One way Christians keep the Sabbath day holy is by resting on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8). But what are we resting from? Notice the other half of the Fourth Commandment: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (verse 9). God commands that we labor and do all our work in six days! This is not a suggestion, it is a command—and it’s just as important as the Sabbath half of the command. In fact, the harder we work, the more we will get out of the Sabbath.
God is a creator who works for a living, and His purpose is to reproduce Himself through man. As God’s children, we must be willing to labor and work like the Father does. Lesson 55 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course says, “The spirit or intent of this law shows that a man is normally expected to keep busily engaged in gainful work during the first six days of the week.”
When Adam was first created, God placed him in the Garden of Eden and commanded him “to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). “Dress it” here also means to labor, to work; by implication, it means to serve as a bondman or to be a slave of labor.
In order for Adam to make bread, he had to till the ground, plant the seeds, and labor to bring them to harvest. After the harvest, there was still the milling, kneading and baking involved to make the bread.
God could have arranged some other, less labor-intensive way—where we were designed to live on air only or by eating the soil, like an earthworm. But He wanted us to work for our food!
We must remember that there is nothing negative about God’s instruction. God commands men to work, and to work hard—but it is not some kind of punishment or sentence.
Submitting to this command actually makes man truly happy and content because it keeps us in a right relationship with God. It keeps us active, working and producing—just like God!
Even when God rained manna from heaven directly into the Israelites’ camp, it wasn’t as easy as picking up bread off the ground and eating it. It came in the form of tiny seeds, and they had to go out and gather it every day, grind it in mills, beat it into dough, and bake it in pans to make cakes (Exodus 16).
They weren’t allowed to store up large quantities and make a bunch of bread all at once; God specifically commanded them to gather a certain amount every day except Friday, when they were to gather enough for the Sabbath day as well (verses 16-19). If they tried to keep it overnight on any other day, the manna would spoil. It was a test commandment, God said, and notice what part of the test they failed: “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them” (verse 20).
They wanted to make extra so that they wouldn’t have to work the next day! Failing the test involved their refusal to work on the other six days!
The Bible has about 900 references to employment and work habits. It is God’s nature to work diligently, and He wants us to be just like Him. God is a workman who is always on the job. That’s the way He wants us to be, both men and women.
Human nature wants to be lazy, but a true Christian ought to be a diligent, hard worker (1 Timothy 5:8). Hard work is one of the evidences of a true Christian! In John 5:17, Christ said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” A man’s responsibility is to provide for himself—and especially for those of his own house. Married women who are not employed outside the home should diligently apply this godly work ethic in the home.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 we find the command that if any do not work, they should not eat. Under the inspiration of God, Paul forbids Christians to be slothful (see also Romans 12:11). Paul also said that hard work is the only sure—and godly—way to avoid poverty (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
These scriptures show that it is not God’s will that we give handouts to lazy dropouts or able-bodied persons who will not work. If there are those who refuse to work, who are indolent and lazy, others are expressly forbidden to give them money or food or any kind of assistance which they otherwise could acquire on their own by working.
If you don’t currently have a job, first, realize your primary job is to get a job. Do not be lazy in your search. The correspondence course reads, “Get up early in the morning—consistently—and start out either arranging interviews, or pounding the pavement early every morning, and don’t quit until you’ve put in a full day’s work looking for work!” (op. cit.).
Simply obtaining a job is not where exhibiting godly work ethic ends. As employees, we are responsible to God to work hard, not just to our physical boss (Colossians 3:22; Ephesians 6:5-6). A good employee constantly feels pressure from Christ (Colossians 3:23). Verse 24 indicates even the service we give our physical bosses is to be considered as service rendered to God.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 adds, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” That doesn’t say “whatever you are good at” or “whatever you like to do”—it says “whatsoever your hand finds to do ….” Not being good at something is no excuse for laziness—it actually means you must push yourself harder because of it.
In John 9:4, Christ says, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Time is short before Christ returns. But instead of that being a hindrance to our work, it ought to prod us to work harder!
In Matthew 24:46, Christ says His faithful servants will be the ones who are found working and building right up until His arrival! God doesn’t want us to just sit around and wait for His return. He wants us to continue working and building—both physically and spiritually.
That is the way of a true Christian!