IN THE WORKPLACE: Can It Be Like “Building Bricks Without Straw”?

Making Bricks With Straw:

Wikipedia says, ” Bricks without straw is a phrase which refers to a task that must be done without the appropriate resources.”

How many times have you said to yourself and others, “If I only had more schooling, more wisdom, more talent and skills and resources in my life, THEN, I could do my job more efficiently.”  The Israelites in the Old Testament probably had the same conversation.

Exodus 5:1-23 [READ FIRST BEFORE CONTINUING].

How did your last week go for you?  Good?  Bad?  The same old thing again?  Whether you are a student, hold down a job, a full-time homemaker, how did your week go for you?  Were you eager to rise in the morning to get started on the day?  Psalm 17:15 says, “I shall be fully satisfied, when I awake”.  Well, were you fully satisfied when the alarm clock went off at 6 AM?  Or did you dread getting up, having to go to your workplace?

Some People Dread Their Work–PERIOD!

They hate their job and would love to get out of it, but often they can’t.  They feel that they are stuck there until they retire.  Maybe this describes you.  It surely describes a point in my life, where I was in a workplace that I hated for eight years.  I was always stressed, worn-out, and fed-up with my general manager position; but more unhappy with how my boss treated me and the other employees.  I felt like the fictional character in Dante’s Inferno, whose torture on his level of hell was having to roll a large boulder up a hill.  Whenever he finally had rolled it up near the top, he ran out of strength and the boulder rolled back down over him to the bottom of the hill.  He had to go down and start rolling it up all over again.  Sound familiar?

Working Can Be Hard and Torturous:

We all have felt like this about our work at times, even when we have a job we like.  We should have sympathy and what we can learn from the story revealed in Exodus 5: “Building Bricks Without Straw Increases Our Burden and Makes Us Ask… ‘Why’?”  “Why me?”

Why bricks with straw in Egypt? [Exodus 5:6-18]

A few questions arise regarding the use of straw in unbaked mud bricks:

1.  Was straw actually used in ancient times?

2.  Were bricks with straw the common practice in Egypt at the time of Exodus?

3.  Why add straw to unbaked bricks?

4.  What is the significance of this topic?

5.  What does this information have to do with me?

Throughout the Bible lands, straw was used in the making of bricks only in Egypt.  Other lands baked their bricks and it was a common practice in the culture. even in a far earlier period of history, verified by archaeology and in Scripture:

“And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there.  And they said to one another,  Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.  So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar.  And they said,  Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth”  (Genesis 11:2-4 AMP).

The Biblically cited practice of adding straw to the bricks in Egypt was done with intent.  It was done so, due to the extreme cost of firing the bricks in a land without an abundant fuel source.  The Egyptians made a brilliant discovery that was not widely known.  Bricks made out of mud and straw made the product three times stronger than dried mud/clay.  The scientific reason was that straw releases humic acid into the mud, assisting in the hardening.

THE SCENE in the WORKPLACE–Exodus 5:

Pharaoh became angry when Moses and his brother Aaron asked, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” ~ Exodus 5:1.

But Pharaoh said in verse 2“Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.”

And they said,  “The God of the Hebrews has met with us; let us go, we pray you, three days journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God…”  verse 3.

The king of Egypt, the head honcho in the workplace said,  “Why do you take the people (the workers) from their jobs?  Get to your burdens!  Behold, the people of the land now are many, and you make them rest from their burdens!”  verse 4-5.

Pharaoh commanded and delegated to the taskmasters, the foremen, the job supervisors,  “You shall no more give the people straw to make brick; let them go and gather straw for themselves”  verse 7.

So, the people then scattered and gathered ‘stubble’ for straw; the leftover scraps in the surrounding fields.  The slave-drivers started cracking the whip, pressing them to meet the task at hand; meeting the quota:  “And the taskmasters were urgent, saying,  Finish your work, your daily quotas, as when there was straw”  verse 13.

Pharaoh Typified the Pagan, Atheistic World:

The Lord means nothing to the unbelieving task-masters.  They hold Him in contempt, hostile to Him and refuse to obey Him.  They can even be hostile to the Lord’s Christian people, taking their contempt for the Lord and His Word out on the Christian employees.  The Christian workplace is made even worse, working for such ungodly people.  Ungodly employers and supervisors don’t care about the Lord or His Word or His people.  The only thing that matters is having warm bodies on the job, doing all the work; production and profits with no waste, losses, or loafing on the job.

When competition is keen or there is a recession in the workplace, their profits are at stake.  So, down-sizing the workforce is inevitable; double the work load for the employees still remaining and expecting those who are left to double the amount of work–without additional compensation.

Should a Christian worker tell his/her boss they can’t work overtime because they intend to go to church to worship the Lord or attend a Bible study?   The boss then becomes angry, thinking the Christian is lazy; uncooperative and gives the Christian employee a hard time.

The 8-Hour work day vanishes, if you are working for companies and corporations that have down-sized and doubled the work loads.  If this is your case right now and you’re working for an unbelieving, non-Christian slave-driver, your situation is not enviable.  Trust me, I have been in this situation more than once in the past.  Your stress level rises up to the peak of Mount Rainier and your patience is down to the level of the abyss.  Your hope for relief seems to have vanished.

Yes, the Lord Knows:

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice”  (Isaiah 41:10 AMP).

As for yourself, what can you do to break down those walls at work?  If you are a believer in Jesus, remember you are a redeemed child of God.  Jesus Christ has bought you with His holy, precious blood; cleansing you from your sins and making you an heir to heaven.

In heaven, there are no slave-drivers; no making bricks without straw.  Remembering all this, give yourself to the Lord and do the work that you are doing for Him.  Don’t work to please the slave-drivers to gain recognition for yourself.  Rather, as the apostle Paul wrote;

“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.  Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward.  [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah)”  (Colossians 3:22-24).

THE WHY, WHY, WHY S:

“Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said,  O Lord, why have you dealt evil to this people?  Why did You ever send me?”  (Exodus 5:22).

How many times have I asked the Lord, “Why am I in such a workplace like this? Or, “Why did You ever send me to this job?”  We see in Exodus, even Moses became discouraged over the turn of events.

The phrase of “Building Bricks Without Straw” in today’s workplace simple means, ‘You can’t do something correctly without the necessary materials or knowledge.”  I was once working for a Mechanical Contractor in the Seattle area, that had hired me as a purchasing agent for the company.  During the pre-employment orientation,  my supervisor wanted me to do a specific task for which I had little knowledge.  My Christian response was, “If you will teach me, I will learn and do my best at the task.”  Unfortunately, the training never really came.  I decided to “fake it until I make it,” approach, which of course, didn’t or never works.  It was “Building Bricks Without Straw.”

Don’t we ask the same question of the Lord when we are frustrated in the workplace?  “Why Lord…?”  We demand an explanation when times are hard, such as  “Thank You Lord for this job but…why THIS job?”

THE CHRISTIAN AS A LABORER:

Scriptural Passages to Investigate–

The Letters of Paul:

1.  Eph. 6:5-8

2.  Col. 3:22-25

3.  1 Tim. 6:1-3

4.  Titus 2:9-10

The Epistle of Peter:

1.  1 Peter 2:18-20

When you look at the picture below, does it look familiar to your workplace situation?

I recommend that you not write all the above verses down on a piece of paper, but after reading the above Scriptures, write down one or two that lifts you up off the pile of bricks in front of you!  Then, when the stress, the hopelessness arises during the work day, pull it out and read it to yourself.  Trust me, it truly helps!

SCRIPTURAL GUIDELINES FOR LABORERS:

1.  Obey those who are over you [the ‘taskmasters’, ‘slave-drivers’] unless they ask you to do that which is unethical or illegal– Ephesians 6:5.

2.  Work with proper respect and good will toward your boss— Eph. 6:5.

3.  Labor sincerely and heartily as to the Lord and not to men– Eph. 6:6-7.

4.  Do not work only when the boss  is watching or just to please those over you– Eph. 6:6.

5.  Demonstrate that you can be trusted with responsibility.

6.  Offer such service, not just to good employers but to those who are unfair.  In doing so, you are adoring to doctrine of God our Savior.

YOU CAN BE AN EVANGELIST IN THE WORKPLACE:

Concerns to consider:

As Christians, we are to seek and save the lost–it’s a heart mouth connection (Psalm 19:14).  It is our responsibility in obedience:

“Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race].  He who believes [who adheres to and trusts in and relies on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth] and is baptized will be saved…”  (Mark 16:15-16 AMP).

As workers, we are to give to our employers what an honorable service demands; a proper day’s work for a day’s wages.  Adoring the doctrine of Christ requires that we not pilfer (including time)–Titus 2:10.  The challenge presented in the workplace is properly balancing our efforts ‘to save and our duty to work’.

Involvement in the workplace can become a wonderful opportunity, to be able to provide for one’s self and family and at the same time, serve the Lord; making a positive impact on others.

Let your faith in the workplace be an opportunity to demonstrate the value of a vibrant faith in Christ to reach others for Jesus, including the slave-drivers!

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4 thoughts on “IN THE WORKPLACE: Can It Be Like “Building Bricks Without Straw”?

  1. What a great post!!! Too much stress at work is one of the key reasons for my physical breakdown in 2008/9 which I am still recovering from, thank God at the time God told me to leave my job but even then I was still holding on out of misplaced loyalty until God said to me, you either care more about pleasing them or Me, well, that did it.

    After that I started to write a training program on workplace stress from a Christian/biblical perspective especially designed for Christian organisations – the place I had worked in was a Christian educational establishment but we were literally building bricks w/o straw.

    I have a lot to say about stress, work and the system and maybe one day I’ll be able to say what’s on my heart but until then, I loved your post.

    Big hugs from me

    • Thank you the kind comments. I too spent all to many years working in stressful environments and most of those years as a Christian. I was a Branch Manager for 5 of the almost 40 years in the plumbing and industrial piping industry. I took the responsibility of the employees so much on my shoulders, I couldn’t stand up straight. Then I began writing down Bible verses on paper; stuck to the bathroom mirror in the morning as I got ready for work; on the refrigerator (I spend a lot of time there) and in my Bible’s cover. When things began to build during the work day, I would stop everything including phone calls, quickly read the Bible verse and say, “Thank you Jesus”, then back to work. Only took about 2 min. so I wasn’t wasting company time (stealing). I’ve been retired now for 10 years and I don’t miss the work at all but do reflect on those stressful times. Thus, the thoughts behind this blog post.

      Hugs back to you.

  2. It’s amazing how something psychological (stress) can also effect the physical. As a psych teacher I used to teach stress and its ill effects, but teaching and living are 2 totally different things.

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