One of the famous restaurants in the United States is called “TGIF”—Thank God Its Friday. The name aptly captures the mindset of how the average person views work—I am glad the work-week is over! However, is that the way a Christian should view work? Should Christians view work as a necessary evil or should we view work as a gift from God and thus glorify him even in our workplace? The goal of this brief article is to help the reader accomplish the latter [i.e., glorify God] by giving 5 biblical truths concerning work.
Truth # 1. Work existed before sin entered the world.
A lot of people mistakenly think work is a result of sin in the world. Even before sin entered the world, God had placed Adam in the garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” [Gen 2:15]. However, as a result of sin, work was made more difficult, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” [Gen 3:17].
Since work was part of man’s life in a perfect world [i.e., before the fall of mankind] and work will exist in the coming new world, work is not to be seen as a curse, but as a blessing!
Truth # 2. Work is a command from God.
We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 “work with [our] hands.” The Greek culture of that time looked down on manual labor. However, the Bible declares all labor as dignifying if done according to biblical principles. Think for a moment—if work is a curse, why would God command his children to work and that too with their hands? No, God will not command us to do anything that is even remotely evil.
As God’s children, we need to take every command of God seriously—even those that may seem contrary to our natural desires.
Truth # 3. Work is for the common good of others.
In addition to taking care of personal and family needs, work is a way of fulfilling the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt 22:39]. Several biblical commands stress the need for helping those in need. Acts 20:35 tells us that by “hard work” we must “help the weak.” In Ephesians 4:28 we are commanded to “work” in order to “have something to share with those in need.” In Proverbs 14:31, we are told, “whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Even to the rich, God issues this command, “be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” [1 Tim 6:18].
Those in need include family, friends and even strangers. While we need to exercise wise stewardship, we must also remember that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. D.L. Moody summarized this truth about working for the common good in this beautiful way, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Also, “loving your neighbor” command reminds us to be careful as to where we get employed. Places that provide good or services which lead to the destruction of many individual lives and families cannot be legitimately called as places that promote the loving your neighbor concept. It is not good for a believer to be employed in such places.
This principle of non-participation would also extend to places where sin is blatantly committed [e.g., lying to customers]. Even if the financial benefits may seem incredible, believers should not put themselves in a place where they may be tempted to disobey the word of God.
Truth # 4. Work as if God is the boss.
“Oh—No,” you say! “Oh—Yes,” says the word of God! Ephesians 6:5-8 makes this truth clear [also see Colossians 3:22-25]. In Ephesians 6:5, we are commanded in this manner, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” Notice, we are to submit to our employers as we “would obey Christ.”
A Christian’s work ethic is not to be based on merely pleasing the boss when he is watching, “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you” [Eph 6:6a]. Rather, Christians should remember that God always watches and it is to the Lord they render their service. It is the “will of God” [Eph 6:6b] for Christians to submit to their boss at all times and do a good job.
Paul proceeds to say, “7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” A Christian’s work ethic should not be based on if their work is recognized by the bosses. Many get aggravated and hence do not work hard if they are not recognized for their work. “No congrats, no bonuses, no well done, why care?” type of an attitude is prevalent among many. If God is the real boss [and he is], then God will reward the believer one day. That should be the encouraging factor for service—not mere human recognition. We cannot let our bosses or others influence our behavior!
In other words, Christians must work as if God is our real boss. We should show the same attitude of submission that we would show toward God. We should exhibit a spirit of humility. The exception is, of course, if our boss tells us to do something that violates Scripture, then we have no obligation to obey our human boss—our obligation is to obey God—“We must obey God rather than human beings!” [Acts 5:29].
We must also remember if we have a Christian boss, the principles of 1 Timothy 6:2 apply, “Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.”
In addition to being good employees, Christians must also be good employers. Ephesians 6:9 says, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” Just as employees ought to serve employers in a Christ-honoring manner, Christian employers must similarly treat their employees. They are not to threaten or take advantage of them. They are not to treat them with partiality either because the Lord does not show favoritism.
When believers realize the Lord is the real Boss and that we don’t work just for a paycheck, perspective towards work changes. Work does not become a burden, but can be viewed as a blessing and an excellent means of bringing glory to God.
Truth # 5. Work is a means, not an end.
1 Corinthians 10:31 clearly states we are to do all things for “the glory of God.” Understanding this will help the Christian to see work as the means to the ultimate goal of glorifying God. If this perspective is not present, it is very easy to let work become the master and the worker become the slave. This will lead to all kinds of other problems—desiring to get rich, desiring to climb the corporate ladder, desiring to acquire the best that the world has to offer, having no time for personal devotions, having no time for the family, having no time to attend Church meetings, tendency to compromise or take short-cuts in order to succeed, etc. That is why Proverbs 23:4 warns, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.”
Simply stated, don’t be a WORKAHOLIC! A Christian’s identity does not come from how successful they are as an employee or as an employer. A Christian’s identity comes from the fact that they are in Christ—a sinner saved by grace. God has already accepted them and in the end that is all that will really matter!
So, there we are. 5 fundamental truths concerning work. In addition to these truths, there are 3 other general principles to consider when it comes to working.
Working in a Difficult Environment. We must not get discouraged if we find ourselves working in a stressful environment. God is sovereign over all the affairs of life. 1 Peter 2:18-21 reminds that there may be times when one has to bear up under unreasonable employers. God may be keeping us there for a reason—either to change the people around and/or even change us through such difficult circumstances.
Changing Jobs. When it comes to changing jobs, it is good to approach this aspect prayerfully. There is nothing sinful in seeking another job. However, when doing so, we must not hesitate to ask some tough questions:
- Why do I want to move?
- Is it because of my pride in refusing to submit to my employers that I am seeking to move?
- Is it just for more money and more comforts?
- Is it just for personal career fulfillment?
- Will this move jeopardize my personal and family’s spiritual growth?
- Will this move jeopardize my service to the Lord, my involvement in the local church?
- How will this impact my time with the family?
Such sincere questioning of the motives coupled with prayer enables us to make the right choices with regards to changing jobs. It is always good to keep the big picture in mind—How does my desire to move or stay, glorify God? When we put God first and then ask the questions, answers will easily follow. We must always remember: The pursuit of earthly fulfillment can lead to great spiritual disasters.
In addition, it is also good to remember that it’s not Christ-like nor God-glorifying to continually speak evil of our employers or continually grumble and complain about our job. We need to cultivate a thankful heart for even having a job! Let’s not forget—many are jobless! And even when we leave the one job for another, it is not good to speak evil of the previous company. It is good to put the past behind and move forward.
Please Note: It is not sinful to express a difficult situation that one is facing at work and asking others to pray nor is it sinful to speak about genuine atrocities that occur in the workplace. What is sinful is if we develop bitterness toward those that are not treating us well. Constant reflection about the negative aspects of the workplace can lead us to such sinful attitudes. So, we must be watchful!
Evangelism at the Work-place.While the Bible does command us to reach to everyone who does not have a saving relationship with Christ and this includes those at the workplace, wisdom is required. The Christian is paid to do a job and needs to remember that evangelism should not interfere with the job functions. In other words, we need to refrain from evangelizing during work-hours if that leads to neglecting our job duties. Such an approach does not promote Christ. Instead, it brings a negative testimony about the Christian faith. Lunch-break or after-hours are possibilities to consider.
It is also good to remember—in addition to proclaiming the gospel message, being a faithful employee or employer is a powerful way of promoting Christ.
Let’s never forget: The greatest work was the work done by the Lord Jesus when he lived that perfect life on our behalf and went to the cross to die as a substitute for our sins. His victorious cry, “It is finished” [John 19:30] reveals his payment for our sins was sufficient—the resurrection was God’s “Amen” to his work. So, we can rest in him and draw strength from his Spirit to fulfill his commands, including the command to live out the biblical principles concerning work.
God is glorified even in the secular realm. Let us not wrongly conclude that God is glorified only if someone works full-time in a “Church” ministry. Scriptures remind us that every Christian is in full-time ministry—as long as they glorify God in the area he has called them to function. Whether we are in the secular work area, in the home taking care of and raising godly children, or serving in the Church—faithfulness to God’s Word is the issue. When we develop such an attitude, rather than saying TGIF, we can joyfully say TGIM—Thank God It’s Monday!