Work is a four letter word, but it isn’t a bad word. Work has been around since Genesis 2, and is part of God’s design for His people. The book of Proverbs lays out for us several pieces of wisdom regarding work that we must not only live out, but pass onto the next generation.
Proverbs 24:27: Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
Notice what comes first. Prepare your work outside. Get in the fields, get them ready, work the land, get dirty, be faithful, plant the crops, harvest the crops, set aside the money…and after all that…then build your house.
In our culture, we are often told that we are entitled to things. That even if we did not earn them or have to work hard for them, we are entitled to what we want, when we want it. But Proverbs 24:27 reminds us that first, we work hard. We put in the hours, we’re disciplined about setting aside the money, we get a plan in place, and we don’t expect things to just be given to us because we are who we are. First we work…then we build and buy.
Proverbs 12:11 and 28:19: Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
When we work hard, it leads to us being able to provide for ourselves, and not just ourselves, but others. Abundant food.
A fantasy is never achieved. One of the biggest examples of this in our culture is the get rich quick schemes. That within 90 days, you’ll be a set for life. They are examples of us chasing after fantasies, because their bait that we want to bite on is that we will then be able to avoid working hard.
There is vast difference between working the land…and chasing after fantasies. One leads to abundant food, and the other reveals that we have no sense.
Proverbs 12:14: From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward
Again, we see here that God’s wisdom says that when we work hard it brings reward. That hard work is rewarding, not just with wages and being able to bless others, but internally. It is a good thing to stand back after a hard day’s work and say look what we got done. When we have that response, we are simply reflecting what God did after Creation. That as He reflected on what He had created, He said it was very good.
Proverbs 14:23: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Are you seeing a reoccurring theme here? Hard work brings results. It leads to profit, gain, blessing, and reward. When we are just talking, and not working, it leads to poverty. So don’t just talk about how you are going to try and find a job, but actually go out and submit some resumes, and chase employers down, and be intentional at getting an opportunity to work hard in order to bring a profit.
Proverbs 20:4: Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.
Proverbs talks about the sluggard a lot. The word sluggard is mentioned 14 times in Proverbs. It is not a pretty word. The idea of a sluggard is a person who does not work hard, is prone to idleness, only wants what comes easy to them, does not endure, and has a sense of entitlement. So sluggards are prone to want the rewards of hard work, without doing the hard work.
Proverbs 6:6: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
Proverbs uses the picture of an ant, because they are famous for how they work. They think ahead, set aside for the future, are disciplined, work together, and collect their food at the right time. In short, they work hard, and they are a stark contrast to how a sluggard would approach work.
So is the end goal to be like the ant and not be like the sluggard? I don’t believe that is the end goal. Remember the end goal of a Christ follower is to follow Christ. It is to become more and more like Him. So in the example of the ant, we see some characteristics of how we are to work. And how our work is to bring God glory.
Here is some practical encouragement both to the next generation and to us adults on what it looks like to work hard for the glory of God.
Don’t be the ‘bare minimum’ person.
This person does just enough to get by. In sports, this is the kid at a practice that the minute the coach turns their head, they are taking a rep off. The bare minimum person often pushes things off to the next day, even if they have the time to accomplish it today. They arrive 1 minute before work begins thinking that is ‘on time.’ They are the kind of person who can stretch an hour’s worth of work into 3 hours of time.
Instead be the person that seeks to meet expectations and then some. Who sees projects and works all the way through to completion. If it isn’t done right, you hold yourself accountable. Your goal is not to just get by or be good enough, your goal is excellence. Because you are working, not for your own glory, but God’s. If you call yourself a Christ-follower, you want people to see in your work a testimony that speaks to the fact you are following and trusting in someone greater than yourself.
Don’t be ‘not my job’ person.
This person does their job, and only their job. They quickly justify their stance as well, that is not my job. They, in a sense, work with blinders on. They only care about their job, and not their co-workers. When something goes wrong for the team, they are quick to shift the blame, or say, well, I did my job. When a co-worker is drowning in work, they aren’t likely to help out, because “it is not their job.”
Instead…be the person that works with an attitude focused on others. Work for the overall success of the team, business, division, or company. Don’t just be navel gazing at your own work, but understand how your work fits into the success of the organization. Just because it is not in your job description, doesn’t mean you can’t or should not do it. To follow Christ, means that we live to serve others. And we don’t switch that part off when we walk into work. Instead, we again, work hard for the glory of God.
Don’t be the ‘all problems, no solutions’ person.
This person can point to the problem in any organization. They criticize like it is their job. It is always management’s, the employee’s, the customer’s, or someone else’s fault. They grumble and bumble through much of their day. Their focus is always the problems, and how others need to resolve them. And they rarely, if ever suggest any sort of solutions to the problems they point out. And if they do, their solutions never deal with how their own actions or work patterns need to change.
Instead…be the person that not only notices how to improve something or the potential problems, but then also brings some creative ideas to the table of how to solve them. Philippians 2 reminds us that we are to do all things without grumbling and complaining. And when we do that, we shine like lights or stars in this world. So I’m not saying don’t notice what might be broken, or how to improve, but don’t just leave it at that. How can you help make it better?
As believers in Christ, the intent of our lives is to be more like Jesus. You and I are on the potter’s wheel, and we are being shaped by His loving hands into His image. Since we will literally spend years of our life at work, don’t you think then that one major area of our lives that God will use to shape us is in our work?
He refines us through work. At work, we learn about honoring authority, how to love others and be a witness to the world around us, and how to work through obstacles. At work, the Spirit grows the fruit of the Spirit in us…things such as patience, kindness, humility, and gentleness. We learn to listen to others at work and serve others. We learn to forgive and ask forgiveness. We learn to encourage one another. We learn to bear with one another.
Don’t miss how the Lord wants to grow you more and more into His image through your work. Keep saying ‘yes’ to His transforming work as you work!