Work and the Believer
Rev. Dr. Ernest Brodie Jr.
Work was given to man even before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. After sin entered the world, man's work became harder. Genesis 3:17-19: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” What does the Bible say about work and the believer?
The principles concerning workers in ancient times may be applied to today. Christians are to use their God-given abilities to provide for their families and for others. A key to being successful in work is to have an attitude of gratitude and to recognize that effective work results when we see ourselves first as servants of God. How are Christian workers to serve?
Serve with fear and trembling. (Verse 5)
Fear (phobou) is to serve with an attitude of being very concerned and troubled, which gives you the desire to do your very best work for your employer. Trembling (tromou) means to be physically moved and to understand all the required responsibilities inherent in the work you do. Believers should “fear and tremble,” because they understand the source and value of authority. Romans 13:1-5: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” Authority comes from God. Believers are to respect the authority of their bosses. If disagreements occur, they are to be handled with respect. Only the arrogant disrespect those in authority.
Serve with singleness of heart as unto Christ. (Verse 5)
Singleness of heart (haploteti) means to not have diverse loyalties and to do your job as you ought to do it. The exercise of singleness of heart is not difficult when we have made a decision to not please ourselves and others but to please God. When we purpose to glorify God making decisions and facing temptations are easier. This guiding principle of glorifying God does not mean all decisions will be easy; however, it does mean that God will help provide the answers and direction in our lives.
Serve not with eyeservice, as menpleasers. (Verse 6)
Eyeservice (ophthalmodouleian) means eye slavery, being watched, or working well only when being observed. Menpleasers (anthropareskoi) are working only for the praise of others. There is a spiritual nature to work that goes deeper than working well when being observed or working for the praise of men. Whether our boss sees us or not, we are to be diligent at all times. We must remember that God sees us.
Serve as a servant. (Verse 6)
Servant (duloi) means slave or those under authority of another. In today's economy, we often choose our master or boss, but in many ways we are still under the authority of another. Failure may mean the loss of a job. Believers, therefore, are to be obedient and be known for carrying out orders. Under normal circumstances, this means doing the job we were hired to do and doing our best provided it is not against God's law.
Serve as doing the will of God. (Verse 7)
Good (eunoias) means with good humor or joyfully. Doing service (doulenuontes) is slaving away. The concept is to be joyfully slaving away and doing our best as unto the Lord. This is the will of God.
Serve as unto the Lord. (Verse 8)
Why are we to serve as unto the Lord? The Lord will bless our efforts. We rob ourselves of blessings when we shirk at work. When we labor as unto the Lord, our labor becomes a testimony of our faith.
Employers are addressed in verses 8 and 9: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” These are principles given to those in charge of others. Being a leader carries certain responsibilities, which are the same for an employer. A leader must be both tough and tender at the same time. Employers are not to threaten or publicly embarrass their workers. They are to treat others as God does, which is in a fair and equitable manner and with dignity. By being a good boss, you ultimately build others up and make a difference in their lives.
You must do your very best as unto the Lord whether you are an employer or an employee. Your actions in business reflect your relationship with God. It may be one of the best sources of witness to the unsaved world.