The Provider

3.2 Build Your Work Ethic

From the book Biblical Manhood
By Joel Hilliker

God is a hard worker. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” Jesus said (John 5:17). This is the God Family way of thinking and living.

Are you a worker like God is? Many people hate work. God loves it.

God works like a farmer. Christ said, “[M]y Father is the husbandman”—one who plows and cultivates land (John 15:1). God plants in order to produce fruit that He can enjoy (1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Timothy 2:6). The harvest He seeks is spiritual character in us. God’s people are God’s husbandry—His cultivated field (1 Corinthians 3:9). If you abide in Christ, you will produce much spiritual fruit (John 15:5). The more you do this, the more glory you bring to the Farmer (verse 8).

One powerful tool God uses to build character in us is work. God uses our work to build our character and to make us more like Himself. It is a means by which we can learn to think, labor and produce as He does.

The way you work is deeply important to God. How important is it to you?

The First Gardener

In the creation account in Genesis, God labored to create all the elements needed to support human life. Genesis 2:1-3 mention three times that this required work.

God created man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). He wants us to become like Him—so He gave us work to do. Our first job was to exert “dominion over” all the animals (same verse). He wants man to rule all things, including, eventually, the universe. So He gave us Earth as our first job site, filled with material to work with. He instructed Adam and Eve on how to properly exercise dominion over it (e.g. verses 29-30).

Why were cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock placed under our care? Why did God create wheat, oats, barley, rice and cotton? Why potatoes, peas, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and the vast variety of fruits, nuts and herbs, fish and birds? This support system is complicated and labor-intensive. Think of all the effort involved in making bread. Why didn’t God just make a bread tree? Why not have manna fall from the sky every morning? Why not design man to eat directly from the soil like an earthworm? Or pre-fuel us for a lifetime, like a nuclear reactor?

God created a complicated, labor-intensive environmental system that demands a huge amount of our time, thought and energy just to eat. And He did it this way for a purpose.

After creating Adam, “the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. … And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:8, 15). God gave man something special and commissioned him to take care of it. Dress means to work, serve, till, make use of, increase, ennoble, make better. Keep means to guard and protect from injury or loss.

This tells you a lot about God. He is a husbandman, growing His righteous character in human beings. How? By planting a physical garden and having human beings care for it!

This is a major way to grow in righteous character: through work! Through learning how to be a worker—just like God.


In his 1859 book Self-Help, Samuel Smiles wrote, “Hugh Miller [a well-known writer at the time] stated the result of his experience to be, that work, even the hardest, is full of pleasure and materials for self-improvement. He held honest labor to be the best of teachers, and that the school of toil to be the noblest of schools—save only the Christian one—that is a school in which the ability of being useful is imparted, the spirit of independence learned, and the habit of persevering effort acquired. He was even of the opinion that the training of the mechanic—by the exercise which it gives to his observant faculties, from his daily dealing with things actual and practical …—better fits him for picking his way through the journey of life … than the training afforded by any other condition.”

Think of everything in your life that God gives you charge over: Your family and relationships, your job, your home, your possessions. Are you taking care of them? Your talents and abilities—are you using them, developing them, multiplying them? Are you serving others with these things? Every physical and spiritual gift and blessing God gives you represents your Father and your Husband reaching out to you and committing something into your care to learn how to be a worker. They want you to use that gift to become more like them: more responsible, more giving, more selfless and more loving.

God wants us to take the resources He provides and make them grow and multiply (e.g. Mark 4:8). He gives plants, shrubs and trees to create beautiful landscaping and delicious food. He gives us spiritual knowledge in order to spread it. He wants us to work—and be satisfied in our work (Ecclesiastes 2:24). “Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof …” (Proverbs 27:18). Work makes us happy. When we accomplish something, we feel good! When we waste time, we are unfulfilled and unhappy.

“God instilled a desire within each of us to accomplish, create, invent and build,” Bob Schultz wrote. “We tend to feel good when we make increase and not so good when we can’t or don’t. Whenever I feel a little discouraged, one thing is sure to perk me up—accomplishing something. I pick some small task like changing the water in the chicken pen. I take on another, like sharpening my chisels. Then another, like cleaning off my desk, or writing that long-overdue letter, harvesting some carrots from the garden, washing the truck, or picking up the shop. After a few of these projects, life seems to brighten.

“Don’t sit around, bored with life. Look around you. Meager as they might be, find your resources, add to them your labor, and make some increase today” (Created for Work).

Thorns and Thistles

God wanted Adam and Eve to make increase in the Garden of Eden. They failed, so God removed them. As punishment, God said to Adam, “[C]ursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Now that sin was in the picture and Satan was in charge, agriculture became far more difficult—just as the spiritual process it pictures, that of our qualifying for God’s Kingdom, became far more difficult! That process now involves much more sorrow, sweat, toil—effort!

However, that’s not all bad. We have a long way to go before becoming like God, and He knows that the way we grow is through difficulty. Thorns, thistles, obstacles and troubles actually help us. By giving us work—having us do hard things, build, create beauty, fight the downward pulls of the flesh and combat decay—God forges stronger, deeper character in our lives.

Work teaches us to embrace a challenge. Never shy away from a job because it requires you to get dirty. After all, God made us out of dirt (verse 19) and ordained that we work the soil for our food and our livelihood. Be determined to get the job done, whatever is required.

If you shrink from a challenge God gives you, you will fail to mature. If you are never willing to pick up a heavy weight, your muscles will weaken. If you avoid hard mental work, your mind will wither. God uses challenges to spur our growth and prepare us for even greater challenges.

God Is Your Work Partner

When God gave Moses instructions on building the tabernacle, He personally handpicked a man named Bezaleel for the job. “And [God] hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work” (Exodus 35:31-33). God wanted the finest workmanship—and He gave spiritual help to this worker in order to achieve it!

God makes that kind of help available to you.

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn from hard work is to learn to trust God and get Him involved in our tasks, rather than shouldering our entire burden in isolation, grappling with all its stresses and frustrations alone—as we are all prone to do. When you think of work that way, you realize how much it can draw you closer to God each day! When something is too difficult for you, realize that God has the answers! He can give you those answers—oftentimes through your supervisor, co-workers or family members, and, if you possess it, even through the power of His Holy Spirit.

God is a builder. God told Noah exactly how to build the ark; He gave Moses exact instructions for the tabernacle; He relayed to Solomon precise instructions for the temple. God is the master at everything—and He wants to help you in your job.

Don’t try to do your work solely on your own. Go to Him! He wants to teach you (Proverbs 8:1-6). He wants to use your work to build your character and to build His relationship with you. What a marvelous process! He gives you jobs to do, then helps you accomplish them. This isn’t daily drudgery; this is an experience with God as your boss and co-worker!

Who Is Your Real Boss?

“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5-7). God doesn’t care who your employer or supervisor is or what your job is—He wants you to work as if Jesus Christ Himself is your boss!

Think about your daily work as if you were filling out your job application for God’s Kingdom! God wants to see what kind of a worker you are. So conduct your business like you mean it. Respond to and treat your boss as if he were Christ, and that will deeply affect your job performance.

Our human nature shies away from hard work. This world is full of people who only do the minimum. People even tend to criticize those who work hard, because that exposes their own lethargy. A godly man pushes aside that criticism and continues to work “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:9-10). These are really practical points: Please your boss well in all things; don’t talk back; don’t steal time or minimize effort; show yourself faithful in everything you are entrusted with.

How important is this? God says when you work this way, you adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things! You set a godly example and demonstrate the God Family way of life. You build the character of God, and prepare for His Kingdom!

How to Always Have a Job

Be aware of your boss’s needs and desires. If possible, try to provide them before he even asks, the way you would with Jesus Christ! But don’t just take initiative while you’re on the clock: Strive to develop this mindset throughout life. Look for needs and fill them—in your family and beyond.

This is simply a godly way of living. Modern society encourages the easy life. But God is developing in us His nature of producing, creating, giving. Work provides an education in becoming unselfish, thinking of what we can provide for others.

Even in times of high unemployment, the truth is that employers everywhere are looking for diligent, reliable, motivated employees. “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him” (Proverbs 10:26). Bosses quickly grow irritated and impatient with employees who drag their feet, exert minimum effort, require constant monitoring to stay on task, produce careless work, distract other employees, take frequent breaks, and allow personal problems to affect their work.

Strive to be that all-too-rare employee who gives a full day’s work, exhibits drive and enthusiasm for the job, listens to instructions and follows through, does a task well and on time, is willing to stay until a job is complete, has a positive attitude, gets along well with others, educates himself about his field, and shows concern for the company’s success. Cultivate a godly work ethic, and there will always be work for you!

Put Your Heart Into It!

Creating is what God does for work, and He throws His whole heart into it. His ingenuity and creativity are boundless. He has filled His creation with special poetic touches.

He crafted butterflies as tiny marvels of flight engineering—then took pains to paint their wings with patterns of intricate beauty to transform them into fluttering, dancing artwork. To feed us, God developed an infinite variety of fruits and vegetables, each with its own shape, color, aroma, texture and flavor. To serve us, He propagated a multitude of animals with diverse anatomies, abilities and personalities. He raised up majestic mountains that inspire us with their immensity, even while they shelter wildlife and alter weather patterns. He fashioned lakes to glow and shimmer with reflections of His brilliant skies, even while they sustain myriad aquatic organisms and supply us with life-giving water.

Every millimeter of creation manifests virtuosity—the meticulous work of a Master Scientist, Designer, Engineer, Composer and Artist. All that God does, He does with abundant vibrancy and beauty.

The Master Creator wants to build that same mindset in you, whom He made in His likeness. He tells you in Colossians 3:23, “[W]hatsoever ye do, do it heartily ….”

In all your work—in your family, your home, your chores, your job, your activities, your hobbies, your meals, your dress—you have opportunity to cultivate quality, to strive for the superb, and thus to elevate your thinking closer to the mindset of your Maker!

In this world, so often you see people doing things halfway. You see people lackadaisically scraping by, expending as little effort as possible, trying to get the maximum and give the minimum. Do only what is necessary—and do so grudgingly, they say. If you can get away with it, cheat the other guy.

There is no joy in that way.

God wants us to go all out—and then to add that extra creative touch, that splash of special. He wants us to take pleasure in doing more than is required (Luke 17:7-10). To view any task before us as a chance to beat back darkness, to reverse decay. To seize every opportunity to shine, to excel, to labor in a way that reflects God’s mindset and gives Him glory.

Think of a simple task like mowing the lawn. On one end of the spectrum is the lazy homeowner who, after complaints from the neighbors, resentfully hustles through the job, cutting corners and leaving mounds of dead clippings behind. On the other is the professional who sees the green within the baseball stadium as an artist views a blank canvas, who plans and executes his assignment with diligence and pride, and transforms that field into a marvel of geometric elegance.

In all your labor, make the effort to advance toward the godly end of that spectrum—and take note of how your thinking transforms as you do. Give your customer an added perk he didn’t pay for. Put some extra analysis into that paper. Add a special touch to that report for your boss. Surprise your family with a trip to the park. Light the candles for that special evening meal. Put a little flourish in the calligraphy on that thank-you note. Do the extra things that put smiles on other people’s faces.

In all you do, look for ways to glorify the Creator who wants to make you in His very own image—the image of the Master Artisan, who does everything with all His heart.

An Education in Unselfishness

God has a big job in helping us overcome our selfishness. He uses every means possible to do so: by commanding us to serve others; to pray for others; to teach others; to strengthen our mates, our children, our brethren. Work is another important tool at His disposal. And not only our own daily work but also our support for His spiritual Work.

Whenever God calls someone into His service, He gives that person a job. That is certainly true of every apostle, prophet, evangelist, minister and deacon He has ever called. But those He places into His Church as it pleases Him (1 Corinthians 12:18) also have a vital part in supporting His Work, which is serving the world by doing God’s business. That is a powerful and potent means God uses to help us get our minds off ourselves and onto the noble business of serving and helping people. God’s Work is one of freely giving His truth. And as Herbert W. Armstrong said, only those whose hearts are in that Work are growing spiritually. This is a crucial way we grow and get ready for the Kingdom: by doing our part to finish God’s Work.

God is a worker! He has big plans to accomplish throughout the universe and for eternity. He is building a family of workers—hard workers—people who love to work! Allow God to reproduce Himself in you through this important part of your life. Build a godly work ethic! Throw yourself into your daily work, and put your whole heart into God’s Work!

Continue Reading: The Provider: Paul—Fight the Good Fight