My Dad grew up in the depression years. In 1933, when he was 19, he joined FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corp. A recent internet article says, “In his first 100 days in office, President Roosevelt approved several measures as part of his ‘New Deal,’ including the Emergency Conservation Work Act (ECW), better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). With that action, he brought together the nation’s young men and the land in an effort to save them both. Roosevelt proposed to recruit thousands of unemployed young men, enlist them in a peacetime army, and send them to battle the erosion and destruction of the nation’s natural resources. The CCC, also known as Roosevelt’s Tree Army, was credited with renewing the nation’s decimated forests by planting an estimated three billion trees. This was crucial, especially in states affected by the Dust Bowl, where reforestation was necessary to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil in place. So far reaching was the CCC’s reforestation program that it was responsible for more than half the reforestation, public and private, accomplish in the nation’s history.

It was there that he learned all about the American work ethic. Sooner or later every one learns this very important lesson. We’ve summed it up in many American clichés: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, you get what you earn in life, you make your bed and you must sleep in it. The Bible’s version of this uses a farming metaphor: What you sow, you will reap. It’s sometimes called the Puritan work ethic because of early settlers in our land that had to tame a wilderness to make it livable. As Americans know that we only get what we are willing to work hard for. One of the highest values (at least of the former generations) has been sweat and hard work. My Dad lived by it and I knew very early in life that the only way I’d ever win my father’s approval was through effort and hard work.

The only problem is that it has hindered my understanding of how God operates in the lives of His children. I’m still locked into the belief that He only values effort, sweat, and discipline. It’s only what I “DO” that please Him or more often it’s what I “DON”T DO” that displeases Him. Many of us are still driven by this work ethic in our efforts to gain God’s approval. But God doesn’t operate that way. We will never understand God until we understand Grace. The more we understand Grace the more we understand God and the more we’re going to be drawn to Him. The more we understand Grace the more we’re going to love Him.

“God is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalm 145:8