Work hard, make money, live the American Dream. Sound good? That’s the normal philosophy of middle class people in our rather rich nation. The point of work in our Western, individualist culture is to make money that we can use to get a nice house (eventually a dream house), fill the house with nice goodies, and live a comfortable life. This basic assumption is often carried over without second thought into Christian circles. But I want today to give two Biblical reasons to work, emphasizing one of them in particular.
As I can see, there are two main reasons to work from a perspective set on the Kingdom of God. The first is simple: to enable us with our money to maintain quiet lives for ourselves and our families. We have basic needs like food, clothes, and shelter, and if we want to do anything for God’s Kingdom these needs must be met. In God’s providence, He usually gives these to us through a job. So we must work. Proverbs is full of such affirmations of work as how we get our provisions (Prov. 12:11, 12:14, 16:26, 28:19), while Scripture is clear that even what we get from work is from God (Ps. 34:10, Prov. 10:3, Matt. 6:25-34). This especially important when you have a family to take care of, since God truly values family.
But there is another and, I daresay, a higher reason to work hard. What is this reason? I’ll let Paul explain:
The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
While the thief’s repentance is the first point of the verse, I don’t think saying this applies to us all would be a stretch. Why should we do honest work with our own hands? So we have something to share with anyone in need.
The significance of this cannot be understated in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but in practice I mostly work to pay my own bills, build my little guy a college fund, and save for a rainy day. All of these have something in common: they do not go beyond my own household, which is in no danger of real poverty. If all else failed, my wife and I have very awesome and supportive families to fall back on.
Not everyone is so blessed. Many people have no fallback. They are broke and alone. Around the world people starve and live in landfills. Many people are bound by slavery, oppressive governments, or excessive debt. Some people are in trouble by their own fault, some are innocent victims, though they are all in need either way. This world is filled with “anyone in need.”
So when we work, we can’t do so only concerned with ourselves, but also others (Phil. 2:4). When we earn money, we should not only spend our earnings for ourselves but for others. Our financial goals should not be just about our own families, but also about poorer families. Sometimes a penny saved should be a penny given, and instead of merely seeking to build up our retirement and vacation funds, we have to consider all the people out there who don’t even have funds for groceries.
Not only should we think of these things and do them, but they should motivate us. Paul did not say to work and to share, but to work so we can share. The kind of love God calls us to in the Gospel of His Son is so radical that it demands (and creates!) the transformation of our priorities and interests. Jesus says to become deeply concerned with others, not merely to act that way.
So let everyone work not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.