragedy of its misdirection acknowledged.
There is, in Luke chapter I2, the story of a farmer whose hard work seemed to pay off. His logical conclusion was that he can now take life easy, eat drink and be merry. But his hard work was misdirected. One night his life was demanded from him and his wealth was of little value at that point, a tragic waste of effort. It was Jesus who told the story, and later in the chapter he gives controversial guidance about hard work rightly directed.
He says instead, "seek His (that is God's) kingdom and these things will be given to you as well". It is guidance worth considering well, because if we get it wrong and Jesus is right then the consequences are eternal. Maybe we should do what we see as good - some hard work in considering who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He says.
It might save us from making a mistake far worse than Ward's.•