Does It Matter How Hard You Work?
“Working, in America, is in decline,” the New York Times recently reported. The title of the article was “The Vanishing Male Worker: How America Fell Behind.” It detailed how the number of men of prime working age—between 25 and 54 years old—who are not working has tripled since the late 1960s.
Polls show that an increasing number of men are simply choosing not to work. Among unemployed men between ages 25 and 54, only 45 percent have looked for a job in the last year. Forty-four percent say jobs are available, but they’re not willing to take them. “Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working,” the Times continued. It cited causes such as increasing government handouts, the decline of marriage and the male-breadwinner role, and “the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment.”
Aside from having serious effects on the national economy, self-exemption from labor has serious effects on the individual as well.
Does it matter how hard you work? The Bible answers this question for us in clear, absolute terms.
Scripture contains more than 790 references to labor and work. God has a lot to say about the importance of work in developing godly character. The book of Proverbs is especially filled with references to work and industriousness versus laziness.
Jesus Christ was sent to Earth by the Father to work (John 9:4; 17:4). Christ describes Himself and the Father in John 5:17 by saying, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” God Almighty Himself and His Son are busy, active Beings who are constantly accomplishing and working! And their work is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). We must follow that example.
Learning this lesson of diligent work will provide great reward.
Let’s look to God’s Word for instruction on a right attitude toward work and the rewards that hard work brings.
Work Brings Prosperity
1. Does God want us to prosper in this life? 3 John 2. Does God want every aspect of our lives to prosper abundantly, including our physical health and finances, as well as our spiritual lives? John 10:10. Should we profit from our labors? Proverbs 14:23.
2. Can diligent work make you richer? Proverbs 10:4. But should the attainment of wealth be the ultimate goal of work? Proverbs 23:4-5.
God wants us to prosper abundantly, both spiritually and physically, including financially. The focus of our labors, however, must not be financial, because wealth is so short-lived—and wealth, in any case, does not bring happiness. If riches are our primary goal and events cause us to lose our money, such as in the stock market crash of 1929, then we see, for example, as happened then, people committing suicide to get insurance money for their families. If riches fail, we should still have our ultimate goal of obtaining God’s Kingdom securely in place (Matthew 6:33). We do this by keeping God’s commandments and following biblical principles of Christian living, including having a godly approach to and perspective on work and money.
3. Does God intend that we enjoy our work and the profits we receive from it? Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:22.
God Commands Work
1. Did God intend for mankind to maintain and beautify the Earth? Genesis 2:15. Was mankind charged with the responsibility of “subduing” the Earth? Genesis 1:26-28.
To “subdue” the Earth means to produce from, develop and care for the plants and animals on Earth; to keep them from getting out of control or overgrown, or falling into deterioration. Man was put on Earth to cultivate and beautify it. But through our sloth and laziness, many areas of the Earth are filthy, disease-ridden and chaotic. We must develop a willing attitude toward work.
2. Does God command us to work? Exodus 20:9.
Verse 10 shows that resting on the Sabbath is a command. But we must not ignore the command that precedes it: to labor the other six days of the week!
3. Does the Apostle Paul strongly support this command to work? 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. If we are fit and able to work, but do not, should we receive public welfare? Verse 10. Is it a shamenot to work when we are able? Verse 14.
4. Are we to become self-sufficient through our work? 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
The Revised Standard Version renders verse 12, “so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.”
5. If we work hard in a godly manner, will that provide us the necessities of life? Proverbs 20:13; 28:19.
6. Where can mankind find a good example of an excellent, dedicated worker? Proverbs 6:6-8.
The ant has “no leader, no foreman or chief” (verse 7; Moffatt translation), yet is perhaps the most diligent worker on Earth, with a built-in, programmed ability to literally run from job to job all day long! All of us would do well to learn the lesson God gives us about the ant. But instead, it seems most people have to be constantly supervised to do productive work.
7. What kind of attitude does God expect us to have toward our work? Ecclesiastes 9:10; Luke 17:10.
Benefits for Work, Curses for Laziness
1. Do the hard workers, the “diligent,” become rulers, or leaders, over the slothful? Proverbs 12:24; 22:29.
Good workers are self-starters. They produce a good day’s labor for their wages, and require little supervision to do a good, thorough job. They are generally the ones who receive the raises and promotions and are given praise by the owners and upper management. Those who do not have a proper, godly work ethic and are lazy, slow, slothful workers are passed over for raises and promotions and end up jealous of their new bosses—the diligent workers who were promoted over them.
2. Do those who refuse to diligently work end up coveting the possessions of hard workers? Proverbs 13:4; 21:25-26.
As Herbert W. Armstrong often said, there are two ways of life: give and get. The righteous, diligent worker always has the ability to give, and he doesn’t hold back; the slothful, lazy person only greedily covets what others have, but refuses to work for what he wants.
3. Do slothful, lazy people always find an excusenot to work? Proverbs 26:13-15. Do lazy people try to justify why they can’t work? Verse 16; Proverbs 14:23 (penury means poverty). Should a little physical discomfort be an excuse not to work? Proverbs 20:4. Is laziness habit-forming? Proverbs 19:15. Is a slothful person’s poverty actually caused by a lack of drive and a poor work ethic? Proverbs 6:9-11.
4. What is a “sluggard,” or lazy person, like to his employer? Proverbs 10:26.
Employers are extremely irritated by employees who plod along in their job with a ho-hum, same-routine-every-day attitude. We need to work with energy! We need to grow in our jobs, studying to improve our skills through night classes, books or other training. We need to produce and accomplish, really applying ourselves and showing our employers that we are thankful for the work and the income, and that we are trying to do an excellent job. If we will do this, then God will bless us. Otherwise we become “vinegar to the teeth” and “smoke to the eyes” of our employers, and we lose God’s blessings.
5. Can we tell how diligent a person is by the appearance of the physical things in his life—for example, his house and the yard or land around it? Ecclesiastes 10:18; Proverbs 24:30-34.
If the paint on the house is peeling, the fences are falling down, and the property is overgrown with weeds, it speaks of the spiritual condition of the owner. Even in poverty, an able person can keep his property clean and orderly. If the person is handicapped or unable to work due to physical problems, then his family and friends should help maintain a godly and orderly home and yard. There are always proper answers to difficulties if we seek them diligently.
Judged by Our Works
1. Are we to be obedient to our employers and please them with our work? Titus 2:9-10. Should we avoid arguing with or talking back to our employers? Verse 9. Must we be loyal to our employers, not stealing from them by slacking off in our work? Verse 10.
Purloining means to appropriate wrongfully and often by a breach of trust, showing disloyalty.
2. When we have a job, who are we actually working for? Colossians 3:22-24. Should we fear God if we are bad employees? Verses 22 and 25.
3. Does God know our works now? Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15. Does it matter what our “works” are in this life? 1 Corinthians 3:8-15.
4. We are saved by God’s grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5, 8), but are we rewarded with our eternal inheritance because of our “works” in this life?Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12.
Yes, eternal life is God’s gift to you if certain conditions are fulfilled, paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But what you will be doing forever—what you are qualified for—depends on you! That’s why your future job in the God Family is the “reward” of the saved—it must be earned! God has eternal life, and He does good works. When He gives you eternal life, you will do good works too! What you do for all eternity depends on your spiritual works now, in this life!
We must work hard at our earthly jobs and develop godly character and good work habits. That hard work will pay off greatly in later years and set your feet right now on a path filled with God’s blessings!
Above all, it is through applying the work ethic in our spiritual lives that we will secure our individual places in God’s soon-coming government! As Philippians 2:12 says, “[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling”!