J. C. Ryle’s Word to Ministry Workaholics

I came across this quote from J. C. Ryle while working on a sermon from Mark 6:30-34. His application is needed for those who work obsessively in Christ’s church.

Let us note the words of our Lord to the apostles when they returned from their first public ministry. “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

These words are full of tender consideration. Our Lord knows well that his servants are flesh as well as spirit, and have bodies as well as souls. He knows that at best they have a treasure in earthen vessels, and are themselves subject to many weaknesses. He shows them that he does not expect from them more than their bodily strength can do. He asks for what we can do, and not for what we cannot do. “Come to a quiet place,” he says, “and get some rest.”

These words are full of deep wisdom. Our Lord knows well that his servants must attend to their own souls as well as the souls of others. H knows that a constant attention to public work is apt to make us forget our own private soul-business, and that while we are neglecting our own (Song of Songs 1:6). He reminds us that it is good for ministers to withdraw occasionally from public work and look within. “Come to a quiet place,” he says.

Sadly, There are a few in the church of Christ who need these admonitions. There are but a few in danger of overworking themselves and injuring their own bodies and souls by excessive attention others. The vast majority of professing Christians are indolent and slothful, and do nothing for the world around them.

There are a few comparatively who need the bridle nearly so much as the spur. Yet these few ought to take to heart the lessons of this passage. The should husband their heart as a talent, and not squander it like gamblers. They should be content with spending their daily income of strength, and should not draw recklessly on their capital. They should remember that to do a little, and do it well, is often the way to do most in the long run. Above all they should never forget to watch their own hearts jealously, and to make time for regular self-examination, and calm meditation. The prosperity of their ministry and public work is ultimately bound up with the prosperity of their own soul. Occasional retirement is one of the most useful practices. 1

  1. J. C. Ryle, Mark, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, 91.