One of the things my parents taught me which I appreciate greatly was how to work and how to have a biblical view of work. Since I grew up for the first few years of my life on a little farm, my folks had plenty of opportunity to give me jobs to help out, from weeding the garden or feeding the chickens to household chores or helping pick the fruit trees. There seemed to be no end of “opportunities” for work! But I’m so glad I had those opportunities. They have served me well all my life.
It is very disturbing today to see how few young people are growing up learning how to work, and to witness many adults as well who seemingly never learned a proper work ethic and are susceptible to this “entitlement” society in which we live today. Since through coaching tennis for the past 30 years, I have had a close-up view of what our homes are producing and it saddens me to see how few teenagers know how to work. We often had work days to clean up the courts and grounds and I would guess that only about one out of ten students really knew how to work without being shown how to do everything and constantly encouraged to stick to it until the job was done.
Some people may have the feeling that having to work for a living is an imposition of a corrupt society, and part of the curse on the earth because of sin. Since they were brought into this world through no choice of their own, therefore they think that the world owes them a living. The many jokes told about work reflect the distorted view that many have: “I love work. I could sit and watch it for hours!” or “Hard work never hurt anyone, but why take a chance?” It seems that some people are like blisters. They don’t show up until the work is done!
Is work a punishment because of sin? Well, God did “curse” the ground because of sin, making work more difficult (Gen. 3:19), but work itself was not punishment for sin, for even before Adam sinned, God had given him the responsibility in his Edenic garden “to cultivate and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Furthermore, we shall have work to do in the new earth in the ages to come when the curse is removed, for we are told that “His bond-servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3). Even in this life, work is a blessing when we see it as “the gift of God.” Solomon, the wisest man of his time (and probably in all history—apart from Christ) wrote: “I know that there is nothing better for them 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. 3:12,13).
God created us in His image, and He is a “worker” and made us to work. It was not part of the Fall. That just made work much more difficult. But if we see work as a drudgery, if we despise work as something horrid from the Fall of man and someday we won’t ever have to work again, then we definitely do not have a biblical worldview of work. We have allowed “the world to squeeze us into its mold” (Ro. 12:2 LB). Work gives us something to get up for in the morning. Work enables us to be productive and feel good about what we have accomplished, just as “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good…” (Gen. 1:31). Work gives you the opportunity to serve someone else. One of the great traps of our culture is the false idea that life is about serving me. When we have that view, then, yes, our work is often repulsive and only a means to the end of getting a paycheck, and our life is hollow, lonely and full of a lot of misery. One of the great qualities of work, as God intended it, is that whether you are putting a bolt into a car chassis on the assembly line, making toasters, or fixing someone’s plumbing problem, you are doing something good that is going to benefit somebody else. Work should give us a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose. It is so much more than a paycheck! If we are going to think biblically about work, we need to know that God designed work to be a a part of all that we are and all that we do. There is no separation in Scripture between work that is secular and work that is spiritual. What it does say is “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…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. 3:17,23,24).
Some jobs are much more difficult than others and some bosses are much harder to work for than others, but as believers, we need to remember that we are really working for our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to do our work as unto Him, no matter how challenging our job or our earthly boss. When we do that, we not only find our work more bearable and rewarding, but we are bringing glory to God as well. On this Labor Day, when many are taking opportunity for a break from their regular work, we should pause to thank God for making us workers which enables us not only to provide for our families, but to have a sense of satisfaction as we serve others and bring glory to God.
Oh, and since many of you are today taking advantage of leisure and recreation, it is important to remember that God designed us such that we need to take those breaks from our routine work in order to be refreshed and renewed, which in turn makes us better workers! It is still true that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In fact, it probably means Jack is a work-aholic—addicted to his job to find satisfaction—and also probably means an early death for Jack! Balance is the key word. On this Labor Day, I stick up for the value and importance of work, but it must be balanced with times of rest and refreshing. Even Jesus, while on earth, took times to get away from the crowds and His constant ministry of teaching and healing.
We live in a fallen world; we work among fallen fellow employees; we work for fallen bosses. But as believers, we can have a great impact for God if we continue to do our work as unto the Lord. We can truly make a difference in the place we work. So, Go MAD! (Go Make A Difference). Work becomes worship when done for the Lord.