As we finish out this series on the theology of work in the Bible, we all want to please God and how we work for him. If you’ve missed some of these five posts about the theology of work, check out the previous posts also.
Most Christians are concerned about what God wants them to do. Scouring the Scriptures to learn his principles and commandments about work is my goal in these posts. We’ve talked about everything from being lazy to being a workaholic.
But in this post I want to lay out God’s principles for work that pleases him. Work hits the heart of what we do most of our day. No one wants to be a slouch at work. God has great expectations for us and how we handle our jobs. Let’s take a look at these principles.
Not only is there a correlation between production and consumption in God’s Word, but also a principle that work should be skilled and done with excellence. There seems to be a testing of the work we all do on the Day of the Lord at the end of time.
God cares about the quality of the work you do. We are commanded to put our whole heart into our work and work with excellence. Think about this: your work as a representative of Christ is just as much about His reputation as yours. When we don’t do a good job, it reflects poorly on our witness.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:17, 23-24
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him”Ephesians 6:3-9
Employers and Employees
Another principle about our work as believers in Jesus is that it must be done with excellence, as unto the Lord. If anyone is curious why I have pointed to a passage about slaves and masters in the New Testament, our American idea of slavery, and our history with it, is very different from Roman slavery and biblical slavery.
Surely enough slavery of other human beings in any fashion is not God’s very best. Many question why Christians did not outright fight against slavery and why Paul provided guidelines for it instead of abolishing it.
What Americans do not understand, because we color the Scriptures with our own historical meaning of slavery as a horrible moral evil, is that slavery in the Roman times was more like our current employer/employee relationship.
Oftentimes, slaves could earn independence and freedom from their master. True, it was up to the master to be kind enough to allow a slave to pay into freedom, but it was possible for a slave to gain freedom, if that slave even wanted it. Slaves were not treated the best in the Bible times, but they were treated better than in American slavery.
Some slaves were even paid to work for their masters. The payment made them slaves. They might have had a debt to repay. Even the Old Testament Law of Moses allowed for slavery to be an option when someone had a debt to pay.
It is up to the slave and master to be godly even in this situation in life. Let me remind each of us as believers that Paul uses the language of slavery to show that we are slaves to righteousness and God’s Law (Romans 6:15-23).
Paul in Scripture asks slaves to be obedient, and masters to be kind and not threaten the slaves. If the master acted like God, our heavenly Master, toward his slaves, and if the slave honored his master as he honors Christ, the slave relationship was essentially Christianized.
I hear people who work for good bosses say they’d rather work for them than anyone else. When we treat one another properly at work, we will find that work is not as harsh as the curse has made it to be.
Christian employees are expected to do excellent, top notch work for their employers. We are also expected to have the mind and attitude of Christ toward them. That means that we don’t bad-mouth them or be insolent.
Granted, if we are being mistreated, we do need to voice our concerns, but in a godly, redeeming, and Christ-like way. Along with our excellence in job performance, we must consider that we are working for the Lord, not for people.
“As unto the Lord” is a serious injunction by Paul that calls us to consider our work as working for God, not for human beings. So what would you do if God was your employer? How would you approach your work differently?
If you are a Christian employer, it is up to you as a manager of your people to be kind and like Christ toward them, dealing with them in grace. Don’t pick favorites or pit employee against employee. Competition must not become ungodly or demeaning.
Treat them with respect, and you will find they enjoy working for you. You’ll get more efficiency and production out of them for it! But it is key for employers and managers to realize that they are working with people, not things. Don’t act like you own the people. Act like a team player, but serve in the leader role and function.
Follow Godly Principles
Of course there are a host of other principles about work you can gain from God’s Word! There are parables that speak directly to work ethic. There is wisdom literature that teaches us how to be better workers.
We all want to enjoy our jobs. No one wants the job they are not built to do. They spin their wheels for a long time and remain unhappy. Sometimes there are seasons in our lives where we must do these jobs.
But we must remember these principles and do them with joy, as unto the Lord. If the Lord asked you to do menial tasks that must be done to serve others, you would do them for Him. Our Lord Jesus taught us to be servants (John 13:12-20).
Indeed, there are a host of other passages in both Testaments referring to work, but these principles will help you to have a Christian work ethic in whatever you do:
- A balanced work ethic honors God and His principles.
- A balanced work ethic is a witness to unbelievers and believers.
- A balanced work ethic places priorities in the proper order and maintains them.
So when it comes to work, the Bible teaches work as part of God’s design for humanity. It is something we would do even if sin wasn’t part of our world. The medicine of Scripture’s teachings for those who do not work is for them to balance work with responsibility. It calls them to be productive and to serve the Lord through whatever He has gifted them and skilled them to do in their lives.
For those who work too much, the Bible’s medicine is a steady dose of Sabbath and rest. They must not overwork themselves. We were designed to glorify God by being good stewards of this body, and the life He gives. When we overwork, we neglect the other areas of our lives. We must worship God by giving Him one of our seven days in a week.
For those who are fairly balanced in their work attendance, the message of God’s Word is that we must be excellent at what we do because it is ultimately for the Lord’s sake, not ours. Even in duty we must pay attention to detail and so glorify God.
Most of all, we find we have work to do for God. We are imitators of God, His representatives and ambassadors in this world. Being godly and sharing Christian values in each situation honors God. Living for Him while at work is a plus for anyone’s evangelistic efforts.
Even in work, Christians must look different than the world. Wherever you are and wherever you go, you can do your greatest job as a child of the King by witnessing about Him and showing others through demonstration the grace and power of our Lord. Our primary job is to serve Christ, and the nine to five is a way in which we can do that.
Have you enjoyed our study of work in the Bible? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve gotten out of this study. May the Lord teach us to balance our work and responsibility, and to take our seventh day rest.