Working for a paycheck. Working for the weekend. Working for retirement. Though we wouldn’t put it this way, many of us are working primarily so that at some point we won’t have to.
Work – and Earning – is where the financial equation begins. A Spending Plan assumes that we have something to spend, presumably because we are earning it. And since the financial equation starts here, it makes sense to understand how our work reflects God’s plan, and to learn from the Bible how God expects us to work.
Scripture affirms work as good and coming from God. God gave work to Adam before the fall (Genesis 1:28; 2:15, 19-20). And immediately after the fall, God sent Adam out of the Garden of Eden to work the ground (Genesis 3:23). Creation itself is described as God working (Genesis 2:2-3) and Jesus describes his Father as being constantly at work (John 5:17). Several of the Proverbs extol the virtue of hard work (12:11, 14; 14:23), while others warn against laziness and sloppy work (18:9; 21:25).
For many of us, the actual experience of work may not be very satisfying; however, God still values work done well as a testimony to him. Paul tells us to work with all of our hearts, as working for God rather than for men (Colossians 3:23-24). We work to provide for ourselves and our families (1 Timothy 5:4, 8) and to care for those in need (Ephesians 4:28). Done with the right hearts, our work can be an evidence of our love for one another and can win the respect of non-believers (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12), potentially opening doors to share the Gospel.
If work is necessary and good, how should we go about it?
- Gratefully. Even if our jobs are not all we were hoping for, they are still a blessing from God. When we consider how many people want jobs but don’t have them, and when we consider all those who are unable to work, we should thank God for the jobs he has given us. And we should remember that it is not we who are the source of the ability to work and earn a living; this comes from God. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
- Wholeheartedly. As mentioned above, we are called to work with all our hearts as though we were working directly for God rather than for men. Our work, including and especially the work we do when the boss isn’t looking, should represent the character of God in its quality. (Colossians 3:23-24; Ephesians 6:5-6)
- Wisely and diligently. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus paints a picture of two servants who put their master’s money to work, each of them doubling the amount with which they were entrusted. This kind of result doesn’t come by accident – it comes through wisdom and diligence – knowing the right investments to make and seeing them through. Our work should also be characterized by wisdom (knowing what will be effective) and diligence (doing what we know to do).
When we realize that our jobs and our ability to earn a living come from God, the gratitude this produces should help us to work with our whole hearts and for the good of our employers. Jesus commanded us to let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16), and nowhere is this more needed than on the job. It’s easy to be grateful, diligent, and hard-working when the job is good and satisfying – this does not take the strength of God’s Spirit working in us. But to show those same attitudes when the job is difficult – this is what distinguishes the believer at work.
Similarly, when we realize that the income we are able to produce is itself a gift from God (based on his provision of a job and health to work that job), we better understand our role as trustees of God’s resources and we’re in a better position to give, save, and spend in God-honoring, wise ways.
Next month, we’ll look at the first of four things we can do with money once we’ve earned it: Giving.