The Theology of Work

Last week I read Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age-Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self Reliance. It is the Republican senator from Nebraska’s treatise on what he views as a crisis for our American youth and a prescription for how to fix it. I highly recommend this book to parents with children at home. Sasse will open your eyes to a lot of problems that you have been blind to as well as offer some great suggestions for how to correct those problems to ensure that your children are adequately prepared for the future.
 
One of the problems that Sasse points out is the lack of work ethic in our young people. It is not their fault. They are simply imitating what they see in the adults around them. When we lack an accurate theology of work, we teach our kids that work is a thing to be avoided. If, though, we correct our theology of work, then we will learn to rejoice in the work the Lord gives us, and our children will see that there is profit in a good work ethic. 
 
If you want to model a good work ethic for the young people in your life while finding joy in your work, consider these passages:
 
1. Genesis 2:15– “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” God’s very first act after forming the man, was to give him a job. Remember that man was created in the image of God. God creates. God builds. God sends the rain on the earth. God sustains the entire universe. In short, God works. Why shouldn’t the man be expected to work?
 
Many people erroneously believe that work is the punishment for sin. This could not be farther from the truth. Adam was given the job of tending the garden of Eden even before the curse. The curse of sin simply took the joy out of work, however like every other casualty of the curse, the joy of work is restored through faith in Christ and a personal relationship with Him.
 
2. Proverbs 14:23– “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Whether you are a stay-at-home parent who oversees the management of your household, or a school teacher who invests in the youth of our society, or a doctor who heals diseases, or a nurse who cares for the sick, or a lawyer who keeps our society honest, or the man who picks up my trash every Thursday, there is profit in your toil. Nothing meaningful is attained through any other means than hard work. 
 
“Mere talk tends only to poverty.” Why does talk tend to poverty? Because talk tends toward consumption rather than production. When you mindlessly scroll through social media, passively binge on Netflix, engage in office gossip, put off until tomorrow work that can and should be done today, you consume precious time and energy. Your time and energy are finite. You cannot get back a single second that you waste. While rest and escape are necessary, the goal should never be to work to escape but rather to be refreshed in rest so that you can be more purposeful in your work. 
 
3. 2 Thessalonians 3:10– “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” God in His sovereignty provides for us. He clothes us. He feeds us (See Matthew 6:25-34). However, He involves us in His provision. He gives us the pleasure of working so that we can enjoy His rewards. God’s intention is that we would find joy in work, just as He finds joy in His work. Remember, through Jesus, He makes us into who we were always meant to be before the fall. 
 
Certainly, not all people are able to work. These receive a special measure of grace from their Heavenly Father. In addition, He blesses those who are able to work with the opportunity to be His hands and feet for those who are less fortunate. The point of this passage is that those who are able, have no excuse for not working and should be refused charity so that they learn to work. 
 
Here are some other passages that shape a biblical theology of work: