Work has a funny reputation in America. We respect those that work hard, but we cringe when hard work is asked of us. Some of us avoid work at all costs while some of us pursue so much work that our personal relationships suffer as a result. We’re even celebrating a day honoring work today by… not working. Why do we work? What’s the point? What does it accomplish, especially when we have to go back and do it again tomorrow, or next week, or next year? I’ve been thinking about what the bible says about work, and it certainly has a lot to say.
We were put on earth partly to work it and participate in the flourishing of God’s creation. Genesis 2:5 shows us this: “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground…” There was no vegetation yet because of two things: God had not provided rain, and man had not provided the labor. Ten verses later, we’re again told that part of man’s purpose is to work: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Adam wasn’t placed in Eden because it was pretty, or because God got a decent rate on a vacation cabin, he was placed there for a purpose. As soon as man was created, he was given a job. Our God knows us perfectly, and He has a specific purpose for each of us. He designed us with a desire to work with our hands, our minds, and our hearts, and He designed the rest of His creation in such a way that it could be worked in order to fulfill that desire.
Far too often, our attitude towards work is a grumbling sort of compulsion to show up, a result of laziness. I’m guilty of that many times myself, but I don’t think that’s how a Christian should view their work. After all, God Himself is the One who ordained that work for your life! No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s saving lives every day as the world’s most prestigious surgeon performing entire head transplants, or mopping the floors at night for a company that’s going out of business, you’re doing it because you’re fulfilling a need. Praise God that you can be used in that way! The bible absolutely has something to say about our attitudes in our jobs:
- Proverbs 18:9 -Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.
- Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.
- Ephesians 6:5-7 – Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.
- Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
- Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Even if everyone around us is complaining, and even if those complaints are legitimate, our attitude matters. As Christians, we are set apart from the world, and we are representatives of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him. If we grumble and hold grudges just like everyone else does, why would someone looking at us think they need what we have? Instead, let the joy and peace of God shine in everything we do.
It hopefully goes without saying that honest work will involve some sort of reward. Doing our job earns us our paycheck. That job in turn allows us to eat, pay for a place to live, buy clothes, drive cars, travel, and so on. If we are able to work and choose not to, we shouldn’t expect to be able to do those things. The Scripture is not silent on these matters:
- Proverbs 12:11 – Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
- Proverbs 14:23 – In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
- Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 – For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
- 1 Timothy 5:8 – But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Working allows us to be productive members of society, contributing to the well-being of not only ourselves, but other people as well. Honest work also gives us a sense of accomplishment. We can and should feel good about doing something that benefits other people.
With all this talk of hard work and promise of good reward, it’s easy to get fired up and want to cross over into workaholism, especially when you’re facing a mountain of debt like we are. But we need to remember that God is ultimately the One who provides for us, not our job. I’ve seen many accounts of people putting in honest work only to have a corrupt man in charge of payroll rob them of their check, or an unforeseen disaster come and wipe out what they had saved up. Everyone knows stories of investment opportunities turn out to be nothing more than scams. When we work, we should work to honor God, not fuel our greed.
- Proverbs 15:27 – Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.
- Proverbs 23:4 – Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
- Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:11 – And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.
- Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
This Labor Day, enjoy your time off, and I hope you go back to work tomorrow refreshed and ready to serve the God who has created you, given you the desire to work, and blessed you with a job to do!