In our previous article we discussed how work is a gift from God. We should work because we follow God’s example. Just as God worked, created, and continues to develop and sustain his creation, we are also expected to work, develop, and steward God’s creation. Yet we all know the frustrations and fatigue we experience in our work. At such times, it can help us to remember what the Bible teaches about why we should continue to work. Below we examine five biblical motivations for work.
1. Work Utilises the Gifts and Skills God has Given Us
God does not want us to sit on our gifts. Imagine if you gave a gift of a vehicle to some friends and they never used it. You might be annoyed if you saw it rusting away at their home. God expects us to do something with his gifts to us. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” God has given each one of us unique skills, talents, opportunities, and spiritual gifts.
We need to see our daily work as a calling, even when it is hard.
So we need to be good stewards, utilising the gifts God has given us in our homes, at the office, in the community, and at the church. We need to see our daily work as a calling, even when it is hard. Many times we compare ourselves to others and focus on the abilities and opportunities we don’t have. This discourages us from using what we have. It isn’t a motivation to work. We should not despise our gifts and abilities but use what we’ve been given as well as we can.
2. By Working We Provide for Our Needs and Those of Our Families
God has honoured the place of the family in the way he structured the world and society. We all have a special responsibility and calling to care for the members of our families. While we are supposed to do good to all people, our priority is to first take care of our own family’s needs. Paul puts this very strongly in 1 Timothy 5:8. He writes, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This is surely a strong motivation to work.
Paul also set an example for the churches he planted. He worked hard making tents in order to support his own needs and the needs of his coworkers. In Acts 20:34 he says to the Ephesian elders, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.”
The goal is that each family is able to support its own needs by working hard in God’s world.
God teaches us in his word that all of us are to work and to try to take care of our own families. Of course, all of us will need help from time to time because of the brokenness of this world. The Bible is clear that we need to be ready to help those in need, especially brothers and sisters in the church. But the goal is that each family is able to support its own needs by working hard in God’s world. We should avoid being dependent on others as much as possible. Pursuing obedience in this area is a compelling motivation to work hard.
Paul teaches in 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12, “We urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
3. Work Guards Against Temptation
We learn more about this from Ephesians 4:28. Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Most thieves very likely started out thinking they could never become people who would steal. Perhaps none of us expect that we could ever become thieves. But lacking basic needs can make a person feel so desperate that they turn to taking from others. The lesson for us is that we have to work hard all the time, even if things seem fine right now, so that we don’t end up in that kind of desperate situation in the future.
Lacking basic needs can make a person feel so desperate that they turn to taking from others.
But Paul takes things a step further. We should not only work to meet our basic needs, but also work hard enough to have a surplus. We should be able to support our families, and also have more to help those in need around us.
4. Through Work We Can Glorify God
In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul teaches, “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.” What amazing motivation for work these verses give us! At our workplace, we are not just working for our boss. In the end, we are really working for Christ. In the original context, Paul was speaking about servants who had very hard work to do for their masters. When we have difficult work to do, we can remember that we are doing it for Christ. After all that Jesus has done for us, it is wonderful to think we can do our work well as a way to honour him!
We are not just working for our boss. In the end, we are really working for Christ.
We serve Christ, not only people. Some people check whether the supervisor is around before deciding whether to report to work or whether to arrive on time. This is a clear demonstration of people working to appease supervisors rather than to serve God. Our work is a way to worship God by using the skills and opportunities he has given us. We should do our work with a positive attitude, knowing that it pleases God when we work well. He has also promised to reward our faithful work. There is immense motivation to work in knowing that God is watching us and is with us.
Listen to this quotation from the German Reformer, Martin Luther, talking about the work of a parent: “God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling—not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.”
As Christians, we often praise the work of businessmen, or praise the work of ministers who spend all of their time preaching. In doing so, we can seem to belittle the work of washing dishes or weeding gardens, as if they are not important. But all of these are important tasks in God’s kingdom. They all can give glory to God if we do these tasks as service to Christ.
5. The Saviour Set an Example in Work
Before Jesus began his public ministry, he worked as a carpenter. The King of kings, God made flesh, the ruler of the world, deserving all glory and honour, did not begrudge simple daily work. We can imagine he took delight in that carpentry work, working to fashion furniture out of the creation he made in the beginning (Colossians 1:16).
God made flesh didn’t begrudge simple daily work.
Then Jesus worked in his ministry towards people, all the way to his death on the cross (John 5:16-17). Jesus left his carpentry work, and did the work of being our Saviour, reconciling us to God through his death on the cross. Because of his work, we are saved. In gratitude for our salvation, we should follow his example. We should work for God’s glory with thanksgiving and be willing to sacrifice for others in our work. In our work, we will face easy times and hard times, but we should not become discouraged. We need to continually look to Christ and follow his example, as motivation for our own work.
Questions for Reflection:
- Are you making use of all the skills and gifts that God has given to you as you work at your job, at home, and at church?
- Is your family overly dependent on assistance from others? Are you as an individual overly dependent on your relatives because you are not working hard?
- God has given us a special responsibility to care for our own family’s needs, and for brothers and sisters in the church. In our working and giving, are we tending to this responsibility or do we try to win friends and favours by helping others in the community while neglecting our own family and church?
- In your preaching, do you unintentionally reinforce the idea that daily work is unimportant and not as honouring to God as the work of pastoring?
- Do you strive to do the best in your work or do you concentrate on doing the bare minimum?
- Which work tasks at home, church, or your job do you need to remember to do as a service to Christ so that you can do them with a cheerful attitude?
Helping Without Hurting in Africa: Facilitator Manual trains leaders to proclaim the gospel in both word and deed, changing mind-sets and helping them apply biblical principles to care wisely and compassionately for people who are poor without unintentionally doing harm.
Helping Without Hurting in Africa provides readers with the foundational concepts and tools in Christ-centered poverty alleviation and doubles as a ready-to-use facilitator manual that helps participants:
- Grow in their relationships with God, others, self, and the rest of creation.
- Gain a new focus on the kingdom of God in their ministries.
- Renew their love and compassion for the materially poor.
- Obtain knowledge about how to help low-income individuals and communities more wisely.
- Empower churches and ministries to bring lasting change, starting with their own resources.
Contact Oasis Regional Directors to order Helping Without Hurting in Africa: Facilitator Manual:
- Regional Director East Africa: WhatsApp: +27 79 572 4877
- Regional Director West Africa: WhatsApp +234 809 111 1184
More ordering information at oasisinternationalpublishing.com/buy