Most people struggle with their jobs because they are in a dead-end job or aren’t doing what they want to do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Bible lays out God’s principles for our work ethic.
Some people are good at building a solid career that makes them happy. Other people work way too much. There is a balance to our work ethic. Jesus teaches us through His Word how to have a work ethic that glorifies Him.
As we look at how the Bible approaches work we will see how God has designed work from the beginning and how it has been affected over time. There are reasons why we don’t like to work. But there are also reasons why we would be bored out of our minds if we didn’t have something to put our hands to and be productive. How do we practice holiness while we are at work?
God’s Design from the Beginning
Believe it or not God designed humans to work from the beginning. If we see the Garden of Eden as God’s best for us Adam was working in the garden before sin came on the earth. We can see him being placed in the garden by God to work in it (Genesis 2:15).
So work was part of God’s original plan for humanity. Work gives us a reason for living. It gives us something to do, something to see grow and produce. Work is good for us. This is what God has shown us from the beginning.
A lot of people don’t like how the Bible has set us up to do work. But that’s because they don’t know the kind of work that Adam did in the garden. They only know the kind of work we are exposed to day after day. A very important event happened in the garden that changed work for today.
In Genesis 3 when the Fall of Humanity happened it brought hardship to our work. Sin brought separation between God and humans and in our relationships with one another. But it also affects how we work.
Sin affects the whole of creation. We see this in the curse God gave after the Fall. I don’t see this as much God punishing humanity for the decision to eat the fruit He expressly forbade. I believe part of it is descriptive of what happened because of sin in creation.
It disrupted the relationships even between humans and their work. I would deduct from the church that Adam’s job in the garden was much easier before the Fall than after it. God says this to Adam as part of the curse humans have incurred:
“And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:17–19, ESV)
Because of sin the ground Adam worked in the garden became hard to work with. Pain and toil would now be the ways of work. Thorns and thistles and other problems would arise as Adam worked. All of the little things that come up throughout the day delay progress and success. They are all a part of the curse, the thorns and thistles.
Even worse, the goals of your work will not be easy to achieve. Those thorns and thistles also represent our failure to complete our tasks to our standards and expectations. How can we be pleased with our work when it does not work the way we want it to?
While God gave Adam and Eve a beautiful garden with work ordained by Him and His way, their rebellion brought sin that cursed the ground and the work we do today. The reasons we don’t like our work come directly from the result of sin in this world.
Even though sin has changed work to make it harder for us, God still expects us to represent Him and have a work ethic that pleases Him. Paul addresses work among slaves and broaches the subject of how Christianity changes the way they work for their masters (Ephesians 6:5-8).
Their masters had complete control over them and could do whatever they wished with their slaves in the Roman Empire. Despite this backdrop Paul still called Christian slaves to live differently than non-Christian slaves.
Paul told them to obey their masters with the same attitude they would obey Christ. They must do their work not to please people but to please the Lord. They do their work heartily, having a goodwill and trusting that their work will receive a reward. They work as unto the Lord.
The Bible also addresses those who are lazy and don’t want to work at all. The book of Proverbs is replete with examples of how lazy people will also be poor because they refuse to work. Paul lays down the principle that he who doesn’t work doesn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
On the opposite side are those who work way too hard. Our society has made the term “workaholic” because their desire to work resembles those who cannot stop drinking alcohol. We work to provide for ourselves and families. This means we work for money, but we must avoid the love of money which is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Workaholics may be trying to avoid their home life or other situations. Whatever the reason, God called us to rest. He reserves one out of seven days for rest in Him and worship. Work must not always be our focus. There are other parts of our lives.
As I have stated in my post on Sabbath rest your family needs you more than you know. Even if they tell you they don’t want you around they need you. Don’t give up the best parts of you at work and leave them without your presence at home. You are more valuable than you can possibly imagine.
As I mentioned already, there are work hardships everyone must deal with. The most common is a Christian employer/employee and a non-Christian employer/employee relationships. It’s tough to work with people who do not share your values or principles.
You will not see eye to eye with that person on anything. Perhaps a non-Christian employer wants you to do something illegal or shady. Maybe a non-Christian employee decides to be lazy or provide a shoddy work ethic.
The employer in our culture holds a strong hand over employees. He can decide to fire an employee and leave that person to fend for himself. Employers can blacklist employees so they cannot find work easily.
Even in a booming economy it is hard for an employee to find another job. Even more difficult and perhaps not as helpful is to retool, go back to school, and be retrained. This does not guarantee an employee can find the work, pay, and benefits he had in his previous career.
This is why Paul’s counsel to masters and slaves in the Roman Empire is so key for employers today. He tells Christian masters to treat their slaves the way Jesus would treat them and do the same in treatment to their slaves (Ephesians 6:9).
In heaven, there is no master/slave relationship. Jesus is Master of all and he will judge earthly masters as well as earthly slaves. He will judge justly no matter what station you hold in life on this earth. It is better to give grace and mercy instead of judgment and mistreatment of others.
Employers who must face the indignation and mistreatment of employees who will not give their best work, who badmouth the company or the employer, or have other behavior that is not conducive to a good and godly work ethic can also suffer.
Reducing friction in relationships at work is part of holy living. As well as it is with you, you must live at peace with everyone at work, whether they are fellow employees or with your employees as the employer (Romans 12:18).
Employees who are fired from a company unjustly must rely on those in the church for compassion. We share life together as Christians, and that includes our responsibility to help other Christians when we are able.
This is one of the reasons we support one another as believers in Christ and are part of His body. Until that person is able to get back on his feet he will need the support of fellow Christians. Let us help in every way we can those who belong to the body of Christ.
Your Work Witness
Some Christians may be surprised to learn how much a holy work ethic matters to God. The way we present ourselves before others, employees and employers, is part of our work as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).
People are much more willing to listen to your story about how Jesus has changed your life when you have a godly work ethic. If we do not have a good attitude and do hard work that pleases our employers they will not see what’s different about us and non-Christians.
Work evangelism is much like lifestyle evangelism. The demonstration is in your work ethic. When people see how you are different from unbelievers they will be much more interested in why you work so hard and also know when to go home and be with your family.
They will see that you are not a moneygrubbing workaholic who is only in it for the cash. They will see the joy of Christ in you as you work. They will hear how Jesus has changed your life and be open to the message.
Work can be one of the greatest tools for your evangelism efforts. People notice if you are not acting like a Christian at work. But they also notice if you are different from everyone else around you. Let us be the people who represent Jesus well at the job site.
The way we work matters to God. The Bible is full of examples and principles on Christian work ethic. We must represent Jesus as we work. He doesn’t want us to be workaholics or lazy. We must balance work with all the other aspects of our lives.
The way you work shows your Christian values and principles. If you don’t have a godly work ethic that pleases the Lord, you will not please your employers or fellow employees. Let us all be good workers and employers to glorify God. How do you view the Christian work ethic and it’s affect on others at work.