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A Brief Theology of Work

Ephesians 4:28

Work should be considered “a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God… Man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.” Dorothy Sayers

We are created in the image of God to work. Before the fall in the garden there was work to do and after our full redemption there will be work to do. But sin has given work a bad name. We hate work. It is a necessary evil that keeps us from doing the things that we really want to do. We must put off the old man, that thief, that time robber, that lazy loafer who wants to be pampered and entertained; and put on the new man and do something useful, helpful, profitable, so that you may help those in true need.

The new man does not steal like the old man did. The new man values earning more than merely having. He doesn’t take; he makes. He is a producer not merely a consumer. He knows that we are made, and remade, in the image of God to work; to work for the glory of God. He knows that our work itself can be done for the glory of God. God is pleased with an honest day’s work.

"How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”— Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man." (Proverbs 6:9-11)

We should labor with our hands (or minds) to the point of exhaustion for the glory of God. (Like Jesus did.) We are made in the image of God to do something, to work, to accomplish something. We are to be creative and productive in our labor.

What is the protestant work ethic? It is a conviction that our salvation leads to hard work, discipline and frugality. Protestant Christians typically work hard, refuse to waste money and therefore gain capital.

Biblical principles of work

Work is good.

God is glorified when we put our whole selves into our work, with a view toward pleasing God, not men. (Colossians 3:23-24, NASB95)

God is glorified when we are honest, even when it hurts us or prevents us from getting ahead. (Psalm 15:1-2, 4, NASB95)

God is glorified when we honor our superiors and submit to their authority. (1 Timothy 6:1, Romans 13:7)

God is glorified when we treat our work associates with kindness and respect. (Luke 6:31, Romans 12:18)

God is glorified when we expose fraud or dishonesty or unethical behavior. (Ephesians 5:11-13)

God is glorified when we approach our work prayerfully. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

God is glorified when we avoid complaining or grumbling, even in less-than ideal work situations. (Philippians 2:14-15)

God is glorified when we refuse to make work and money our idols. (Matthew 6:24, Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

God is glorified when we plan diligently for the future. (Proverbs 21:5)

God is glorified when we live simply and give generously. (Proverbs 22:9, 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

God is glorified when we trust him to provide today what we need for today. (Matthew 6:11)

God is glorified when we rest from work (Deuteronomy 5:13-15; Psalm 46:10)

Some work is unpleasant; do it now. Alexander McLaren wrote, “No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we being to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”

We work to glorify God, to care for the needs of our own family and to have something to give to the in genuine need. God created us to work; to contribute to the needs of others, to build society, to participate in godly civilization. Work itself is good. (“the secular vocation is sacred”) We labor for the glory of God, to spread his glorious reign and rule over all the earth.

What motivates us to work? The work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has delivered us from our selfishness. We are not the center of the universe. He has given us a sight of the glory of God.

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