The past two years have been an unusual time in the history of our country as many people have had to change and alter their work habits. I think it’s appropriate, in light of life’s recent changes, to spend time thinking about an issue that consumes the majority of our lives: work. On average, a person works full-time from the age of 22-67 (almost half a century!), and that same person spends roughly 47 hours per week working. Unfortunately, although work is a constant part of our lives, most people think very little about it and have no real concept of its value.
Sadly, if you ask the average Christian to give you a biblical perspective on work, you will most likely come across deficient answers. Even more concerning is that some will even go as far to tell you that work is part of the curse (Gen. 3). Many have embraced the predominant worldview in which we live—hard work is simply something to avoid. And, if you can’t avoid it, just tolerate it until the weekend or early retirement. There are others who work hard but do so for entirely selfish motives—to feed their pride or the idol of materialism. Many see work as just something you do from 9am-5pm and as soon as you clock out and leave the building, life is no longer about work, but merely pleasure and enjoyment.
In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin writes, “Each individual has his own kind of career assigned to him by the Lord, as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life. There will be no employment so mean, that is so low, and sordid as not to appear truly respectable and be deemed highly important in the sight of God.” Calvin is essentially saying that your work, whatever it is, matters to God!
This perspective was once called The Protestant work ethic. Historically, Christians have been the most diligent, creative, and oftentimes the most successful in their fields. Sadly, the biblical concept of work is one of those foundational truths that was recovered in the Reformation but has largely been forgotten by churches today.
Ask yourself these questions and then honestly respond: biblically speaking, do you truly understand the origin, value, and reasons for work? Second, do you know how to work every day in a way that honors God?
Over the next few blogs we will spend time in an Old Testament book that was given by God to us for this very purpose, to answer these very questions: the book of Proverbs. In fact, the theme of Proverbs is to give God’s people wisdom for living and navigating through the details of this life. Therefore, in a practical and profound way, the book of Proverbs lays out the key principles that should govern our work. We will consider the first one next time.