Work & Work Ethics in Christ
We live in a culture today that encourages laziness. We sit in our lazy-boy chairs, while watching television and eating junk food. People approach the work week on Monday, donning the same face one might come to jury duty with. Every day employees often watch the clock, waiting for 5 to roll around, just one step closer to the weekend, so we can actually live!
With these attitudes about work, we then sit back and wonder why so many people live in poverty. Often young men or women are unwilling to work certain jobs, because they are “above that” level of work. Others are very happy to live off handouts from others and the government, so long as it means they do not have to work (that is not to say there are not families that legitimately need welfare). What we are discussing is the attitudes of those who are unwilling to work and have poor work ethic, when they do go to work.
What do the Scriptures have to say about the way in which we work? In fact, a whole lot more than one might begin to think.
Work is Divinely Established (Gen. 2:15; Ex. 20:8-11)
After the Lord had created man, the first thing that he did was give him something to do. God has created within us a natural need and ability to do work. Young people often spend the majority of their teens and early twenties trying to figure out what they want to do for work for the rest of their lives. The reason for the emphasis is, of course, if we do not work, we will not be able to care for ourselves or others. This is how God had designed things from the beginning: work is a divine institution.
This does not mean we should not have times of rest. Consider the command of the Lord concerning the Sabbath day to the Jews. Just as God worked six days and rested upon the seventh, so the Lord set an example for his people to work for six days and rest one. This shows us that God knows we need a rest from our labor and provided means for the Jews to have such. The problem is, often in our culture we want to play first, work second. The pattern given from the Lord is to work first, then play/rest second. Never place rest before the work, for that is the heart of a sluggard.
Work is not a choice (2 Thess. 3:7-10; Prov. 21:25-26; Eph. 4:28)
Because work is a divine institution, we do not get to choose not to work and live off of the handouts of others. Of course, there are provisions in the Scriptures for those who cannot care for themselves (widows and orphans, etc.). But if one has the ability to work, they must work (women to be workers at home in general, and men to be the bread winners in general). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to follow his example, while he labored among them, for he did not ask them to care for him in return for his preaching of the gospel. Instead, he worked with his hands and provided them an example to do the same. If one was not willing to work, they were not even to eat!
This truth is confirmed by the Proverbs time and time again. The sluggard who refuses to work will come to poverty. Though he wants and desires what the working man has, he will never have these things, until he becomes a working man. In fact, if one is unwilling to work and provide for his family, he is called worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). God expects us to work, not only to care for ourselves and our family but to give graciously for others.
Work for the Lord (Col. 3:22-25; Ecc. 9:10)
“He has good work ethic.” If this was ever said about you, or if you have ever said it about someone else, it is likely because they understand this very principal. No matter what our hand finds ourselves doing (to the glory of God), we must remember who first called us to work. Though we very well might have an employer and men that see over our work, the one who sees over all of our work at all times is the Lord. For men we work for a paycheck, but when we keep in mind we are working for the Lord, we work then honestly, hard, and with integrity to receive an eternal reward. If we simply work when we are being watched, we are people pleasers, and not trying to please the Lord. In fact, we are only trying to please ourselves; trying to get away with the bare minimum while still receiving the same payment. But if we try to please the Lord, and remember we are working for him, then we will work our hardest at all times knowing that the Lord is watching over our work.
Work to Give, Not to Get Rich (Eph. 4:28; Prov. 21:25-26; Prov. 28:20-27; Acts 20:33-35; Deu. 8:17-18)
It is God who gave us the ability to do our work in the first place, therefore we cannot boast. But why did the Lord give us that ability? Was it to work and become stingy and spend our wages upon ourselves and our own passions? Of course, we are to take care of ourselves, and to be rich is not sinful. But remember that those who are rich are to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18-19). The reward is in our inheritance in heaven above, not in our bank accounts! We are not to store up for ourselves treasures on this earth, but in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). We do so by doing good with what God has given us through our work!
Consider the words of the Lord, “it is better to give than to receive.” That is the constant message throughout the Scriptures, in regards to work and wealth. For those that truly understand this principle, they work not for the love of money and riches but in order to give what they have honestly earned. If we trust God in this way, and devote ourselves to giving, we also trust the Lord will continue to give more to those who are faithful with what they already have. It is the great paradox, the tighter we hold on to our money, the more we will lose it. However, the more we are willing to share what God has blessed us with, the more the Lord will give so the more we may bless!
We do not need to be rich in order to give or have this attitude either. No matter what God has given to us, we know that God desires for us to be rich in good works with that. As Paul instructed the Ephesians, we are to share with anyone who has need, with whatever we can share. When we love people, God can use money through us to be a root of all sorts of good.
- B.J. Sipe