The Industrious Worker
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Throughout the Bible, diligent workers are commended for their labors. Jacob had his faults, but it is very clear that he was a superb herdsman. In Genesis 31:38-39, Jacob reviews his work with Laban. Not only had Laban's herds increased under Jacob's care, Jacob was able to claim that there were no miscarriages in the twenty years that he worked for Laban. That alone is an impressive feat, but Jacob also pointed that Laban did not suffer normal loses to his flocks. Jacob replaced all animals taken by wild animals from his own funds. He did not even take some of the animals for his own meals as was expected of a herdsman.
There are other diligent workers highlighted in the Scriptures. Potiphar was able to trust his slave Joseph with everything he owned (Genesis 39:6). Ruth worked all day to pick up grain that the workers dropped in the field and then threshed the grain after nightfall so that she and her mother-in-law could eat (Ruth 2:17). Jehoiada's workmen were so faithful in their duties that no one had to audit their accounts (II Kings 12:9-15). Daniel's enemies in the government could not find any misdeed to charge against Daniel before the king (Daniel 6:4). Wouldn't that be wonderful to say about our own government officials?
Workers who are like these people are too rare in our world. Perhaps we are not training our young people (and old as well) to be diligent in their labors. Our society glorifies getting by with minimal effort. Production is accepted so long as it is good enough.
Solomon urges us to learn from the ant (Proverbs 6:6-8). God's design in nature can teach us many things about working. It is too bad that people are not paying attention to the lessons. There is much we can learn just by examining the things around us (Job 12:7-10).
Mankind has always labored. In the very beginning, Adam and Eve were given a charge to care for the garden in Eden, which God had planted (Genesis 2:15). Men were designed by God to work.
As Paul preached the Gospel, he did not simply talk about what people should do - he lived the life God expected of Christians (I Thessalonians 2:8-12). Paul, as he preached, worked with his own hands (I Corinthians 4:11-12). He taught the good news during the day and made tents at night (Acts 18:2-3). Hence, Paul claimed that he had wronged no one (II Corinthians 7:2).
Poor work habits may not be obvious, but they have tremendous impact on a laborer's output. Too many laborers are lazy and negligent in their duties. When we don't complete the tasks assigned to us or when we don't give our jobs our all, then we cannot expect to profit (Proverbs 10:4). So many people want more than they have, but they are not willing to put in the effort it takes to gain those things (Proverbs 13:4). Laziness doesn't just harm the slothful worker, it is destructive to the business dependent on that worker's accomplishments (Proverbs 18:9).
Other workers cause harm by keeping busy, but their busyness is chasing after useless things instead of focusing on the things that need to be done (Proverbs 12:11). So many waste valuable time talking about what needs to be done instead of accomplishing what needs to be done (Proverbs 14:3).
In a sense, all of these people are stealing from their employer. God has an interesting definition of stealing in Leviticus 6:2-5. Stealing from others is more than a robber holding a person up. People steal when they are dishonest about the funds entrusted to them. People steal when they cheat on their tasks or when they do not deliver all that was promised. God found merchants that used false balances (scales adjusted to weigh in the merchant's favor) to be abominable (Proverbs 11:1). God even counts as stealing the finding of lost property which is then hidden by lies.
A Christian must work, and work well for his employer (II Thessalonians 3:11). Even if you work for yourself, you still need to put effort into what you do. As soon as you own anything, you must put effort in to maintain it (Ecclesiastes 10:18). To be lazy in the upkeep of your own property is as destructive as being negligent with the property of others (Proverbs 24:30-34).
When we work, we must put in full effort (Ephesians 4:28). You can't sleep away the day and expect to profit (Proverbs 20:13). Instead, God tells us to work with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This command is not just for men out in the workforce. The virtuous woman does not eat the bread of illness either (Proverbs 31:27).
When we labor, we are not to produce shoddy work. We are expected to work skillfully (Proverbs 22:29).
We must also work with an eye on what may come next. There are going to be times when everything will seem to go our way and it is easy to profit. A child of God knows that wealth is fickle at best. Bad times can and do come. This is the lesson we are suppose to learn from the ant (Proverbs 6:6-8). We need to prepare for hard times while the times are good (Proverbs 10:5).
When we are employed by others, it is expected that we are to be trustworthy. A steward is a man who runs a household or business for another man. You would not want a man in that position who was not trustworthy (I Corinthians 4:2). However, in every occupation there are tasks and duties with which we are entrusted. We must be faithful in all that we do. God expects it of us (Luke 16:10-12). Yes, many people have made a quick buck through fraudulent means, but such wealth does not last (Proverbs 13:11). In all our business dealings we must be fair (Leviticus 19:35).
What kind of laborer are you?