Work Heartily...for God
Proverbs is so practical and, at times, very funny, like the description given of the slothful guy who will use any excuse not to get up, get out, and do some work. Solomon puts it this way: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’” (Proverbs 26:13). What a hilarious depiction of someone obviously desperate to avoid labor! It’s like saying, “Whuddya mean take out the trash? A guy could get killed out there!”
Making excuses not to work could actually be unhealthy. John Ortberg in his book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, shares this finding:
Too much comfort is dangerous—literally.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley did an experiment some time ago that involved introducing an amoeba into a perfectly stress-free environment: ideal temperature, optimal concentration of moisture, constant food supply. The amoeba had an environment to which it had to make no adjustment whatsoever.
So you would guess this was one happy little amoeba. Whatever it is that gives amoebas ulcers and high blood pressure was gone.
Yet, oddly enough, it died.
Apparently there is something about all living creatures—even amoebas—that demands challenge. We require change, adaptation, and challenge the way we require food and air. Comfort alone will kill us.
(John Ortberg, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001)
God designed us to do work. Even before Adam and Eve sinned, work was part of God’s program for mankind. Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Work is not always fun, but in those moments when you really enjoy it, you’re likely getting a taste of what Adam experienced as he tended the garden. That was work as it was meant to be.
Something about physical labor changed when sin entered the garden. Part of sin’s curse included:
“By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19).
Whereas work was originally a blessed activity in the garden while God directly provided man’s sustenance, now work would be necessary for survival. Anything you are forced to do in order to survive can become drudgery.
But work can still be a blessing. Solomon wrote:
“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18).
So the Bible clearly teaches that to enjoy work—and the results thereof—is a good thing.
There are two basic elements that are crucial to your enjoyment of work: balance and motivation. Balance has to do with avoiding workaholism. Work can become a means to fulfill a need in an unhealthy way. For a workaholic, work is a compulsion. Other important areas of that person’s life suffer. Recognize and avoid workaholism.
The other element is motivation. The joy one finds in his or her work has a lot to do with the reasons behind doing it. I heard about one enterprising homebuilder who found a way to motivate his employees. For exceptional work, he named streets after them in his housing developments.
That reminds me of what Jesus said: “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Knowing that our work can have eternal value is highly motivating. Working for the Builder of the Universe makes anything a dream job.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” —Colossians 3:23