THE DIGNITY, SANCTITY AND NECESSITY OF LEGITIMATE WORK
For work to be legitimate it must fulfil two criteria. A). The job itself must not entail violating God’s law, e.g. that of a thief Ephesians 4.28. B). The context of the job must not violate God’s law, e.g., a locksmith (legitimate) who makes keys for thieves (illegitimate) etc. The Lord Jesus was the ‘son’ of a carpenter Matthew 13.55, and up until the age of about 30 years old worked at that trade himself, Mark 6.3. This teaches us three important lessons.
- Legitimate labour, of whatever form, is never to be despisedJesus not only worked as a carpenter / builder in Nazareth he was prepared to do the work of a slave, washing the disciples feet, John 13.1-17. If God incarnate engaged in the lowest menial tasks he has stamped heavenly dignity upon such work.
- It is possible to maintain the closest communion with God in the toil of everyday workJesus did ordinary daily work with its humdrum routines and difficult customers. He faced all the same difficulties and temptations that we do, Hebrews 4.15. And yet within the carpenter’s shop he grew in favour with God and man, Luke 2.52. His spiritual growth as a human being did not take place during years of solitude and desert contemplation. It took place in the midst of daily work. It is a mistake to use the demands of our work as an excuse for failure to grow spiritually.
- By his life we see that work is the normal God-ordained means of meeting our needsIf anyone had the right to be exempt from work, if the world ever owed anyone a living, it was Jesus the world’s creator, Colossians 1.16. But he wanted to set us an example, so he worked. He who multiplied the loaves and fishes for the crowds never seems to have done that to provide for himself or his family. He went to work.
Thus we find the apostle Paul is stern with those who refuse to work, 2 Thessalonians 3.6-10.
THE ATTITUDES AND MOTIVATION WHICH ARE TO GOVERN OUR WORK There are a number of New Testament passages which address the subject of daily work, Colossians 3.22-4.1; 1 Thessalonians 4.11, 12; 1 Peter 2.18-25 etc. We will sketch the main considerations which should govern the Christian’s attitude to work from Ephesians 6.5-9.
- The Yoke of ChristIn v5 Paul speaks of ‘earthly masters’ and so implies that we have a heavenly master for all our daily work. He makes this explicit in v9. When you became a Christian you voluntarily took upon yourself Christ’s ‘yoke’ taking him as your master, Matthew 11.28-30. He is your master at work. This means there is no sacred/secular divide. Secular work is full-time service for Christ.
- The Love of ChristYour heavenly master is Christ who has died for you and who loves you, Ephesians 5.25. If he has given himself like that for us then we feel motivated to do our best even with the worst jobs once we see them as done for Jesus. Unlike the world the Christian has reason to be enthusiastic about even the lowest jobs. Our motive is not first of all money, it is serving Christ, v5-7.
- The Eye of ChristBecause of our sinful nature there is a temptation to do only the minimum amount of work required. But the Christian can be saved from this as he/she realises the we live forever in Christ’s presence v6.
- The Throne of ChristWe are working for Christ in that all legitimate work which the Christian does is pleasing to Christ and will be rewarded by him at judgement day, v8. This is true whatever our status. Especially we will be rewarded for the times when we have suffered unjustly because we are conscious of God and his ways, 1 Peter 2.18-20.
We conclude there can be no right relationship to work without a right relationship to Jesus and there is no right relationship to Jesus if it does not issue in a right attitude to work.
This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.
A related post ‘7 Tips on handling stress in the work place’ can be found here.