God and Work
“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This, too, I see is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”
- Ecclesiastes 2:24
The book of Proverbs has lot to say about work and provides specific instruction for working God’s way. Here are some of the things workers who please God and desire to prosper should do:
Take charge. A diligent person is involved enough in the process to be a self-starter, not to have to be supervised continually, and to figure out ways to overcome obstacles that will surely arise. The writer of this proverb points that out,“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
Stick with it. Part of working wisely includes seeing a job through until it is successfully completed. A diligent person will make plans and work them, even when he/she feels like giving up. Solomon says,“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). We keep at our work, and, after a time, we will find that our persistence pays off.
Use tools and teamwork. Solomon also notes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest” (Proverbs 14:4). A farmer in that day would get more done with an ox than if he tried to do it on his own. Today that translates into having (and learning to use) the right tools, into delegating whenever appropriate, into working as a team, and into getting the proper training to help us advance toward our goals.
Pursue excellence. God’s definition of diligent work also has to do with a job well done. Striving for excellence is a worthy goal. And the writers of the proverbs tell us that when we our work is excellent, it will get noticed. We read, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).
Value of work
Work has always been part of God’s plan for humans. He gives us abilities, resources, opportunities. Through these means, we are able to use our work in serving others, seeking justice, developing the earth, and benefiting from what it produces.
Work brings us satisfaction. God’s plan is for us to work in a role that enables us to earn a living, participate in society, and provide for our own needs and the needs of others (see Ephesians 4:28). And Solomon promises that this work would be satisfying: “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Proverbs 13:4).
Work brings benefits. In Proverbs, Solomon tells us that “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored” (Proverbs 27:18). If we want to eat figs, we have to take care of the tree. If we want recognition, raises, and promotions, we have to give the extra effort so we will be seen as honorable and valued employees. God set a pattern that remains in place today: Those who work hard gain from it whether on the job, in the church, or in our homes. “All hard work brings a profit . . .” (Proverbs 14:23a). Tend the tree, eat the figs.
God is our partner. God himself comes alongside diligent workers. He does his part, we do ours. We plant crops, he sends rain. We bring in the harvest and, in it, he provides the seeds of the next crop. We learn a trade, he provides a job and health so we can work. God is our partner, guide, encourager, and, ultimately, provider.
The only exception to that principle is if we are working at a task that is outside of God’s will. If we are involved in a mission that is inconsistent with the moral law of God, he will fight us, not help us. Perhaps if we are involved in something that is not going well, we need to ask whether the work we are doing is within the boundaries that God has set up. If the answer is ‘no,’ we need to change our course so that he can, in fact, join us in the work we do.
“We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow." – Martin Luther