Labor day seems a good time to talk about work. We live in a day and age where people are fairly obsessed with what you do for work. I’m a talk show host on Christian radio. Or am I? I’m also an author, a speaker, a farm wife, a cultivator of people, a laundry lady, a cook, and I’ve been and done a LOT of various and sundry things along the way. In reality, no matter what I’m doing, paid or unpaid, I’m doing it as an Ambassador of the King and His Kingdom. That’s my primary work in the world and I’m doing THAT no matter what else is occupying my hands or providing income for my family.
As we think and talk about work, one question to consider is the first question: is work part of God’s intrinsically good plan in Creation or is work one more bad consequence of the Fall? To answer this question let’s consider a few things we know about God. First, God worked (Genesis 1) and God is working even now (Romans 8:28). In Genesis 2:15, we learn that God created us to work and if we take seriously the command to rest on the Sabbath we understand it is God’s intent that we should be busy working the rest of the time (Exodus 20:8-11). The work of redemption demonstrates that God is willing to work on our behalf (Ephesians 2:8-9) and Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom and His return suggest He expects to find us working (Luke 12, Matthew 24)!
In fact, Jesus is working for us right now. He is preparing a place for us (John 14) and He is interceding for us with the Father (Romans 8:34). And lest we imagine the entire Trinity is not actively engaged, the Holy Spirit is working right now in, among and through us. Paul expresses his confidence in God’s ongoing work when he says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
So, if God works and God created us to work from the beginning, we see work as both a fruitful use of our time and talents, and part of God’s will for us as His agents of grace in the world today. Does it matter what kind of work we do or how we do the work set before us? In a word, yes. As we work in accordance with our gifts, passions, calling, ability and opportunity, we recognize that “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). So, we are set ourselves to discovering and then accomplishing those “good works.” And what is good? I’m glad you asked! We’re talking here about intrinsic goodness, the kind of goodness that is identified with God’s design, will and redemptive work. Good as defined by God, we are to work to multiply and amplify these things. And, as Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, as we work, let us work as unto the Lord. Ultimately He is the one we serve.
Let us also consider what Paul says to the Christians in Thessalonica about work and laziness. “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” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).
In my recent conversation with Bill English, we discussed that some people work for money or to make a name for themselves. Those who work for money will find that money will never be enough. The same truth holds for those working to make a name for themselves. Then what? As Solomon acknowledges throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, that is literally vain glory.
Proverbs 23:4-5 reminds us, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Work. Are you grateful for it? I am. In whatever form it comes. Let us lift up Labor Day prayers of gratitude to God for bodies and minds able to do the work He gives us, that we might care for our own needs and, in seasons of abundance, provide for the needs of others.Labor Day: What’s your theology of work?