Published December 22, 2005
Genesis 1:26-28, 31, 2:15; Psalm 127:2; Proverbs 6:6-11; Colossians 3:22-4:1
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Jan. 1
The modern culture is seemingly becoming less interested in what historically has been termed “the work ethic.” Conducting a skill or managing an office seems to have lost its appeal to many in contemporary culture. The American dream once was that one would secure a career, marry, and purchase a home. Seemingly, more people are interested in the “dream” of enjoyment through recreation rather than seeing their work as a source of satisfaction.
Even Christians are accepting the idea that work is to be done only because it must be done. “Life is short” is a phrase that indicates that work is nothing more than bondage.
An honest question for us would be, “Can Christians come to a biblical understanding of the value of work?”
Life Question: Why should I value work?
Work is God’s Idea (Genesis 1:26-28, 31; 2:15)
The concept of made in the image of God basically means that God and mankind share similarly in personality, aesthetic appreciation, and moral and spiritual qualities. Obviously the Lord has ultimate sovereignty over His creation. But due to His sovereign plan, God decided to share some of the oversight with the highest aspect of His creation. “Dominion” carries with it the ideas of responsibility and trust. Therefore, God has trusted man with an important responsibility in assigning to him dominion.
In order for man to carry out dominion he must labor and toil. Man must work within the plan and purpose of God. Although we may not understand God’s trust of us, particularly when we consider our fallen condition, we still must recognize that God has planned to trust mankind with a significant responsibility of oversight. Overseeing carries with it the ideas of labor, management, cooperation, and leadership.
God placed man in the Garden of Eden to “tend it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). Clearly God desired that man use his physical and mental abilities to labor for His purposes and for man’s own sense of fulfillment. Oftentimes we fail to recognize that the work given to us is connected to the greater purposes of God.
God was pleased with His plan. Christians should come to see the goodness and value of God’s plan and strive to honor the Lord with our labor.
Work is Beneficial (Proverbs 6:6-11)
Watching ants at work is amazing. I remember as a child I would often kick the anthills just to watch the amazing response of the residents. (I no longer do that due to a bad experience). The word that best describes the ant is “focus.” These creatures know their purpose and are focused upon it.
Proverbs 6 teaches us to learn from the focused work ethic of the ant lest we become lazy. So many Christians love their “down time.” Granted, there are benefits to those times. But too often we tend to look forward to the downtime more than the “purpose” time. The wisdom from these verses should engage our hearts and minds. Too much focus on downtime and recreation can lead to missing out on the benefits and blessings of God.
The plan of God for our labor includes an aspect of benefit. Focused work is the means by which mature Christians meet their own needs, meet the needs of their families, and provide victory over laziness. The ants are clearly benefited by their focused effort. They are safe from the elements and have enough food to sustain life. If God granted such benefit to the ants, how much more does He bless His children as we strive to do our work?
Work Should Be Kept in its Proper Perspective (Psalm 127:2)
In Psalm 127:1-2 God’s sovereignty is seen in three ways: (1) house building, (2) protecting a city, and (3) doing our work.
In these aspects God’s plan is more crucial than our efforts. Our efforts, without God’s involvement, are conducted in vain.
I have known a few workaholics. I have never understood them. I have stood in amazement at their level of production. But in all honesty, I have never been impressed. I actually feel sorry for them.
These poor souls have a sad lack of balance in their lives. They miss many of the important things in life because they are always working. Too many children are victimized by this spiritual ailment. Verse 2 makes the case that working outside of God’s sovereign plan is a spiritual ailment. Its reward is the “bread of sorrows” (NKJV).
We must remember that focused work is important but should remain within the purposes of God. The Christian should strive for a balance of work, recreational, spiritual, and familial life. The Psalmist reminds us that vanity is connected to over-work and working outside the plan of God.
Work Honors God (Colossians 3:22-4:1)
The over-arching context of this passage has to do with God-pleasing relationships. So Paul upholds the duties of slave and master (of which the modern parallel is the duties of employee and employer), not as an endorsement of slavery, but as a reality that needed biblical counsel as it related to pleasing God as either slave or master.
Paul does not endorse slavery but merely recognizes it as historical truth. This teaching regarding slavery was designed to help masters and slaves treat one another in a God-honoring fashion.
A study of the Bible confirms that God was never pleased with slavery. However, Paul addressed the reality of the current situation and attempted to help those involved to please God.
The dominant idea of these verses is that we conduct our work in a manner pleasing to God (verse 23). If we view our efforts as an opportunity to please the Lord, more than our employer, then our attitude in our labors will be more positive. Employers also have a responsibility to return a level of respect to employees.
Understanding these principles can help the Christian have a better understanding of the value of our work.
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