BALANCING our 'WORK LIFE' and our 'FAMILY LIFE': "When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table." (Psalms 128:2-3)
Psalm 128 parallels Psalm 112, and reminds us of the blessings that God sends when we fear the Lord and walk in obedience to His Word. It is also categorized as a wisdom psalm that is dedicated to work, marriage, and family. The primary message of this psalm is that we will never be truly blessed until we serve God in godly fear and holiness. This psalm begins with a pronouncement of blessing on a man who fears the Lord (vv. 1–4) and concludes with a prayer for blessing for his long life (vv. 5, 6). However, the benedictions here are all based on an integral element of worship: “the fear of the Lord” (v. 1).
When a man truly fears the Lord, he will also work hard for a living and thereafter eat his food in contentment. After God had created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, he had the responsibility of tending and keeping it in shape (Gen. 2:15). However, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, one of curses of God upon Adam was that he would have to work hard to get food on the table (Gen. 3:17–19). Thus, there is a reward in work and a satisfaction in labor that is a blessing of God (Eccl. 3:9–13).
In Psalms 128, the psalmist envisions the righteous man prospering from his own labor. His prosperity results in getting protection from calamity, drought, pestilence and defeat. He does not die prematurely, but lives to enjoy the material wealth for which he had labored. He enjoys freedom from discord and strife, and the joyful contentment of having God’s favor upon him. Thus, God brings enjoyment in employment, as his work becomes a blessing and his ministry for the Lord!
Not only does the godly man prosper from his labor, but he is also productive as well. The vine produces the grapes for wine, a source of joy to the Israelites (Ps. 104:15). Like a fruitful vine, his wife bears him many children, and she is a source of joy in his life. The blessing that the fruitful wife brings includes children around the table. Olives and olive oil were valued staple commodities in the nation’s life. So, his children are precious provisions in his home (vv. 3–5). They are clustered around his table like tender olive plants—full of vigor and vitality (Ps. 52:8).
A godly man who fears God and works with his hands finds his greatest fruitfulness in his wife and children. His wife is always within his house, keeping the home and being the center of God’s love there. His children spring up around his table, just as the lifeless root of an olive tree can give rise to new plants. God blesses this man in his home, beginning at the heart of the home (his wife) and touching everybody else around the table. Thus, his home becomes a fruitful garden that even nourishes many people from outside!
However, it is interesting to note that work and family are two of God’s primary callings for the human race; and they are often found side-by-side in scripture (vv. 2–4). It is also true that since the beginning of history, people have found the greatest meaning and fulfillment, as well as, the deepest pain and frustration in their work and family life. This was reflected in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before and after their sin. Before their sin, their work in the garden and their life with each other brought them great joy and significance. But after they sinned, their work became “sweat” (Gen. 3:19) and their family life produced pain and sorrow (Gen. 3:16; 4:8, 16).