1. Why do we work?
Back in the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 2, God plants a garden, puts Adam in it, tells man to keep it, Adam names the animals, tends to the garden. That’s Adam’s job, and Adam is given his job before he eats the forbidden fruit.
The overarching answer is that we were intended to do work all along— even before the fall. (Sidenote: think on this. Why are laziness, idleness, greed, gambling, covetousness, envy, jealousy, embezzlement, and thievery wrong? Answer: they're wrong because our purpose is to be productive and these are ways that man attempts to avoid work.)
So work was intended for humankind from before the fall... but why? I mean, we don't usually think "Garden of Eden" and pair that thought with "good ole sweaty, dirty, honest hard work." My thoughts of Eden run more along the lines of picnics, skinny dipping, and horseback riding through green meadows with the wind blowing gently -- your classic hair conditioner commercial. No sweat or work involved. Back to the subject at hand... why do we work?
In Genesis 2 again, look at verse 2. God finished all the work he had been doing. God is the ultimate worker. He worked in the beginning in creating the world, in Hebrews 1:3 we see Christ still working - upholding the universe, keeping it all going; in John chapter 5 Jesus riles the Pharisees by telling them that both he and God were doing their work on the Sabbath -- "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." God is a worker and we, made in His image, are made to be working too. What, then, is our motivation to be as we work?
We work for the glory of God.
Do all things without grumbling or arguing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world holding fast to the word of life.
How many things? ALL things. Your work and how to you interact with your boss and employees should illuminate a dark workplace. God is glorified when His children shine. And I love how practical this passage is. I think of shining for Christ and I think my thoughts get a bit too exalted. As we work, how do we shine as lights in the world? By not grumbling. By not arguing. That hits home for me.
We work to provide for our family
1 Timothy 5:8
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.
You would think this would be obvious, but we've all seen people working for power, for recognition, for money, for everything except the joy and responsibility of providing for family. And this is God's heart. God loves providing for his children. Look at Matthew chapter 7: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"
We work so that we may not be a burden to others.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
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.
It is sinful to be able to work and provide for yourself but instead take advantage of the tenderheartedness of others.
We work so that we are able to give.
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.
Notice there’s more here than just the acknowledgement of the commandment that we are to not steal, but the deeper reason; don’t steal, but rather work so that you can give.
The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
We work because it is profitable
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
I did not extensively go in all the gems I could have mined from the wisdom books of the Bible, but Proverbs and Ecclesiastes speak at length about work vs laziness. It would be well worth your time to take a look for yourself.
We work because of decay
This is why last time I spoke about how the dirt wins. Weeds grow faster than good things. The house is perpetually needing attention. The bathroom needs cleaning regularly. The dishes need doing every day.
Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
I've heard all my life that an empty house goes to ruin. It's not because there's some negative magical property in being empty. It's because there's no one there to pull the weeds, to replace the broken windows, to sweep the porch, to repaint, to get the gunk out of the gutters, etc. It's because there's no one there to do the work.
We work because idle hands provide opportunity for the flesh
2 Thessalonians 3:6-12
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 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. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Believe it or not, in Ezekiel 16:49 God specifies that one of Sodom’s sins was idleness and laziness. That's not what I usually think of when I think of those cities. But there it is. Right up there with their other sins. If we're not busy doing something productive -- something creative or useful or rejuvenating to ourselves or others, we'll likely be doing something the opposite of productive.
So why do we work? We work for the glory of God. We work to provide for family. We work so that we may not be a burden. We work so that we are able to give. We work because it is profitable. We work because of decay. We work because idle hands provide opportunity for the flesh.
2. Who Do We Work For?
I’m assuming that some of you are reading this next point and thinking, “Well that’s pretty obvious.” I know we all know the "right" answer to this question. But sometimes we know the answer, and yet it has no bearing on everyday life. We forget the answer in the way we think and live.
“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
That is God speaking to Israel, His covenant people about how He provided deliverance and provision for them and brought them into Canaan the land He promised to them. How much more do we need to remember this? Let’s be honest and put things into perspective. Here’s a not so comfortable question from 1 Corinthians 4:7… What do we have that we did not receive?
Did you choose to be born? Did any of you have a choice of family? Country of origin? State? Government you live under? Maybe just the house and neighborhood that you lived in growing up? School? The children you have? Are you going to choose any that you will have? Talents you possess? Abilities? Strength? Genes? Job opportunities? Salary?
We are all products of things that we did not choose. Blessings and opportunities that were afforded us because God is gracious and no other reason. So… when we work for ourselves; for our pride, for our self respect, or to show off our abilities, then we are taking credit for what is not ours to claim.
I found this passage amazing. God is giving instructions to Moses about the building of the tabernacle. Read it carefully.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you…”
Guess what. God gifts people to do work for Him.
Remember Deuteronomy...”You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he whogives you power to get wealth.”
Who are we working for? We're ultimately working for the Lord, using the abilities and opportunities He provides.
3. How Should We Work?
Confucius say, “Choose job you love, and never work day in life.”
Did Confucius say that? I have no idea. Is it true? On good days, yeah. But first of all, no matter how much you love your job, some days it will be work. Second of all, not everyone has the choice of choosing a job they love. Sometimes you just take the work you can get until you can do better.
So how do we as Christians approach our jobs on the days when it is work?
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive backfrom the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
In Christ, servants and masters have the same Lord. Servant serves master, master serves servant, both serve God.
“The shop, the barn, the scullery, and the smithy become temples
when men and women do all to the glory of God!”
“Not by way of eye-service” - We have all done it at some point. Eye-service -- working harder when the boss is watching.
“Not as people-pleasers” - If you think about it, you know what this is too. This is trying to earn favor with your supervisors for a promotion or special treatment. In colloquial terms... butt kissing.
“As bondservants of Christ…” “You are serving the Lord Christ.” - Here it is! I love this. Our boss is not, as we might think, the boss we see every day. No, our boss is the Lord Christ.
“knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord,” - In Genesis after God finished His work he said “It’s very good.” We as His children should be able to look at the work of our hands and echo that. We should reflect the excellence and durability of His work. The quality of our work is going to be rewarded, not just by our boss, but by the Lord.
So. How should we work?
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.
We should work purposefully, honestly, and thankfully.
Next time…We’re gonna talk about rest.