Some people hate to do it. Some love to do it. Some go to great lengths to avoid doing it. Some do it too much. While there are many different attitudes toward work, one thing remains constant: work must be done. Since the Garden of Eden everyone has worked or depended upon someone else’s work for their survival. Work can define a person’s lifestyle—where you live, when you sleep and eat, the time with family, even your dress. Another constant about work is the fact that God has a clear perspective on it, and we are to align our thoughts with His.

As we reflect on our attitude toward work, let us consider the following 14 principles that outline a biblical perspective on work in general:

1) Work is ordained by God

It was His own original idea; His creative invention from the beginning. The Bible declares that God worked (Gen 1) and so did His Son (John 5:17). By working, we resemble God. Like God, you have the ability to work, make plans, implement them, and be creative. Additionally, God gave man the task of ruling over and taking care of His creation (Gen 1:28; 2:15). So work is originally God’s idea from the beginning—a divine arrangement.

Genesis 2:15 (ESV) says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Here is another indication that it is God’s original intention for man to work and labour—even before the fall had occurred. So we see work, once again, as an approved vocation from God; God puts us where we are and tells us to “work it and keep it”, wherever that might be. Work is not a curse from God but a blessing. The curse of the hard toil of work only came after the fall in the Garden, not before. Creation was God’s work—all of nature and things seen and unseen were made by the hands of our Almighty God (Gen 1:7,16,27; 2:8).

2) Work is for a lifetime

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground” (Gen 3:19 ESV). God intends that humans are to work as long as they live. Meaningful activity plays a critical role in being a human being—whether paid or volunteer. The retirement age shouldn’t end meaningful, purposeful work, especially in serving God and building up the brotherhood and ecclesia.

3) Work is not a punishment, not a burden, not a curse

God did not create work as drudgery, but as a gift of fulfilment to life:

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccl 2:24-25 RSV).

4) The purposes of work

Work provides for the basic necessities of life. It allows us to care for ourselves and our family (putting food on the table and paying the bills) and gives us the satisfaction of doing a job well. More importantly it provides us with the opportunity of serving God with a clear conscience.

5) Our work calls for obedience – integrity, honesty, punctuality, transparency, accountability

Even when the boss isn’t looking, a good Christadelphian worker is consistent and diligent to the task and loyal to the organisation (Col 3:22). Our real master is the Lord Jesus Christ. We take and see our various jobs/trades/occupations/businesses as service to him—not simply to our employers or clients or customers.

6) Work should be done with excellence, effectiveness and efficiency

We remember Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah in their various roles. They served their masters with single-minded excellence (Dan 6:3). Hence we are to render service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Eph 6:6-7); not to be men-pleasers, but God-pleasers. God’s standard of excellence needs to be our goal and our standard as a people claiming to know the God of Truth.

7) Work is honourable

All trades, jobs, all decent professions and all kinds of work—assuming they are legal and biblically ethical—are honourable before the Lord. There is no distinction between secular work and work for God. All work brings glory to God and fulfilment to you, if it is done to God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31).

8) Work provides a good opportunity for witness

We advertise the king and the coming kingdom by the work we do, both verbal and nonverbal, in our attitude and approach to work. Our society today needs this powerful witness to the reality of the living Christ and the difference that he makes in those of us claiming to be his true followers (Matt 5:16).

9) Work with all your might

Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 (ESV) states, “…in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going”. This is one of my favourite Bible verses on employment because Solomon says that whatever our job is, we are to “do it with [all of] [our] might”. We are working for God and not just our employer and we should perform all our tasks with great diligence and energy. For those who hate their jobs, realise that the workplace you are in may not be an accident. Whatever environment we are in would not compare to Joseph’s imprisonment—and look at his faithful example of diligence.

10) Working for the Lord

In Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) Paul writes, “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.” We can make a good impression for the Lord, or we can bring shame to the cause of Christ—so we ought to “obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Col 3:22 ESV). In other words, don’t just start looking busy when the boss is watching—because God is always watching everything we do, even when the boss isn’t.

Paul tells us specifically that we “are serving the Lord Christ” and not just our employers. The Lord is the one who will reward us in the end, not the employer. What God rewards us for is for all eternity and can be enjoyed in the promised kingdom—that is our inheritance—not what we gain while on earth. We do it “for the Lord and not for men”.

11) No quick way to money

Proverbs 12:11 (ESV) states, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Nothing can replace hard work. For those who follow get-rich-quick schemes, these are really “worthless pursuits” that “lack sense”. Work is its own reward, but hard work always pays off, if not in this life, then in the life to come: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Prov 14:23 NIV).

12) No work, no food

Paul had problems with the ecclesia in Thessalonica. They expected the Lord to return—but many had just stopped working and, while waiting for the Lord’s return, they were asking for handouts from the other members who were still working. Paul had to address this issue and wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” Paul commanded that these people “earn their own living” and not leech off those who are still labouring. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul added the warning: “…if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”.

13) Poverty comes to the sluggard

In Proverbs 24:30-34, Solomon happened to see a field and a vineyard that was overgrown with thorns and the ground was covered with nettles (weeds), and its stone wall was broken down—and he understood why. It was the owner saying, “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” and the end result of this laziness is poverty. A sluggard is one who is sleeping whilst there is work to be done. No wonder Solomon knew that “poverty will come upon [them] like a robber, and want like an armed man”. In contrast, “the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov 10:4).

14) The greatest work – working in the Truth

The greatest work we all can do is to labour in the name of Christ—working in the Truth. This work is styled the work of God (Rom 14:20), the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58; 16:10), his harvest (Matt 9:38) and labouring in the Lord (Rom 16:12).

This work may be seen in many different ways—in preaching, teaching, caring, strengthening, helping, supporting, giving, organising—all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58).