Since today is International Labour’s Day, let’s consider for a moment what the Bible says about work:
1. Work in itself is not a curse. It is our design. When God created Adam, God placed him in the garden of Eden to work it. We do not just subdue and manage creation, we nurture it so that it may flourish. In its flourishing, we too will flourish.
2. Work and rest go together. After God created the world in 6 days, he rested on the 7th and made it holy. In light of this, Sabbath was made for man so that we would rest from our labors. Resting is as much design as work is. In fact, our ceasing from work is proof of our trust in God. Even when we don’t work, God’s hand does not cease working for our good.
3. Work is hard. Since Adam sinned, our work is marked with hardship. The ground bears thorns and thistles for us. Work is a major reason for frustration, conflict, and heartache.
4. Work is a potential idol. Sin has distorted our hearts to find our identity in our work. In fact, many of us will look to work to justify our existence. Instead of looking to God, to determine who we are, we look to what we do. And that is a terrible way to live. We will be weary, burdened, and heavy-laden. If our relationship with God is based on our work, what a sad relationship that is!
5. Work is redeemed by Christ. In Christ, we are saved by grace through faith – not by works. This means that for those who put their faith in Jesus, our identity is fixed – outside of our performance. We don’t work to gain our identity. We work because our identity has already been given to us. That is radical.
6. Work is part of the Christian life. While we aren’t saved by works, grace operates in our hearts so that we can (1) do good works God prepared for us, (2) serve our Earthly masters as if serving Christ, and (3) labor for the advancement of the kingdom of God through evangelism and discipleship.
7. Work redeemed helps us enjoy God. In the Christian worldview, our God worked for us. In creation, He gave us ourselves and the world we live in. In redemption, He gave us Himself and the world to come. We work for a God who works for us. But not only that! His Holy Spirit empowers and enables us. And in every God-glorifying work, He walks with us. We work for a God who labors with us. Emmanuel indeed.
May the lazy repent and partake in God’s design for humanity. May the workaholic repent and rest in God and Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Jehovah is God over Labor and Rest. May we so live and work to reflect this.