One thing I admire about our church community is there are many hard workers among us. As you consider your work I hope to help you understand God’s purpose in your vocation in this article. Sometimes people wonder if work is good or if it is a product of humanities fall into sin. Work can feel like a burden sometimes, but what Scripture makes clear is that work is good. Before sin came into the world we are told, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” Genesis 2:15). This verse makes clear that God created work as a blessing for mankind and not a curse. However, there is a frustration in work because of sin’s curse in the world (Genesis 3:17-19), but that does not take away the blessings that comes from it. We experience this in our own lives. I remember growing up during my school days with many lazy summers. By August I had this feeling inside that I should be more productive. You can only play so long before it gets old. To have free time is good, but we only truly enjoy play if it is accompanied with work. To have an abundance of leisure with no work does not lead to happiness. Depression is much more common in those who do not work than in those who do. To work a job and accomplish something gives a good feeling to the worker. God made work to be joyful and it is his gift to humans (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). I am sure that you have experienced this as you have worked over the years. It feels good to be productive and accomplish something.
The greatest joy comes from working for the Lord and not to make a name for yourself or impress someone else. The aim for the Christian should be to honor the Lord in everything he or she does, including your labor. Your aim should be to work in a manner that reflects well on him. The Lord will reward faithfulness in your work (Colossians 3:23-24). You may ask how may we honor the Lord in our vocations? One thing we should do is work hard. The Bible commends the example of the ant. King Solomon wrote, “Go to the ant, O Sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). To give your best effort in work is pleasing to the Lord. Not only should we work hard but we should also be joyful. No one feels loved if you grumble while you work. The Lord calls us to work with the right attitude (Philippians 2:14). We should also be honest in our work. The Lord hates falsehood (Exodus 20:16). We should be truth tellers just as God always speaks the truth. We should also see our work as evangelism, an opportunity to put a good word in for Christ. We are told in Scripture to, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). The Lord has planted believers in every field of work. Before I was a pastor I worked in the running shoe industry. There were very few Christians in this line of work. During my time working in this industry I saw myself as a messenger of Christ, commissioned by King Jesus to spread the good news. The Lord has placed you where he has for a reason. He has placed you where you are to advance the gospel.
The opposite of hard work is laziness. Laziness is condemned in Scripture. King Solomon wrote that, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4). The apostle Paul wrote something similar in his letter to the church in Thessalonica, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). What these texts teach is that food and possessions are a reward to the one who works. God designed it that his image bearers would be productive, and to gain something from work is an incentive to be active and not lazy. One of my friends is a missionary in a country where unemployment is around 25-30%. As you might imagine, this is a depressed nation that is engrossed in poverty. Many of these people could work but they do not. This goes against God’s design and therefore people do not experience the blessing that comes from productivity in labor. To be idle is sinful. Now I must qualify this. There are those who cannot work. They are not sinning. People in this situation must honor the Lord with the lot the Lord has given. In most cases, these people would love to work, but they cannot. They need to trust the Lord with the situation in life he has placed them. God’s people are to find contentment when old age or the trials of life keep one from the blessings of work (Philippians 4:11-13). But those unable to work can still experience productivity in different ways. At a prayer meeting a while back Rob and Karen described an elderly lady they knew who did not work but she spent her whole day in prayer. Truly, the Lord’s plan for her was not to work but to be productive in a different way. Her call was to pray diligently. But this situation in life is the exception rather than the rule. Most are able to work and should honor the Lord by filling your days with productive work.
However, there is one big caution as I close. It is my observation that our church does not have a noticeable problem with laziness in work. As I mentioned above, we are a church full of hard working people. But we can make the opposite error. The opposite error is overwork and neglecting other God-given responsibilities. To work eighty hours a week and spend little time with your family is not pleasing to the Lord (1 Timothy 5:8). To also neglect meeting with God’s people through overworking dishonors God. Believers are commanded to meet together in corporate worship on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:24-25). Prioritizing Sunday morning services and Bible studies is very important. Furthermore, it is also God’s design that his image bearers have a regular pattern of rest (Exodus 20:8-11). The pattern laid out in Scripture is to work six days and rest on the seventh. To take time off you will find yourself more productive in the days you actually work. If we find so much fulfillment and identity in work to the point where we neglect the more important responsibilities we are committing idolatry (Exodus 20:3). Work becomes our god and not the Lord. Work is a good design from God, but we need to keep in the position God has placed it. I hope this helps in understanding the place of work in your lives. My prayer is that our church community would bring glory to God through our work (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Grace and Peace,