This is the first of a two-part article by Irv on the Biblical understanding of work. For most of the history of this nation, America has held to the “protestant work ethic” meaning those who know the Lord are committed to working . . . hard. They knew that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and so they worked. This was especially true in the agrarian days of the country in which there was much to do on the farm and everyone had their assigned jobs to do. It was “all hands on deck” to keep the farm financially afloat. No shirkers, no sluggards allowed.
Life has come a long way from those agricultural days. Yes, there are still family farms but they are rapidly disappearing. Now most Americans make their living in this information age riding a desk and staring at a computer screen all day.
Even though the type of work has changed, the Bible and its principles governing work remain the same. Here is one of them. “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This command does not apply to those who are unable to work such as the disabled or elderly. This is specifically addressed to those who are lazy and unwilling to work even though they could. I have heard many make the excuse that they cannot work because they cannot find a job or because government welfare pays them more than a job would. My response to the first excuse is that there are plenty of jobs available today. Granted they might not pay as much as you think you’re worth, you may feel they’re beneath you but jobs are there to be had for those with a mind to work. The government is not benefitting you or anyone who is able to work by paying you not to work. Most states have a limit on the number of months you can be on welfare but that varies with the state.
Work is not simply about providing for our materials needs. Work meets deeper needs than that. It meets our deep needs to do something purposeful and productive with our lives. It follows the very pattern of God who worked six days in creation and rested on the seventh. God believes in work. So should we. Work promotes healthy self-esteem. Consider that in the Old Testament farmers were forbidden by God to harvest the corners of their fields or to pick up anything that fell to the ground during harvest. All of that was for the poor. Thus the poor worked hard to provide for their needs. They felt satisfaction and self-esteem because it wasn’t a handout. This was God’s poverty program.
More on this important topic next month. In the meantime, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho. It’s off to work I go.”