Ethics: Labor and Lucre (Part I)

Work may be a four-letter word but it should not be considered a bad word. When God made things, He made them “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It was according to this “very good” design for man to work (Genesis 2:15, 18). The human body was designed for work. Dr. Alexander MacAlister, a former professor of Anatomy at Cambridge University, stated, “man’s body is a machine formed for doing work” (Wayne Jackson, The Human Body: Accident or Design, p. 21, quoting from MacAlister’s Living Papers, Vol. VII). The human brain benefits from being employed. Man thrives on challenges. One man has commented, “Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence, strength of will, content, and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know” (Charles Kingsley, The All-American Quote Book, p. 326). Remember: idleness is the devil’s workshop.

Some have mistakenly thought work to be a curse (cf. Genesis 3:17-19). It is not. True, work has become more difficult since our great, great… grandparents, Adam and Eve, were driven from Eden (Genesis 3:17-19, 23). However, even in Eden there was work to be done. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend (dress KJV, work ESV) and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 NKJV). Woman was man’s “help meet” [(Gen. 2:18 KVJ) That is: she was a “helper comparable to him” (NKJV); “a helper fit for him” (ESV)].

God has always expected man to work. This was true under the Patriarchal system (Genesis 3:17-19, 23; 4:2). This was the case under the Mosaic system (Exodus 20:9-11; Deuteronomy 5:13-14). This is still what He expects (Acts 20:34-35; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thesalonians 3:7-15).

The Bible has much to say about work and money. The Bible mentions prayer in 400 places, but it mentions money in over 2000 (Stephen Arterburn, Winning, at Work Without Losing at Love, p. 144). One-third of the parables and one-sixth of the Gospel accounts (Mt., Mk., Lk., Jn.) speak of man and money (Dabney Phillips, The Restorer, July, 1981). God cares about your work ethic and how you use money.


1. God wants us to provide for ourselves. We’re taught, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

The Bible is filled with examples of working men [Moses (Exodus 3:1); Gideon (Judges 6:11); David (1 Samuel 16:11; 17:15; 34-35). Elisha (1 Kings 19:19); Jesus (Mark 6:3); Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11); Paul (Acts 20:34), and Aquilla (Acts 18:1-3)]. It is also filled with examples of working women [The virtuous women (Proverbs 31:13-16, 18-19, 21, 24); Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-16); Rachael (Genesis 29:9); Zipporah (Exodus 2:16-21); Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3); Lydia (Acts 16:14)]. God does not want us to be lazy.

Think of the difference in attitude: There are those blind or missing limbs who work to provide for themselves. Then, there are those who claim not to be capable of work, yet they seem to be able to do whatever they want to do. Let us have the attitude that we’ll work and provide for our own as long as we possibly can.

2. We should give our best effort. Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The New Testament teaches, “Whatever you do, do it heartily” (Colossians 3:23).

The world is filled with lazy workers, workers who give half an effort. Many only work when the supervisor is watching (Notice the word “eyeservice”: Ephesians 6:6-7; Colossians 3:22). If members of the church so conduct themselves, the church may receive a bad reputation (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17 cf. Titus 2:9-10).

Christians should be the best employees that any could hire. Like Ford, our motto should be “Quality is Job 1”. It is possible that a good work ethic will bring glory to the cause of Christ [1 Peter 2:12-ff: Notice that (a) good citizenship (2:13-17); (b) good work ethic (2:18-25) (c) good home life (3:1-7) follow the words, “having your conduct honorable among the gentiles, that … they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (2:12)].

3. We should remember that it is ultimately God for whom we work. We are “doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 5:5-6). “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

This is a point that helps when dealing with supervisors who are not personally likeable. It is God not man that we ultimately serve.

4. God knows what we do, and He will repay.

In this life, sometimes our work goes unnoticed. Our efforts are unappreciated. We don’t get credit for what we do.

However, God will repay. “Whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the lord and not to men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

5. We should not forget what is truly important. Though, we labor in this life, this world is not our eternal home. There are things more valuable than silver and gold (Psalm 19:7-11; Mark 8:36-37; 1 Peter 1:7). There are things more important than earthly necessities (Job 23:12; Psalms 19:10; 119:103; John 6:27). Earthly things will not last (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 John 2:15-17).

6. We should not allow earthly riches to create within us a haughty spirit or trust in the wrong things (1 Timothy 6:17).

7. Take time for God.

Some get so busy in their lives that they have no time for studying God’s word. They take no time for worship. They do no personal evangelism. They are too busy.

Consider the words of Exodus 34:21: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” The wording specifies that even during the busiest times of the year they were to keep the Sabbath. No, Sunday is not a “Christian Sabbath”. Work itself and the “picking up of sticks” is not prohibited on the first day of the week. However, the point is shouldn’t we be just as determined to set aside time to worship as they were to keep the Sabbath? Think about it. God didn’t accept their excuse of being too busy.

Note: I have found generally speaking if one is up front with a potential employer about the need to be able to attend the assembly, most will work with you.

8. Never take a job which brings reproach on the cause of Christ. We should not employ ourselves in immoral causes. We should not employ ourselves in things which cause people to stumble (Luke 17:1-2).

9. Employers and supervisors should be just and fair in dealing with employees (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). Wages promised should be paid (James 5:4; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Jeremiah 22:13). Judgment is coming (Ephesians 6:8-9; Colossians 3:24-4:1).

Use your work as an opportunity to positively influence others. One of the greatest men I’ve known, John David Wright, owned an excavation company. He used the job site as an opportunity to win souls and influence people. He did this by his example. He did this by making bulletins, sermon tapes, books and materials available to employees who showed interest in spiritual matters. He reached multitudes this way.

10. Use your income to: (a) support self (2 Thessalonians 3:10); (b) support family (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16; 2 Corinthians 12:14); (c) meet financial obligations (Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 6:1-5; James 5:4); (d) pay taxes (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-21; Romans 13:1-7); (e) be benevolent (Luke 10:25-37; Acts 11:27-30; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:17-18; 1 John 3:16-18); (f) support the work of the church (1 Corinthians 9:1-11; 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 11:8-9; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:3, 16; 5:17-18; 3 John 5-8).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Ethics, Money, Stats, stewardship, Wealth, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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