In Toil

Bryan Matthew Dockens

Work is the common lot of all men. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden, the Lord God told the man, "Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return… therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken" (Genesis 3:17-19, 23). Although the burden increased due to sin, it had always been God's will for man to work, having initially placed Adam in the garden "to tend and keep it"(Genesis 2:15).

Those who refuse to work are unworthy of assistance. Whether the welfare junkie, the off-ramp beggar, the trust fund dependent, or the laid-off professional who prefers the ease of an unemployment check over the humility of flipping burgers, God's command is the same: "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

Here's what the word of God teaches about working.

Do Not be Jealous of Co-Workers' Wages

Jesus used the parable of day laborers to illustrate impartiality in the kingdom of God (Matthew 20:1-16). Although a greater spiritual truth is under consideration, the analogy is pointless unless the literal is also true. In the story, a landowner pays the same wage to day laborers who toiled in his vineyard for one, three, six, nine, and twelve hours. Those who worked longest resented those who worked least, yet what they received was a fair wage they had previously agreed to. There was nothing unjust about the generosity of the landowner toward the eleventh hour laborers.

Follow Orders, and Do so Sincerely

Paul wrote, "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:5-6). These instructions do not apply exclusively to those under bondage; they are relevant "whether… slave or free" (Ephesians 6:8). Workers who don't do as they're told will not only lose their jobs, but also dishonor the name of Christ in the process. And it isn't enough to simply obey since obedience can be offered grudgingly. Obedience must be rendered "in sincerity of heart" (Ephesians 6:5).

Refrain from Back Talk

Paul wrote that the behavior of servants should include "not answering back" (Titus 2:9). An undisciplined generation has not been taught to respect those in authority and therefore thinks nothing of telling off a superior in the workplace. This is contrary to the command "to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things" (Titus 2:9). Such submission is demanded even toward those who are harsh (I Peter 2:18-21).

Refrain from Theft

The apostle wrote further that servants' behavior must include "not pilfering" (Titus 2:10). Work is intended as the righteous alternative to stealing (Ephesians 4:28); every worker is placed in a position of trust and therefore must "show all good fidelity" (Titus 2:10). Such trust is violated when employees embezzle company funds, pilfer merchandise, or help themselves to office supplies and the like.

Maintain Appropriate Priorities

Jesus taught, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life" (John 6:27). Working for the needs of this life should never take precedence over the pursuit for eternal life. The godly will forfeit a promotion or forego overtime if such a schedule conflicts with the assembling of the saints. The godly will likewise abstain from working in industries that promote immoral behavior like gambling, drinking, or fornication.