A Labor Day post at Christianity.com offers “8 Biblical Principles of Work.” The list, by seminary professor James Eckman, is thoughtful and instructive. See it after the jump.
But the list is all about serving oneself or serving God. It leaves out what Luther taught is the major purpose of all vocations: To love and serve one’s neighbors.
I see this so often: Theological reflections about vocation that forget about the neighbor. You really need to include this dimension. Otherwise, work loses its moral significance.
You start thinking about your callings as something for your personal satisfaction (so that if you are not feeling satisfied, you must not really be called, an attitude that can wreck, for example, the vocation of marriage). Or you start thinking about work as a “good work” that you are offering to God, as opposed to His gift and His instrument.
It’s love of neighbor that inspires you to do your best work for your customers. It’s love of neighbor–your family, your fellow workers–that motivates you to work even though you are exhausted. It’s love of neighbor–the good you are doing in the goods or services you are providing–that gives work its satisfaction. And it’s love and service of the neighbor that is the fruit of faith and the way that God desires us to love and serve Him.
From James Eckman, Labor Day: 8 Biblical Principles of Work, Christianity.com:
1) Work is ordained by God. It was His creative invention from the beginning. The Bible declares that God worked (Genesis 1). By working we resemble God. Like God, you have the ability to work, make plans, implement them, and be creative. Additionally, God gave us the task of ruling over and taking care of His creation (Gen. Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:15).2) Work is for a lifetime. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground (Genesis 3:19). God intends that humans are to work as long as they live. Meaningful activity plays a critical role in being a human being – whether paid or volunteer. The magical age of 65 shouldn’t end meaningful, purposeful work.
3) Work is not a punishment. God did not create work as drudgery, but as a gift of fulfillment to life. A human being can do nothing better than…find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)?
4) Work has three purposes: to provide money or resources to supply the necessities of life; to provide for a quality of life in the satisfaction of doing a job well; and to serve God.
5) Work calls for obedience. Even when the boss isn’t looking, a good worker is consistent and diligent to the task and loyal to the organization (Colossians 3:22). The real boss is Jesus Christ. See your job as service to Him – not simply your employer. Employers should treat employees with respect and fairness.
6) Work should be done with excellence. You are to render service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:6-7); not to be men-pleasers but God-pleasers. God’s standard of excellence needs to be the human standard.7) Work is honorable. All professions and all kinds of work, assuming they are legal and biblically ethical, are honorable before the Lord. There is no dichotomy between sacred and secular work. All work brings glory to God and fulfillment to you, if it is done to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
8) Work provides an opportunity for witness. You manifest a powerful message, both verbal and nonverbal, of a supernatural approach to work. The world today needs this powerful witness to the reality of Christ and the difference that He makes in His followers. (Matthew 5:16)