God teaches us about work
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Genesis 1:1-2:15
Devotional text: Colossians 3:23-24
We have just finished celebrating Labor Day Weekend in America, so it seems fitting to take a look at what the Bible has to say about work. There are many scriptures found in both Old and New Testaments that speak to us about working, as seen through the acts and the teachings of God.
To begin with, in the very beginning in the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:1-5, God, our Creator, does the joyful work of creating the heavens and the earth. He created light so that all would not be darkness and took the formless void known as earth, giving it substance. On the fourth day, God created the sun, the moon and the stars.
After creating water and land, he created produce and fruit-bearing trees, along with animals and all creatures to roam the earth, swim in the seas and fly in the sky. Then, on the sixth day, he created man and woman “in his own image.”
After creating Adam (Genesis 2:15), God placed “him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” So that man would not be alone, woman was also created to be a helpmate for Adam (Genesis 2:18).
On the seventh day, God saw that all his work was good, and he rested.
As you can see, our own God is the one who did the work of creating all that is on earth and in the “heavens” (sky). Then, he created two people, known as Adam and Eve, to work the earth he had made by calling it into existence.
From there on, the couple were told to multiply and to work the earth helping one another. In the Garden of Eden, the work was easy and there was no shame in the couple.
I guess we can say, after reading these scriptures, that God himself created work, telling us that “it is good.”
Work is a God-given gift to humankind, to help us develop, grow and become wise and knowledgeable about our world and its needs. Let’s not forget that God also instituted a day of rest, for on the seventh day he rested.
In Exodus 20:8-10, we read God’s fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” This is God’s way of telling us life was never meant to be all work.
Of course, in today’s world, work takes many shapes and forms. Some people work from home, using their computers, while others go into their jobs. There is half time, full time, flex time, shared work hours, those who work three 12-hour days and those who work four 10-hour days. The ways in which we work may have changed, but the importance of work has not.
Going to Colossians in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul gave us a Godly perspective on the work that we do. From Colossians 3:17, he writes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed (action), do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, the Father, through him.”
Furthermore, Paul continues in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward. For you are serving the Lord Christ.”
I find these verses so encouraging as they are saying to us that the work we do is seen by God, and we are rewarded for our work by God. When we understand that our work is primarily for God, we are free from thinking about unpleasant work and unpleasant people. We can focus on working our best joyfully knowing that all the work we do we do for God.
Philippians 2:14-15 gives us this important advice: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent.”
So, whether we are building computers or cleaning toilets, our work brings glory to God, and, it is God who will reward us. There is no job too lowly or unimportant to our God.
The Bible also advises us about not working when we are able to do so. In Paul’s writing to the people of Thessalonica, he had this to say in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12: “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now we (Paul and his companions) command such persons by encouraging them in the Lord Jesus, to work quietly and to earn their own living.”
Proverbs 14:23, puts it this way: “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
A quote from evangelist Billy Graham makes these scriptures clearer as he has said, “This isn’t addressed to people who cannot find a job, or cannot work, but to those who have every opportunity to work but refuse.”
On the other hand, there is also a tendency to do just the opposite in today’s world, and that is to work too much. These people are the ones who ignore the need to rest, to take time off to do the things they enjoy; in other words, to stop thinking of work and take time for some outside fun and recreation.
I turn again to a great quote by Graham: “Work was never meant to be the center of our lives. That place belongs to God. A person who brags about working a 70- to 80-hour work week, thinking they are the master of their job, is wrong. They have become the slave.”
Even in our old age, post-retirement, we must never forget to keep God in the center of our lives. With God as our center, he always has something joyful and fulfilling for us to do, no matter what our age.
Paul’s second letter to his young friend Timothy offers us a work ethic pleasing to God. From 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”