by Mike Fuhrer
CGG Weekly, June 28, 2019
"The secret of joy in work is contained in one wordexcellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it."
Pearl S. Buck
Part One explained that God indeed wants His people to live an abundant life (John 10:10), but He is not in the habit of just giving us everything we desire. He is far more concerned about our spiritual development, and He readily gives spiritual blessings to that end. God Himself, however, is constantly working (see John 5:17), and part of our spiritual development is learning how to work to produce the fruit that He desires from us (John 15:1-8).
Even so, we have physical lives and need jobs to make ends meet and have a little extra left over. Scripture lays out some general guidelines of what kind of work we should do:
Solomon provides a principle in Proverbs 11:3 that informs us that whatever job we fill should be moral and upright: "The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them." Working for an employer who expects his employees to lie to or cheat customers in the performance of their duties should be a non-starter.
We find another instruction in Revelation 18:4 that our jobs should not be closely aligned with the more nefarious or sinful pursuits of the world, such as working a poker table in a casino: "Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (see I John 2:15-17). We need to think deeply about getting a job with the armed forces, military contractors, and law-enforcement agencies. We may also have qualms about morally questionable products companies offer for sale.
We should work at a business where we are allowed to observe all the Sabbaths and worship God as He instructs. Leviticus 19:30 commands us, "You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD."
Another principle of Christian work is that we should work hard. In some areas, like in bureaucracies, hard work is frowned upon because it makes the entrenched lazy workers look bad. Some unions have a reputation for doing as little as they can get away with. Others participate in work slow-downs or even stoppages. Those attitudes do not befit a Christian. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." An axiom in the sports world advises, "Hard work doesn't guarantee you anything, but without it, you don't have a chance."
The Bible speaks highly of those of God's people who worked hard. Jacob worked for Laban for twenty years. Ruth humbly gleaned in Boaz' field all day long. Solomon promoted Jeroboam, "seeing that the young man was industrious" (I Kings 11:28). Nehemiah notes that, during the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, the people worked from sunup to dark (Nehemiah 4:21). The apostle Paul labored tirelessly under less-than-ideal conditions to preach the gospel.
It is no mystery who gets the high-paying jobs. Those who put in the time and effort to earn an education or gain specific skills, such as a trade, are worth more money to an employer. Of course, the best time to get that education is while young, as earning high wages over one's working life can make for a comfortable old age. Waiting until later in life can be difficult or impossible. I returned to school after retirement, but afterward, I could not find an employer who wanted to hire a 70-year-old with no work experience using his newly acquired skills.
Back in the 1950s, the good old days of the American dream, the husband's job was to kill the snakes, while the wife stayed home to keep the house and rear the kids. A famous example of this was when baseball's Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe. He required of her that she quit her job as a movie star and stay home. His traditional view was a deal-breaker for her, but he would not yield, so they moved on, separately.
While that lifestyle sounds idyllic, it is not necessarily so. Yes, the apostle Paul instructs Titus to admonish the young women in the church to be homemakers (Titus 2:5), but it is advisable for women to have a skill and some work experience just in case. If the husband is injured, dies young, or is forced into retirement with an inadequate stipend, the wife, now perhaps the breadwinner of the family, needs to be able to find employment. If she has few or no marketable skills, she will likely become dependent on the charity of family, the church, and/or of the state.
In Scripture, we find the example of the industrious Proverbs 31 wife (Proverbs 31:10-31). Solomon's description of her illustrates that she developed several valuable skills and tried her hand at many profitable endeavors. Among other things, she purchased real estate, planted her own vineyard, made quality items to sell, and gave aid to the poor and needy. If nothing else, we see that she was a diligent and productive worker who helped support her family.
So, where is my Rolls Royce? Someone else bought it—paid cash for it, too! Truly, what would I do with a Rolls Royce? And how would I pay for it? Start my own business? I don't have the energy for that, and I am too old and rickety to be hired by anyone. I must face facts: I made my bed several decades ago, and it is time to stop pestering the Almighty with silly requests and lay in it, thanking Him that I have a bed in which to sleep!
However, it is not time to quit working. There is still plenty of spiritual growth that needs my attention. That kind of work is still within my capabilities. The Bible provides so much instruction on this worthy endeavor that it becomes bewildering and overwhelming at times. Notice II Peter 1:5-8:
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And consider the attention we are to give to the brethren:
. . . for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. . . . Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
Then there is the example of Anna, the prophetess: "This woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37).
Wow! God provides spiritual labor for a lifetime! No time to waste—get to work!