Doing Good Work

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Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it he wants to bestow his blessings on you. This praise of work should be inscribed on all tools, on the forehead and faces that sweat from toiling.

–Martin Luther

I come from a long line of hard-working Irish men. My dad was a union drywaller and construction worker. As a kid, I watched my dad work long hours installing sheetrock in order to provide for our family. My dad hung sheetrock for more than 20 years till he literally broke his back and had to go in for surgery. My dad is shorter than he used to be because his spine is so compressed from carrying sheetrock for so many years.

My dad is one of the hardest-working men I’ve ever met. When we were growing up, I could still remember as a little boy, my dad was gone a lot, following work out of town. When working out of town, he would send money home to us, and he slept in his truck and on the stacks of sheetrock in a sleeping bag. He’d take a nap, get up, and hang more sheetrock, because the more sheetrock you hang, the more money you make. My dad didn’t gamble away our money. My dad didn’t drink away our money. My dad didn’t have hobbies and toys. My dad gave all his money to the family.

When I was a kid, my dad didn’t know Jesus, yet he knew the value of hard work. (He’s since been saved and attends Mars Hill.) In looking back, we can see the grace of Jesus at work in our family, as my dad was a good dad who loved us and worked hard for us.

Unfortunately, many Christians I’ve spoken with over the years don’t value work. Just like non-Christians, they despise work because it is hard and exhausting, which is a product of sin. This is a shame because work in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it is something we were created for, and as Christians we should show the world what work redeemed looks like.

You’ve Been Created to Work

God has created you for work, to subdue (i.e. cultivate and develop) the earth and have dominion over every living thing (Gen. 1:28). Whether it’s art and music, education and philosophy, or business and government, every form of work is derived from God’s creation of mankind to subdue and have dominion. Genesis 2:15 says it plainly, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work . . .”

Carpentry, tent making, fishing, medicine, teaching, farming, politics, metal work, music, investing, labor, construction, law, consulting, cooking, architecture, athletics, entertainment, banking, military, real estate, clothing, mothering, sales, etc. are all affirmed as God-honoring labors in the Scriptures. Jesus worked a regular job as a carpenter with his earthly dad, Joseph, for many years.

Sin Twists Our Desire for Work

Tragically, we’re sinners, and the presence of sin in this world has corrupted the good thing that is work. Apart from the redeeming work of Jesus Christ in our life, sin twists our desires to subdue and have dominion to varying degrees (Rom. 7:7–25).

This means that some people worship work as an idol. The presence of sin pulls us away from living for God by drawing our affection to serving money and possessions. You don’t need to look long and hard to figure this out. If you turn on the nightly news, you will find countless stories of corrupt government officials, fraudulent business practices, and countless ungodly forms of art, music, and movies. For others, this means that they worship rest and reject work because they are lazy and work is hard, which is a result of the fall (Gen. 3:17–19).

The presence of sin, however, doesn’t abolish our desire or need for work. We were created by God to be workers, and as Christians, we must show the world what it means to redeem work. Thankfully we’re not left alone in our fight with sin when it comes to work: Jesus has redeemed our lives and our work.

3 Ways to Redeem Your Work for Jesus

Jesus has redeemed you from the penalty and power of sin (Titus 2:11–14). Since Jesus has redeemed your life, you can redeem your work for Jesus. As an aside, this work ranges from your paid job to volunteer ministry and the mom who stays home to raise kids with grueling hours and no reportable income.

Here are three suggestions in redeeming your work for Jesus.

1. Remember Jesus Is Your Boss

Jesus is your boss. It’s Jesus who you really work for. He may not be the person you directly report to, sitting behind a cubicle observing your every move, or even your company’s shareholders, but he is the one you ultimately report to and work for.

Paul had this in mind when he wrote these words, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).

2. Seek God’s Will in Your Work

For Jesus, as for his people, work is worship. We can either worship our work and treat it like a god that rules over us crowding out time for health, family, and ministry. Or, like Jesus, we can worship in our work. 

To do that, we need to first learn contentment with the job Jesus has given us to do. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.” Maybe you are not supposed to be the CEO, but rather a world-class janitor. Perhaps you are not supposed to be the janitor, but rather bear the burden of the CEO job. Maybe you are called to the burden of leadership, or called to the humility of supporting a leader. Part of God’s will for you is accepting your role and doing your best to God’s glory and others’ good. For that to happen, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 teaches us, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” Simply, don’t meddle in business that is not yours. Mind your business, and do your job.

3. The Bible Is God’s Guide to His Revealed Will

God has specifically revealed himself through the Bible teaching us how to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).

Since the ultimate goal of work, like all things, is the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), we need the Word of God to reveal his will for our work. The Bible is not an antiquated book that has nothing to say about how you handle your business dealings; the Bible actually has much to say about how you handle yourself as an employer or employee. For starters, here are a few examples:

Run an Honest Business

  • Proverbs 11:1 – “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”
  • Proverbs 20:14 – “‘Bad, bad,’ says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts.”
  • Proverbs 20:17 – “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.”

Become Great at Whatever You Do

  • Proverbs 22:29 – “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”

Avoid Shortcuts and Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

  • Proverbs 14:23 – “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
  • Proverbs 15:16 – “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.”
  • Proverbs 16:8 – “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.”
  • Proverbs 28:6 – “Better a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”
  • Proverbs 28:19 – “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”

Work Hard, Don’t Be Lazy

  • Proverbs 10:4 – “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
  • Proverbs 19:15 – “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”
  • Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
  • Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
  • Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’”
  • Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10–11 – “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”

Humbly Serve Your Boss Well

  • Proverbs 27:18 – “Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored.”

All You Accomplish Is by God’s Grace

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Your Work Is a Witness

By reading, reflecting, and praying through God’s Word, you will find the Holy Spirit changing your desire for work and see him help you become a better employee, boss, and worker. When you do this, others see, and you are a good witness for Jesus and for what work can and should be.