"WORK FOR JESUS"
"…Go to work today in my vineyard…" (Matt. 21.28)
INTRO.: A hymn which tells us that the Lord wants us to go to work today in His vineyard is "Work for Jesus." The text was written by Joseph H. Martin (1825-1887). I have been able to find very little further information about the author or the hymn’s origin, except that Martin must have been some kind of minister, because in The Christian Sunday School Hymnal: A Compilation of Choice Hymns and Tunes for Sunday Schools published around 1883 by the Christian Publishing Company, 913 Pine St., St. Louis, MO, which included this song, he is identified as "Rev. J. H. Martin." He was also apparently an author, as many ministers have been, because at the Open Library website four books by a Joseph H Martin with the same dates are listed: Smith and Pocahontas (1862) The Declaration of Independence (1876); Sufferings of the Lost (no date); and Come Thou with Us, and We Will Do Thee Good (no date). The tune was composed by Rigdon McCoy McIntosh (1836-1899). The song was first published in 1876. McIntosh is well known for providing melodies for "Gathering Home" and "The Kingdom Is Spreading," and arranging the songs "How Firm a Foundation" and "I Am Bound for the Promised Land."
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Work for Jesus" appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1940 Praise and Revival Songs and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion both edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song emphasizes the importance of the work that Jesus wants His followers to do.
I. Stanza 1 mentions the call of Jesus
"Hear the voice of Jesus say, Loudly crying unto all,
‘In my vineyard work today;" Hearken to His call."
A. While we cannot literally hear the voice of Jesus today, just as He calls people to obey the gospel, so He calls His people to labor for Him through the gospel: 2 Thess. 2.14
B. The "vineyard" represents the nature of the work that the Lord wants us to do, symbolized by planting and watering: 1 Cor. 3.6-8
C. We need to hearken to His call: Matt. 13.16
II. Stanza 2 mentions question that Jesus asks
"’Why,’ He asks, ‘through all the day, Stand ye idle, nothing do?
Enter in without delay; I have work for you.’"
A. This stanza draws its language from the parable of the workers in the vineyard: Matt. 20.1-7
B. Just as those who need to obey the gospel should do so without delay, so those of us who need to work in Christ’s vineyard should do so without delay because today is the day of salvation: 2 Cor. 6.2
C. We need to remember that He has work for us: 1 Cor. 15.58
III. Stanza 3 mentions the wages that Jesus offers
"’Work and serve Me with delight; Full reward to you I’ll give.
At the gathering shades of night, Wages you’ll receive.’"
A. God has promised a reward to those who work and serve Him with delight: 2 Jn. v. 8
B. In order to receive this reward, we must work through the day knowing that the night is coming when no one can work: Jn. 9.4
C. But if we work for the Lord faithfully, we shall receive wages: Jn. 4.35-36
IV. Stanza 4 mentions the time when Jesus wants us to work
"Through the long and toilsome day, ‘Neath a blazing, burning sun,
Bear the heat, pursue your way Till your task is done."
A. The day may seem long and toilsome, but we must not grow weary knowing that we shall reap in due season if we do not lose heart: Gal. 6.9
B. Therefore, even if we must work beneath a blazing, burning sun, we must bear the heat and pursue our way: Matt. 20.12
C. We must keep on working until the task is done and we can partake of the fruit: 2 Tim. 2.6
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the fact that we need to be workers for Jesus.
"Work, then, for Jesus; He will own and bless your labors.
Work, work for Jesus; Work, work today."
There are so many figures of speech used in the New Testament to describe the work that God wants His people to do–sowing the seed, planting, watering, reaping the harvest, being lights, seeking the lost sheep, fighting the good fight of faith, etc. All of the passages that use these kinds of figures are emphasizing that we need to "Work for Jesus."