Work is a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time, the Bible shows us that God is still working and our working is God’s will.
Working for God
When I was working my way through college, paying as I went, I remember having some of the most difficult jobs of all. One was a janitorial position at an aircraft manufacturing plant that I worked at for over seven years, and prior to that, I worked as a janitor at a public school as I was completing my college degree for another three years. There I was, ten years in all; moping, cleaning, dumping and hauling trash, and scrubbing toilets and urinals. I remember my beloved wife encouraging me by saying, “Any work that is honest work is worthy of honor.” That was so encouraging. I also remember memorizing Ecclesiastes 9:10 as I gained my new “camel knees.” I kept repeating, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” The Apostle Paul had the correct idea about work, writing, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24). I wasn’t just cleaning toilets for my employer, although that was true; more so, and on a higher plain, I was working for God and doing it “for the Lord and not for men.” I was “serving the Lord Christ,” and not my employer alone. Even though I had to juggle church activities, family, work, homework, and school, I had a new perspective on work, and I believe it helped me persevere for those ten years. Paul’s fitting conclusion is: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
The Bible does not have kind things to say to those who can work but choose not to, especially if they have a family. God’s Word says that “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” (1 Tim 5:8). Paul also wrote, “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” (Eph 4:28). Honest work, whatever it is, is honorable work. Tragically, our society has judged those who are in some jobs as unworthy or unqualified for other work, ignoring the fact that many are in school as they work, while many others cannot find another job, so to look at a person’s job and determine their human value, worth, or social status is to do great injustice to them. Many a shoe clerk has risen to great heights by cleaning toilets and going to school. I believe they make the best managers too, having known what it’s like for the new employee. There are also consequences of work or not working diligently. Scripture says, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Prov 18:9). This means our lack of work or productivity doesn’t only hurt us, but it hurts others. God ordained work as we read that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15), and this was before the fall, so work is not a result of the curse or the fall. Yes, work became more difficult after the fall, or really, as a result of the fall (Gen 3:17-19), but work was the will of God then, and it is the will of God now. This is particularly true if you have a family. If the Apostle Paul were here today, he “would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). That should tell us what God thinks about work and providing for our families.
God at Work
God is still at work today, but sometimes, He uses us as a means to do His work (Matt 25:35-36). All you can do is “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3). By committing our work as unto the Lord, we end up doing it for the Lord (Matt 25:40). When Jesus was accused of working on the Sabbath by healing a man, He “answered them, My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17), but we cannot think for a moment that we are doing works to be saved (Eph 2:8-9). We must remember that we “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27). God expected man to keep up the Garden (Gen 2:15), and He expects us to keep working in our own “garden,” wherever that may be and whatever that might include.
God can forgive our sins, but we may likely still have to pay for the consequences of our sins. The Proverbs say that “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov 12:24). Those who are diligent at work will do much better than the slothful or lazy worker because people can see the difference. Remaining a lazy or slothful worker may keep a person in forced labor or hard labor for much of their lives, so indeed, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Prov 13:4). It is because of their diligence that their supplies or needs are met. Paul’s instructions to the church at Thessalonica were “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thess 4:11). It’s not really your 401-K or Social Security benefits (if it survives) or a company that you’re working for. It is the Lord Himself. His retirement packages infinitely exceed anything that mankind can offer, so “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24).
I know a few people who really love their jobs and they feel blessed by God because of it, but even those who work in difficult jobs with low pay and little chance for advancement should realize that they work for God and not primarily a company or person. Solomon understood “that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him” (Eccl 3:22)? People who look at work like they are doing it for the Lord have a completely different perspective on work, and I believe it helps them endure their jobs just a little easier…even if it’s scrubbing toilets.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.