’Cause I’ve had nothin’ to live for
It looks like nothing’s gonna come my way
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
In 1968, a simple song titled “The Dock of the Bay,” accelerated up the music charts to take the #1 position on both the Billboard’s Hot 100 and the Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles. The leading character in the song leaves his home in Georgia and heads to the Frisco Bay, because he has nothing to live for. Now he just sits there on the dock and does nothing.
There is a time for doing nothing, but not all the time, nor most of the time. God created us for something. The creation narrative tells us, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15).” From the very beginning, God ordained work as holy and purposeful. He created us to do something, not nothing.
I’m reminded of a story from John Maxwell’s book “Success: One Day at a Time,” that underscores God’s original design for all of His creation, not just us humans:
For years, Monterey, California, was a pelican’s paradise. The town was the site of many fish canneries. In fact, it was the home of Cannery Row, a street popularized by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck in his novel of that name.
Pelicans loved the town because fisherman cleaned their catch, discarding the offal, and the pelicans would feast on those scraps. In Monterey, any pelican could be well fed without having to work for a meal.
But as time went by, the fish along the California coast were depleted, and one by one, the canneries all shut down. That’s when the pelicans got into trouble. You see, pelicans are naturally great fishers. They fly in groups over the waves of the sea, and when they find fish, they dive into the water and scoop up their catch. But these pelicans hadn’t fished in years. They had grown fat and lazy. They were starving.
We were no more created for sitting on the dock of the bay to watch the tide roll away than the pelicans of Monterey. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question; “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” (see Psalms 86; Psalms 16:5-11). God made pelicans to fish for their food; man made the pelicans incapable of doing so, by feeding them scraps. God formed each of us with a task to do and a desire for Him, not to sit around and do nothing and live off scraps. When we fail to do what He has called us to do we run the risk of dying from starvation; starvation of the soul.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminded his readers, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).” To the Christ followers of Galatia, Paul said, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth (Gal 5:7)?” You used to be good fishermen. What happened to you? Who took your fishing license away?
Often we are like the Monterey pelicans. We get lulled away, one easy meal after another. We pig out at the buffet of deception that the world serves up. The world says, “Don’t put in any effort; it’s not worth it.” But when we’re obediently about being who God made us to be – those who glorify Him through the work He has called us to do – we will enjoy Him, both now and forever.
It’s so easy to check out, give up, do nothing. But there’s no joy in doing so. The truth is, God didn’t make us for just sitting on the dock of the bay and letting our lives waste away. You and I have so much to live for; plenty of good things are coming our way from our Father in Heaven. Being full on table scraps is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Let’s go fishing.