The Bible about Work

The average adult spends nearly 40% of his or her waking hours working. Given that work occupies so much of our time, it would be rational to expect that God cares about what we do during those hours and how we go about it. In fact, He does. Scripture tell us God Himself worked and that He has entrusted us with important work.

Work is mentioned at the very beginning of the Bible. During the creation in the first two chapters of Genesis, we see God at work as He separated the light from the darkness; separated the water to create land and sky; gathered the waters into seas; created vegetation for the land; made the stars; made living creatures for the water, air and land. Finally, made the first humans, Adam and Eve. At the end of Genesis 1, God observed the result of His work and we’re told that it was good.

Genesis 2 provides details of mankind’s first job. God created a garden and placed Adam in it “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). We read that God said it was not good for Adam to be alone so He created Eve to help him. Adam and Eve were to work together to take care of God’s creation in the Garden of Eden.

After blessing Adam and Eve, He presented this assignment: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish… the birds… and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28). How wonderful and what an honor it is that God entrusted human beings to take care of His creation.

Is Work a Good Thing in the Bible?

Work, in general, is good. After all, it was ordained by God and Scripture tells us that everything God creates is, in and of itself, good (see James 1:17). Work done well brings a sense of personal accomplishment as we put our God-given talents and abilities to use.

When our work helps others, it becomes a way to serve them. God, in effect, designed work so that it might be a blessing to us and to others. The baker who makes bread is a blessing to his customers. The salesperson is a blessing to her customers by guiding them to find the best product or service that meets their needs.

The teacher who educates his students is a blessing to them. In each of these examples, the worker likely experiences the joy that comes from doing work that produces something good that benefits others.

On a practical level, work is good because the wages we earn help us meet our financial responsibilities to support our family members, the Church and people God brings to our attention who are in need.

Throughout the Bible, we see passages that condemn people who are capable of working and have the opportunity to work but don’t because of laziness (for example, see Proverbs 10:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

For society, work is also good in that it contributes to bringing order out of chaos so that people are more likely to experience shalom, a Hebrew word which means a state of flourishing. When we do work that serves others, we experience joy and contentment from knowing our work matters.

What If You Don’t Like Your Job?

Work can be difficult at times because we live in a fallen world. In Genesis 3:17-19 we see that because of Adam and Eve’s sin, work is going to be hard. Even good work that we know is worthwhile will require exertion that tires us physically, mentally and/or emotionally. That’s one reason we need a Sabbath day to rest and recover from work.

Sometimes people may find their jobs are especially difficult for reasons related to the tasks to be completed. Maybe the job is not a good fit with your strengths even if you are capable of doing it. Or it might be that the work is beyond your level of competence so that it’s too stressful or so far beneath your level of competence that it’s boring.

In these circumstances, it may be helpful to let your supervisor know so he or she can adjust your job responsibilities or provide needed training, mentoring or resources. One possibility is to consider moving to a different position in your organization that provides a better fit for you. If these options aren’t available, then looking outside your organization for new work may be wise.

Another reason people are dissatisfied with their work or want to leave their jobs stems from a breakdown in relationships, such as not getting along with their supervisor, being disrespected by colleagues or a lack of trust among members of a team. To help you discern what to do, ask God for wisdom and guidance, and seek the advice of others who will help you determine the best decision.

Christians should have the Right Attitude about Work

God cares about our attitudes for they shape what we say and do. If you cultivate an attitude that work is a punishment from God, then you are unlikely to have the enthusiasm and energy to do your best work.

Paul was getting at this when he stated: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).

Having attitudes that are consistent with God’s Word will help us flourish in our work. One example of a Godly attitude is to embrace humility. Paul went on to explain in Romans 12 that we each have unique gifts and roles and that we need one another.

He prefaced the analogy of being individual parts of one body by exhorting Christ’s followers this way: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” (Romans 12:3b). Humble individuals know they don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas so they are intentional about seeking and considering the ideas and opinions of others.

Having multiple perspectives to draw upon, affirm or challenge your thinking improves the likelihood of making optimal decisions that have the greatest positive impact on your organization.

Is Retirement Biblical?

The only place the Bible mentions retirement is in the Lord’s instructions to Moses about rules for Levite men who served in the tent of meeting. It specifies “… at the age of 50, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of the meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.” (Numbers 8:25-26b).

The passage doesn’t address individuals more broadly and, interestingly, it says there is still a role for them to play. Many of the faithful whose lives are described in the Bible worked until their final days on earth. Retirement is a relatively new practice that’s become widespread in recent history.

It should be our mindset to serve others throughout the course of our lives, including during our twilight years. God created work for us because it blesses us and others.

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