Recently I was invited to speak to a gathering of business leaders. These 50 Christian men and women meet monthly to encourage each other to be faithful to the Lord in the marketplace.
They regard their jobs as a place of ministry and opportunity. In my talk, I discussed the value of hard work, a topic I think merits further exploration. Too often, people in the church discount work, as if God will do everything for them. Or, if work were some kind of curse. This is misguided thinking.
It reminds me of the old story about the farmer who invited the new preacher to his home for dinner. Beforehand, the farmer showed the preacher around his property. The preacher irritated the farmer a little because he kept saying things like:
- “The Lord has an impressive crop there!”
- “The Lord sure has blessed you with a beautiful lake there.”
- “I see The Lord has an outstanding herd of cattle in that pasture.”
Finally, the farmer had heard enough. “Preacher,” he said, “you should have seen this place when the Lord had it by himself!”
Developing God’s world
God created the world in an undeveloped state. He told Adam and Eve, “I want you to subdue the earth and have dominion over it” (Genesis 1:28). When we develop God’s earth, improve our surroundings and enhance the lives of others, we are participating in His will.
Most people think of their jobs as a curse and dream of escaping work as soon as possible; for many, the idea of the good life is not to have to do any. If someone hits the lottery for millions, the first thing they do is quit their job. Or, they look forward to the day they can quit working to relax and enjoy life.
People invent ways to avoid work. One retired supervisor in a large business reported that when he first started, the absentee rate in his company averaged about 3 percent. Fifty years later, a 10 percent absentee rate is considered good.
Yet Paul instructs in 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”
God gave Adam and Eve meaningful work to do in the Garden of Eden prior to their fall into sin. Genesis 2:15 describes God placing them in the garden so they could work it and care for it.
Adam and Eve had a job in paradise. They were gardeners in God’s perfect environment.
However, after the first man sinned, God pronounced a curse on his work: “God said to Adam ‘Cursed is ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you …By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground’” (Gen. 3:17-19).
Here’s a key distinction: the curse was not “work.” The curse was that man had to battle weeds, thistles, thorns and crabgrass. In other words, yard work! The Bible clearly teaches that legitimate work is a blessing, not a curse.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. . . . For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-8, 10).
A time for everything
God’s Word teaches there’s a time to rest, a time to take a vacation, and a time to retire and shift gears. There were weekly Sabbaths, annual feast days and a year of Jubilee programmed into the Biblical calendar. People were given permission to relax and rejuvenate their spirits and bodies.
However, God also made it clear that those who were capable of working should be ambitious enough to find meaningful work to do and do it well. The fourth commandment begins, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work…” (Exodus 20:9).
In upcoming blogs, I will share with you the many benefits of hard work and why God wants His followers to be productive in the marketplace. These lessons are worth sharing with your congregation.
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At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.www