“Winning at Work”
Ecclesiastes 5:9-20 NIV – 9 The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.This too is meaningless.11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. 13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. 15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. 16 This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? 17 All their days they eat in darkness,with great frustration, affliction and anger.18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.
Random House Dictionary defines “WORK” as – “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” It can be Physical, mental, or both. The purpose of work is to produce an item or accomplish a goal.
All through the Bible, God commends the value of work. The fourth commandment was about taking a day of rest, but we sometimes miss the point of what we should be doing the other six days. God said, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”
Introduction: For most, Labor Day is the official end of summer. The pools have closed. School has started. Soon the leaves will fall and not long after that the snow. But Labor Day started out with a much different meaning.
The Central Labor Union of New York City observed the first Labor Day holiday on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was a celebration of working people. Laboring men and women took the day off to march through the city streets in parades and then gather in parks for picnics. Two years later the holiday moved to the first Monday in September. The idea spread quickly to most other industrial cities in the nation. At first, city ordinances announced the holiday. New York and other states soon followed. In 1894, Congress made the day a legal holiday.
In 1956, the Post Office issued the first Labor Day commemorative-stamp. The image on the stamp symbolized the day. It pictured a large muscular man carrying a sledgehammer, a pick, a hoe, and an ax over his shoulder. His wife sat nearby showing a small child how to read. The words of the poet Carlyle in the lower left announced, ”Labor Is Life.’’
Most of us may never have heard that motto ”Labor Is Life.” Instead we heard our parents tell us when we complained about a chore we didn’t like, ”You’re not supposed to like it. That’s why they call it work!” ”Labor is drudgery” sounds more like it to many of us.
1. Work is NOT a Curse
Genesis 2:15 NIV – The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Work began in the Garden of Eden – Paradise. This work was an activity blessed of God to Provide Adam with a sense of achievement and self worth. The greatest purpose of work is to bring out the full potential of God’s creation. The world was good (Genesis 1:31), but it was not complete. God called humans to help it become everything it could become. He commissioned us to act in his image – as his managers – to rule and subdue the raw materials of creation. For example, we tame livestock, purify raw ore into metal, grow plants to feed people, and much more. This is why God put Adam to work in the Garden of Eden
Some of you graybeards can remember the old television series from the late fifties and early 60’s, ”The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Some of you have seen reruns on cable. Remember the teenager Dobie’s good buddy Maynard G. Krebs. Actor Bob Denver played the part of Maynard. Most know Denver better for his later role as ”Gilligan.” In Dobie Gillis, Gilligan played the part of a beatnik, a scruffy teenager, who didn’t want to do anything but loaf. Anytime someone suggested that he find a job, Maynard would react. He would jump back as if frightened by the idea and exclaim with a shiver, ”WORK!”
Some Perspectives – ”I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go.” Or as
Tennessee Ernie Ford’s old song put it, ”You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.’’
When Adam sinned, his disobedience turned the perspective of work into a curse
Genesis 3:19 NIV – By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
•That’s why Working can be hard, painful, and anything but fun at times. Many jobs involve long hours, little recognition, and so-so pay
Vince Lombardi said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
Thomas Edison said, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
•God made man to work. That was a part of his very nature. God didn’t give work as punishment. Working was part of being made in the image of God. The Lord God himself created the heaven and the earth and then ”rested from his work” on the seventh day.
Genesis 2:2-3 NIV – By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Cleanliness isn’t next to godliness. Working is. Our work, done in the right way and for the right reason, mirrors the character of God!
Recognition and Obedience to the Principles of God reinstate the blessings of Work
Deuteronomy 28:8 NIV – 8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
2. Accept Work as God’s Gift, not Punishment
Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIV – 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.
That’s a good reminder for Labor Day. Our work, especially satisfying work, is nothing less than a gift of God! The Marketplace (your place of employment), your company) is more than a job, it is a place to serve and glorify God.
•Releases your God-given talents
•Provides for your family
•Provides a sense of accomplishment that is essential for self-esteem
Ecclesiastes 3:13 NIV – That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
Work is a gift of God because whatever we do, we do it with the life and breath and resources that God provides. Whether we labor by the sweat of our brow and the strength of our back, the ingenuity of our minds or some exceptional skill, we are stewards of God’s gifts in us. We are not self-made people.
Acts 17:28 NIV – ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.
Puritan Work Ethic – The Protestant Reformation gave birth to many new ideas including a fresh view about the place of work. This happened because the Reformation first rediscovered the Bible. From that, they learned a biblical understanding of work.
This Puritan Work Ethic taught that: 1) all honest work is good regardless of its prestige or compensation; 2) hard work is a blessing because it builds character and inner strength; 3) honest, hard work provides the path to prosperity; and 4) the believer glorifies God in an honest job well done.
Scriptures Affirm these Truths
Proverbs 10:4 NIV – Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.
“Lazy people do not do anything extra, they only do what they need to do to just get by.”
“Diligent” – to make effort, be prompt. Also to endeavor, labor, and study. The diligent worker makes effort to succeed, is prompt to work, endeavors and labors hard and studies to improve his production & efficiency at work
Proverbs 14:23 NIV – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Proverbs 21:25-26 NIV – The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.26 All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.
Jeremiah told the Jewish exiles in Babylon to work hard not just for their own sake but for the sake of their community,
Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV – “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Paul Admonishes the Early Church Concerning Work
2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 NIV – We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good
Ephesians. 4:28 NIV – Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
God’s Standard for Work Success
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV – 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Colossians 3:17 NIV – 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Work is God’s Power for you to Create Wealth
Deuteronomy 8:18-19 (ESV) 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
•Minus the Financial Miracles, inheritances, etc… Most of your finances you will receive in your lifetime will come from your WORK, or your career.
Colossians 3:23-25 NIV – 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
•Reggie McNeal, a church consultant specializing in leadership development, talks about sitting on a bench on a beach boardwalk late one afternoon, resting after an hour long walk. He had passed a woman in a green uniform pushing a broom several times. She came toward his bench doing her meticulous sweeping of the sidewalk. Suddenly she stopped, wiped her forehead, and rested on her broom. Reggie called out to her: “You do a great job.”
“Thank you,” she replied. Then she added something that explained why the sidewalk behind her was spotless. “I just believe people want to walk on a clean sidewalk.”
Reggie says, “I was humbled to be in the presence of a worker who viewed her task with such significance. Whatever the park service was paying her, there’s no way they could have demanded the excellence she brought to her work. That kind of motivation comes from within.”
Ephesians 6:7-8 THE MSG – Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.
John Stott was a beloved British pastor and author. He wrote: “The way to serve the Lord in your job is to always imagine that you are working for Jesus instead of your boss. It is possible for the housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus Christ were going to eat it or to clean the house as if Jesus Christ were going to be the honored guest. It is possible for teachers to educate children; for doctors to treat patients; for nurses to care for patients; for lawyers to have clients; for shop assistants to have customers; for accountants to audit books; and secretaries to type letters as if in every case they were serving Jesus Christ.”
Conclusion: It is good and proper for those who worship to give thanks to God for their work. We worship and we work because we know all we have, even the jobs with which we earn our living, are gifts from God.