Some people think of work as a necessary evil. They’d prefer not to do it but the bills have to be payed. It’s just something that needs to be done. It might surprise us if we took a good, long look at what the Bible has to say about the subject. Not only does the Bible command us to work (2 Thess 3:12), it actually tells us work is one of the primary reasons we exist. Work is not evil. God created it and it is good.
The first time we see someone working in the Bible is Genesis 1, right in the beginning. When God created light & darkness it was called work. When He created trees, birds, and beasts it was called work. And when He created man in His own image it was called work. The first worker was God. On the seventh day, He rested and admired what He had created (Genesis 2:2).
The next time we see someone working in the Bible is Adam. God put Adam in the garden of Eden to “cultivate and keep it”. Adam was a gardener. I doubt he thought of it as a “necessary evil.” Adam was probably the most happy human worker the world has ever known besides Jesus. The reason he got so much joy from it was because he was partnering with God in building, creating, and maintaining. Of course, Adam is the only person in history who knows what it’s like to work without the effects of sin. It must have been glorious.
Time would fail for us to write all the times the Bible shows people working. It’s probably on every page of the Bible. From Adam to Noah, from Abraham to Moses, and from David to the prophets and beyond. Everyone has worked and everyone will continue to work because it’s a God given mandate for humanity.
The question is who are we working for? Are we working in partnership with our Creator or are we working aimlessly for ourselves? If we’re working for ourselves we can be assured that we won’t receive a reward from God. Jesus said that if we do our work to be seen by men, we won’t have a reward from our Father in heaven (Matt 6:1). But if we work unto our Father who sees in secret, He Himself will reward us openly (Matt 6:4). That’s probably why the Bible tells us to do everything unto the glory of God. God wants us to have a reward for everything we do. But only the labor done unto Him will be rewarded (Col 3:23-24).
Paul the Apostle gave some of the Thessalonians a shocking new perspective when he wrote his two letters to them. Some of the Thessalonians were becoming idle and lazy because of an incorrect response they had to the end-times message. Their logic might have been something like this: “If the Day of Lord is soon approaching, what’s the point of working? Shouldn’t we be storing up food, ammunition, fasting, and reading the Bible day & night?” Paul corrected their misconception by saying,
“…Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”
He went on in his second letter,
“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you…For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. (2 Thess 3:6-13).”
When’s the last time we heard a sermon on this passage?! The message of the end-times is a message to get oil in our lamps by slowing down and connecting to Jesus. It’s a call to watch and pray. It’s a call to sever ourself from anything that hinders love. But it is NOT a call to stop working. In fact, it’s a call to work for Jesus all the more. In light of the times we are living in, we should seek to do everything for the glory of God. The fact is, the Bible shows that work is one of the most noble tasks humanity has been given. Their is so much dignity and reward in it if we do it unto God.
Of course, the Bible also calls us to rest:
“Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! (Proverbs 23:4).”
But it’s a rest that glorifies God, not a rest of indulging our flesh and dulling our spirits. That type of “resting” isn’t even refreshing.
The question we should start asking ourselves is, what is work from a biblical perspective? And second, what is rest from a biblical perspective? Working is a lot more than earning a pay check and going to a job 40 hours a week. It’s a God given mandate for humanity. And rest is more than sleep, vacation, or recreation. It’s a peace that we enter into as we come into agreement with God.