Earlier today, Reverend Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. He will be remembered as a global evangelist, a counselor to presidents, a dispenser of wisdom via his daily advice column, and – for millions – the man who led them to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Over the course of his ministry, Rev. Graham brought biblical insights to bear on the social issues of his day. Below are seven quotations, drawn from his innumerable sermons, writings, and newspaper columns, on work, free enterprise and how some churches (notably, members of the World Council of Churches) pursued social justice in a misguided way.
Rev. Graham was an exemplar of working to the end, even preaching outdoor crusades for 16 years after being diagnose with Parkinson’s disease. Because of his work, he was preceded – and will be followed by – millions of people who came to trust in Christ through his words. Today, he “shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour” (I Corinthians 3:8).
On work as part of man’s creation in the image of God:
Henry van Dyke once aptly said, “Heaven is blessed with perfect rest, but the blessing of the earth is toil.” If you are a laborer, don’t ever say, “I am just a laboring man.” You can be counted with the greatest and noblest men that ever lived. God Himself prefaced the whole human saga with a six-day work week in which He labored with all of His divine powers to create a world for the comfort of His crowning creation. … When God shared with man the responsibility of making a world, He said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thou bread.” In that first session of collective bargaining, God was saying, “I will make the rain to fall, the sun to shine, and the winds to blow. I will turn the earth on its axis and draw the shades of night. I will hang fruit on the trees, put fertility in the soil, and stock the forest with game. All this I will do,” said God, “but you, too, must have something to do, so life shall not become empty and boresome. This shall be your responsibility: ‘By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.’” From that day to this, it has pleased God for man to earn his living by honest, noble, industrious toil. If you earn your work by your hands, or any other work – be it mental or menial – you are fulfilling the divine precept and decree. (Labor Day radio broadcast, 1959.)
On the dignity of work:
When we begin to see our work from God’s point of view, our attitude will be much different. We’ll begin to realize that God gave our work to us, and because of this it has dignity and importance. For most of His life, Jesus worked with His hands as a carpenter; the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker. From the very beginning of the human race, even before sin entered the world, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).
Begin by committing your work, and your whole life, to Jesus Christ. Then thank Him for giving you a job, and ask Him to help you do it well. And if He has another job in your future, trust Him to lead you to it in His time. (“Work is a Gift, Not a Burden,” September 1, 2016.)
On the importance of working diligently:
Labor Day should remind us also of the dignity and importance in God’s eyes of our work. God gave us the ability to work, and no matter what our job is, we should see it as a God-given responsibility that He wants us to do faithfully and well. Jesus worked most of His life as a carpenter—and I’m sure His doors always fit and His tables didn’t wobble! (“Be Grateful to God for the Ability to Work,” September 5, 2016.)
On how he came to value free enterprise:
My father early on illustrated for me the merits of free enterprise. Once in a while when a calf was born on the farm, he turned it over to my friend Albert McMakin and me to raise. When it got to the veal stage, we marketed ourselves and split the proceeds. (Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, 1997, p. 5.)
On equality of opportunity:
The United States is a country in which everyone has an equal opportunity. Thank God for a country where there is no caste or class to keep a man from going to the top. If a man has a will to work and study, he can go ahead regardless of his background. In addition, thank God, He has given us freedom of religion. (“Religious Freedom,” July 4, 2017).
On Communism and Christianity:
Either Communism must die or Christianity must die, because it's actually a battle between Christ and Anti-Christ. (1954 interview.)
On liberal Christianity’s embrace of social justice:
According to the Associated Press, when the World Council of Churches held a world conference on church and society in Geneva, Switzerland, a number of years ago, lavish praise of atheistic China and open support for Christian violence to achieve social change were just two of the shock features in the first week. … I could not help wondering where the Lord Jesus Christ was in all of that. With our television screens filled with pictures of rioting, looting, killing and violence in various American cities, we had the spectacle of an American theologian calling for more violence in order to achieve social ends. It seems that some church leaders are willing to go even further than the humanist and the secularist, first in announcing the death of God, and then calling for violence. (“Hour of Decision” radio broadcast, 1967.)
Bonus quotation: On his own death:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. (God's Ambassador, 2007.)
Listen to Billy Graham’s Labor Day message, 1959:
(Photo credit: Paul Walsh. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)