We are in a season where many are out of work. Others don’t want to go back to work. Adding to this disruption, jobs, in many fields, are being threatened for those who don’t want to be vaccinated. It is a challenging, bewildering time. I can imagine some asking in the midst of it, “Does God care about my work?”
Two recent “pictures” of people working struck my attention and prompted me to write this. We have been at MD Anderson hospital in Houston, Texas as my husband undergoes some testing. There is a hotel right at the hospital and when we arrived, a bellhop came out to help us. He scooped up our luggage and set it inside without being asked, and spoke to us so kindly. “Check in there. I will help you as soon as you are ready.” He continued to be attentive in multiple ways. And, no, it was not for the tip, though we pressed one on him. He just seemed dedicated to people.
What is the purpose of work?
On the other hand, after checking in, we watched a restaurant owner interviewed on tv. He said, “I cannot get workers now, but even if I do find someone, I have to pay them at a much higher wage than before the pandemic. And often, workers stay only a week and then quit. And, by the way, I’m finding supplies hard to find too!
Taking a job for a week?
What are we to think about work right now? Does God care how we work? And if He cares, what should our attitude be towards work, if a believer?
I believe it is necessary to have a right heart attitude and a set of biblical ethics towards work as it is at the center of so many of our lives. So, here are 5 key ways I believe our work, and how we do it, matters to God.
1. Work makes us co-creators with God
Many, in much more detail, have discussed that work in itself is NOT a byproduct of original sin, of the fall of Adam and Eve. The way work can FEEL to us is part of the Fall, but work was always meant to be God’s gift. It was and is His way of partnering with us. (See Timothy Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor.)
What do I mean? When Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree that was forbidden, God explained to them that there would be fallout from their choice. This is described in Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV). God tells Adam that “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life…by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…”
This wasn’t God’s intention. When He created Adam and Eve, He gave them dominion over the earth. Genesis 2:15 (NIV) tells us that “the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Work gives us the opportunity to be creative
Like God, when we work, we can find ways to create, to problem solve, to bring something new into the world. “Yes, but I’m only a dishwasher,” someone might say. It’s surprising how many people, with what they or the world view as mundane jobs, improve their work with great ideas and innovations.
I just purchased an invention for my young granddaughter who loves bacon. It’s a bacon holder for the microwave that keeps the bacon from getting greasy while you cook it just right for your own particular bacon preferences. It was not created by a cook with a salary, but by an 8 year old who saw a need. She was “working” for her family by helping to cook. Along with her dad, they got a patent, and now she’s selling her gadget on Amazon.
2. Work allows us to honor Christ.
The apostle Paul, in some of his letters, commented on what are known as Household Codes. Those were principles of how mothers, fathers, children, and servants should live together in the ancient world. Some of what he said “gets him into trouble” with modern people. Like this, for instance:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. Colossians 3:22-25 NIV
Paul was not giving his approval to slavery. That is the false idea often batted about in modern descriptions of the Bible and of Paul. Instead, he was starting where the people were. There were slaves and masters in the ancient world. From there he was presenting a revolutionary principle – to do the right thing no matter who you are because it honors Jesus Christ. This actually also honored the slaves – they were considered equal members of the Church.
We should have the same attitude
You may have a job you hate. Sometimes, we do feel stuck and struggle with bosses, co-workers, customers, etc. The paycheck may be abysmally small. But, remember who the real Leader is beyond all of this. It is Jesus Christ. We are living for more than today or tomorrow on this planet. We are living for a heavenly kingdom and an eternity with Him.
Therefore, work at even the most humble work with the right attitude, with a heart that honors Jesus. After all, the Prince of Heaven, who is God Himself, humbled himself and took on the form of a human being. (see Philippians 2). No matter how corrupt or how lazy all are around you, do your best to be found worthy.
3. Work is a way to love others
Being in the workplace gives us the opportunity to love others through the quality of our work and through the way in which we treat customers, clients, co-workers, and supervisors. We have an opportunity to love and bless others, to even share about Christ at the right moment if permissible – it’s a “field that’s ripe for harvest.”
There’s enough poor workmanship, scamming, and poor attitudes in the world around us, that if you enter the workplace with the heart to be industrious, kind, scrupulous about your integrity, and willing to go the extra mile, you stand out as a champion. Now, some people will appreciate that and others not. But, in God’s eyes you will be a blessing and He will bless you. Listen to His heart about those who do not treat others well through their work:
The Bible reveals God’s heart about work
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. (Amos 8:4-6)
God was speaking about people rushing through prayer and worship (“When will the Sabbath end so we can get back to marketing wheat?”) and about cheating and shortchanging people. In other words, God sees how we work and do business and when it is not done with love, honesty, and service shaping it, God is not happy.
4. Work can provide a path to security
In the Bible, Paul was very explicit. “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) He advised all the people to follow the example that he and his ministry team had set when with them. “We were not idle,” he wrote, “when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8 NIV)
There is such a strong ethic in the Bible to work hard, and earn your own way, not being a burden on others. Work is seen as the pathway to having income and possessions. It is the way to take care of one’s family. Those who don’t provide for their family are seen as “having denied the faith and being worse than pagans.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
Laziness is not a trait God approves of in us
There is also the teaching that those who are lazy will find themselves in poverty:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11 NIV)
That being said, God is so on the side of the worker – that they get paid fairly and on time. In James 5:4 NIV, He says to employers, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” Other verses contain this same thought, “Pay the workers and pay them on time.”
5. Work is a way to discover your purpose
More than once along the way, you may take a job to pay rent and buy food. In other words, it’s not what you were “made for.” But, if you do it with the right heart, you pick up skills.
When I was still fairly young at working, I took a job as a medical transcriber. The effort I had to make to find medical terms and get them put accurately into medical records was so good for me. I have never lost that training of precision I got in doing medical records. It has affected me ever since. Even a non-work situation – taking piano lessons from a teacher trained in Paris – has shaped the way I approach things. My teacher taught courage, boldness, and endurance in mastering music.
Work is a place of training and gaining skills
So much in our lives has application to other activities. What you learn in various jobs can be used in the rest of your life, but ultimately, the hope is that each of us comes to recognize what our gifts are and the reason why we were born. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
In closing, I just want to say that there are two different things pulling on my heart in current times – maybe on yours too. I would love to see work ethics improve in the United States – see people have excellence and diligence in the work they do. Many do, but many don’t.
The other thing on my heart is seeing workers being forced from jobs because of mandates. Such a thing should not be happening in the US! Let’s all pray for workers. If you are reading this and are one of those being forced out of work, or you are out of work, my heart and prayers are with you. May God move you into a much better situation swiftly.
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excellent reminders Pam, thank you!
Beth, Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for your kind words. God bless you much.