Created To Work

October 5th 2023

Created to Work

Work can be arduous, physically painful, and emotionally taxing. For this reason, work is despised by many, and avoided by even more. It is often seen as a means to an end within a culture that promotes leisure, self-pleasure, and play. A couple of old axioms I remember hearing since childhood are, “I work so I can play,” and “I don't live to work; I work to live.” However, a close reading of Scripture would suggest that we live to work; or at least, we should. It is often wrongly concluded that work resulted from the fall of man and is, therefore, part of the curse. In reality, work was given to man well before the fall, and only became toilsome afterward. As Genesis 2:15 teaches, God intended for us to work from the beginning: "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it." So, because work itself is not part of the curse, it’s important for us to understand God’s purposes for it. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

We Work for God

The first obvious motivation to work is to make much of God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Paul addresses the topic of work again as he writes to the Colossians, saying, “Whatever you do, work heartily for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23). As image-bearers of God, it is also important to note that God, too, worked. We see this first in the book of Genesis through the creation account, entering the seventh day of creation: “And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done” (Gen 2:2). So, we work because God works. As King Solomon states, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3).

We Work to Develop Character

A further dive into the book of Proverbs reveals the wisdom of a good work ethic, as opposed to the foolishness of those who avoid working or are dishonest. In Proverbs 11:3, Solomon writes, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” In another proverb, Solomon says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Prov 12:11). It is apparent from Proverbs that God honors the slow and steady pursuit of work: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Prov 13:11). Another proverb aimed at the character of working honestly is Proverbs 16:11: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” While it’s true that working provides a means to survival and that income and other earthly resources are gained through working, it is also clear that God intends work to provide spiritual blessings: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Prov 13:4). Therefore, it is evident that a good work ethic is both pleasing to God and advantageous to man, while dishonest or lazy work, in the end, will bring ruin to any man.

We Work for Our Witness

Returning to the Apostle Paul, we also see work as evidence of a godly life. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “And aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we instructed you” (1 Thess 4:11).  Apparently, because it needed to be addressed again, Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians, had more to say about his own witness of work, as well as how to treat those among them who didn’t want to work:

“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of the 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 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 an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to, 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” (2 Thess 3:6–12).

In conclusion, work is a God-ordained, God-glorifying venture that builds character in the Christian, and aids our witness for the gospel to the world. I hope that this very brief look at the subject of work will spark a desire in you to study the topic further. May you be blessed and be a blessing through your efforts to “work heartily for the Lord” (Eph 3:23).

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Author: Dale Thackrah

Dale Thackrah is the Executive Pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is currently a D.Min student at Talbot School of Theology. He has been a pastor for eighteen years in California and in Arizona. Dale and his wife, Shawna, have two children: Noah and Kenna.