The ideas that most Christians have of work are informed more by the world rather than by the Word of God! This is most tragic, for it means that instead of working for God, they work for mammon (money)! Instead of living a coram Deo like in their places of work, they are clouded by the darkness of this world, called financial security or prosperity.
Is work a spiritual subject that should concern us? Absolutely! For God has so clearly said,
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… Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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. Colossians 3:17, 22-24 ESV.
Whatever your hands finds to do – do it as to the Lord. Do not worry about whether it is the right job, as long as it is honest employment, be concerned that you please God in it. The Lord has put your there as a Christian to showcase His glory to your boss and colleagues. Do not make a mess of it. If you are student – study as if Lord sent you to study, and as if He will set the exams!
If you are thinking that your job is so meanial, remember that the Lord, in His sovereign will sent you there. Do everything in the name of the Lord, and not in the name of ‘substantial salary’ or promotion. The Lord points to the least of all – bond servants, workers who have no right… no trade union, no salary. And what is the instruction? Work as if God is your boss! Forget that the earthly master is not watching and remember that the heavenly Master – God, is watching! Do not aim at pleasing men, aim at pleasing God by working sincerely, from the heart, fearing the Lord. Note the wonderful promise harnessed to this instruction – from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. It is absolutely important and fulfilling to know that the Lord will reward all our labours on earth.
Do you just work to earn a living? To get money? Is work something to be endured? – “I owe; I owe; so off to work I go!” No you are serving the Lord (v.24)
Why is work necessary?
1. Work is a requirement of God to man.
From Creation: There is a close correlation between the work of God and the work man because God implanted in the human constitution the desire to not only have dominion, but also multiply all that He gave him. Remember that this was without the necessity to having to work to eat, to clothe or to shelter. The Garden of Eden was such that it was going to yield fruit and food for man without any infestation of thorns and thistles, or pests and diseases which were a result of the fall into sin. With the fall came difficulties of labour in that just like the rest of the world is under the influence of the fall and sin. God told Adam,
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:17-19
As a command: The Fourth Commandment is so categorical:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
The fourth command begins by rest and ends with labour and from it we see that labour is the convers of rest, and not the other way round. In fact when we will be in glory, we rest from all our works and we shall enjoy the full rest. Our observance of the Sabbath now points forward to that eternal reality. The fourth commandment refers us to the initial labour command in Genesis 2:15 - The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Clearly, part of God’s original purpose for human life is to work. Labour is divinely designated by God to yield Him glory. For any individual to fail or refuse to work, is abnormal and unnatural and it is direct rebellion against the divine order. Therefore, whether you eat or drink or what you do, do all to the glory of God.
On the other hand those who labour outside what God has said must realize that they will yield vanity – for unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1). The whole book of Ecclesiastes is about the vanity of work without God (see 2:11, 22-23). We must reiterate that there is meaning and significance in human labour because it is divinely appointed. Luther so categorically said that when we carry out our vocation in faith to God and obedience to His commands, God will work through us.
2. Work is necessary to meet your own needs:
Because of disobedience of Adam, eating what he wasn’t supposed to eat, God instructed in the curse that man was to eat from the cursed ground. A ground that was to be infested with thorns and thistles, pests and diseases was to provide food for man’s livelihood. This was to happen all the days of his life – God does not see any retirement for an eating man! There is an emphasis on pain and toil. To reject work when God required the fallen Adam to work is a double rebellion. You also notice the dependence of man upon the earth, to eat of it and to die in it. We live to work.
Paul by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ puts it like this,
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. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10
Work is not being idle. Your hands have to find something to do. A working person is not content to simply eat what others have worked for, and not doing anything to provide. Paul says that they did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. Instead they lived a life of ‘toil and labour’ they ‘worked night and day’ so that they did not become anyone’s burden. This is how they were able to set us a good example to emulate. So if anyone is unwilling to work, let him not eat. Why should eat what you did not provide? Only parasites and thieves want to enjoy benefits without taking any responsibility.
We work to cater for the needs of the family. Any Christian must be able to provide for the needs of his own. And so the instruction from the Lord is,
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. 1 Timothy 5:8.
But how can you possibly provide for yourself, let alone others if you are not willing to work? The inability to provide for one’s relatives, is a denial of the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Unbelievers work for money. They will meet their needs and the needs of their people. A Christian works for the glory of God and for his own good as well as for the welfare of others beginning with his own.
We work to provide to the needy.
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. Ephesians 4:28
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
I pray that this knowledge will transform your work ethic as a Christian. You will spend your time, skills, and energies in a manner that understands that God is watching to remunerate you! God’s reward surpasses all that this world can afford.