Since today is “Labor Day” which was established to honor those who contribute to society through their work, I was reflecting on my “working” career. Since the first years of my life were spent on a little farm near Polson, Montana, I observed and became part of the work that went on to maintain the farm and to provide income from its produce. I helped to weed our garden (got 25 cents an hour!), picked cherries from our orchard (ate many of them!), and dug and sold angle worms to fishermen (took over the business from my older sister!). When we moved to Libby for my middle school and senior high school years, I got a job working at the Coast-to-Coast hardware store. Then during my college years at Montana State University, I spent my summers working for my brother-in-law, Dick Kutz, who was a building contractor. I mainly did labor work, but also learned a bit about carpentry which has come in very handy as my wife and I ended up building our own home and I helped build our church at Three Lakes as well as, Elohim Bible Camp, which our church started. It comes in handy too, in helping neighbors with their building projects. I also learned how to split cedar shakes and split many squares for our house, and a couple others, the church, and the Bible camp.
I graduated from MSU with a degree in Industrial and Management Engineering and spent 5 years working for Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon. At that time, as a result of the work God was doing in my life, I was “recycled,” and we moved back to Montana as missionaries with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, teaching Bible studies and youth groups throughout northwest Montana. One of the Bible studies grew into a church, Three Lakes Community Bible Church, where I ended up as pastor for 37 years. Along the way I also became tennis coach for our local high school, and still continue to help out there as well as to give lessons in the summer, and string racquets for players. And, oh, yes, my wife and I, for the past quite a few years, split and bundle cedar kindling and firewood to sell at a local grocery store. We also have a four-acre place, including lots of lawn and a big garden which require lots of hours of attention.
Although some jobs have been difficult and trying at times, I have always enjoyed working, but when I became a Christian, I realized that it was because that is how God made us. We are made in His image (Gen. 1:26,27), and God is a “worker.” He worked in creating the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1) and He works in sustaining them (Col. 1:17). In the creation account in Gen. 1,2, we see that God was satisfied with all that He had made. He observed it and “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25). After he made Adam and Eve, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). God, if you will, had great “job satisfaction.” And, since He made us to be workers, placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to care for it (Gen. 2:15) and to be stewards of the earth (Gen. 1:28), we also experience a sense of accomplishment (“job satisfaction”) when we work hard and complete the tasks before us.
Unfortunately, because of the Fall in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, work became much more difficult and can become a drudgery and burdensome, seemingly meaningless toil. When you read the book of Ecclesiastes, you read of Solomon’s disillusionments with man’s work: “Vanity of vanities..All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?….I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Eccl. 1:3; 22:11). The problem was, Solomon had left God out of the equation. He was looking at work merely from a human viewpoint and when we perform work solely to please others or ourselves, our work will never ultimately satisfy us. As long as our goals are “under the sun” (worldly), there will be “vanity” (emptiness) no matter what our current social or economic status may be. We may say things like, “Some days the best thing about my office job is that the chair spins!” and “Thank God it’s Friday!”
But, as new creations in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), we, as believers, have a new motivation for our work. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve “ (Col. 3:23,24). All of our work (no separation between secular and spiritual), when done as service to the Lord, has significance. All Christians—no matter what work they do—work for the same employer! So, “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31). Work isn’t just a platform to do ministry for God—work is ministry for God. Work becomes worship when done for the Lord. Even Solomon, in all his frustration with work because of his worldly viewpoint, made this observation: “There is nothing better…for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime, moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God” (Eccl. 2:24-26; 3:12,13).
Because we live in a world under the curse of sin, perfect “profit-for-labor” equity can never be achieved and there will be a lack of consistent relationship between the diligence of hard work and the reward received for that labor. Some men may work hard all their lives, yet live in poverty while others may inherit great wealth and live a luxuriant lifestyle just off the interest of their money. When Paul wrote about a believer’s responsibilities regarding working as unto the Lord, he was primarily speaking to slaves, who had no hope of ever improving their “lifestyle.” Yet they were to work hard, keeping in mind that ultimately they were serving God and He would be the One to reward them—in eternity, not necessarily while they were here on earth. Our work on earth may not receive much recognition by man but how rewarding it will be to enter heaven and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord” (Mt. 25:21). A missionary couple had returned by ship to the United States after many years of difficult, faithful service on a foreign field. Disembarking from the ship with them was a dignitary who was greeted by a crowd with a band playing in his honor. There was no one there to greet and welcome the missionary couple. The husband spoke of his disappointment, but his wife reminded him that “we are not home yet!”
No matter what recognition and reward you may have received, are receiving or will receive for your work on earth, remember, do your work as unto the Lord. He will reward you. We are not home yet! Real “job satisfaction” comes from doing everything with all our heart in loving service to the Lord.