walk in the word
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Colossians 3:23, NASB).
One of the driving forces behind Western prosperity was the Protestant work ethic, which attributed value and virtue to hard work and self-discipline. Our society, though, continues to slip more toward entitlement, in which people believe they deserve something for nothing. The Apostle Paul reminded us we have to work, and we have to work hard.
After the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God passed out consequences. To Adam He said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17–19).
A consequence of sin is that work is toil—the ground is cursed, filled with thorns, thistles, and weeds, and work is painful, sweaty, and laborious. That’s why we call it work. The difficulty of work is part of the judgment for sin.
Yet while work is cursed and twisted, hard work is honorable. Paul alluded to this in 1 Thessalonians 2:9, “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Paul worked hard, day and night. Working hard and coming home tired is honorable.
That doesn’t mean every job is fulfilling. The concept that you should have a job that perfectly fits your talents and passions can undermine the satisfaction you find in work. No one loves every part of his job. Yes, some jobs directly enrich people’s lives, which can feel gratifying: being a painter, a teacher, a heart surgeon. But just because some work seems more fulfilling does not mean other work isn’t just as honorable. Whether you’re a judge or a jockey or a janitor—“whatever you do”—there is honor in your work and in providing for yourself and your family.
We should embrace dignity and joy of working hard. Wise King Solomon promoted it: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, ESV). The Apostle Paul commended it: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” In fact, Paul added that those who won’t work can skip their next meal. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV).
The Bible is replete with models of hard workers: David, the shepherd; Amos, the fig farmer; Paul, the tent-maker; Lydia, seller of purple; Jesus, the carpenter. At the end of the day, it’s a good thing to exhaust yourself in meaningful work.
You might wonder, How hard is too hard? To clarify, you can’t work too hard; you can work too much. If you invest too much into your career, you neglect other things that matter more.
While you’re at work, work really hard; then go home and work really hard on what God has given you there: your walk with God, or your marriage, or the hunt for a marriage partner, or parenting, or your education, or whatever is next for you.
Work hard—everywhere, and on everything.
How have you been tempted to diminish the innate value of hard work and fixate too much on the fulfillment you feel from your job?
What adjustments do you feel convicted to make in your attitude toward your work?
Father, thank You for the work You’ve given me to do. Help me to see it as a commission straight from You. Remind me to work with all my heart as if I’m working directly for the Lord Jesus Christ, not for human supervisors. Forgive me for fixating too much on how I feel about my job, whether it fulfills me and makes me happy. Instead help me to embrace the dignity of my work. I want to work hard, on everything, for Your glory. In the name of Your Son, whom I want to please, amen.
brought to you by change partners