The Wisdom of Work
My first job: Tastee Freeze
Personal: Work is a major part of our lives… Some studies suggest we will spend as much as 50% of our lives working! What is your attitude or perspective about work?
Personal: Work is a major part of our lives.
Are you intentional about work? Do you see work as an opportunity to do something of value, to glorify God and serve the common good? Or is work something we are forced to endure until we’re lucky enough to retire and live the “good life”?
Some studies suggest we will spend as much as 50% of our lives working!
What is your
Does work properly align with the rest of your priorities in life? Or are you addicted to work? Is your job more important than your family? Does your work squeeze out God and His family, the church?
On the job, what kind of worker are you? Does your boss think about you, “I wish I had more employees like him/her,” or “I wish he/she would find another company to work for so he/she could be someone else’s problem”? Do you consistently clock in late or call in sick when you’re not sick? Do you use company time to scroll on your personal Facebook or Instagram? Do you have a good work ethic?
If you’re not employed at a paying job (stay-at-home parent, retired, currently between jobs, laid off, etc.), do you struggle with self-image, and your value as a human being? When you don’t have paid work to do, do you find yourself volunteering your time, working and serving others?
Proverbs has much to say about work
The diligent person will rule, but the slothful will become a slave.
Do not love sleep, lest you become poor; open your eyes and have plenty bread.
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.
Understanding the biblical concept of “work”
Work is not a result of sin.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Work has been corrupted by sin.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 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.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 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.”
“Work” doesn’t only refer to a paying job. It’s not employment, it’s work ethic.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Work doesn’t end when we retire.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.
The American ideal of retirement isn’t a biblical concept.
Jay, the oldest graduate of MTS
How can we develop a wise work ethic? How can we view work through the eyes of wisdom?
Learn by example (v. 6). (Play off of “lead” by example) Follow in the footsteps of someone who’s getting it right.
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
“Sluggard” (v. 6) is literally translated “lazybones.” Solomon says even a bug has more brains than a lazybones!
There are three commands in v. 6: go, consider, and be wise (or learn). Go find someone who is a few steps ahead of you, watch them, listen to them, follow their example, learn from their mistakes, and you will become more like them.
Illustration: I learned a lot from my Grandpa Charlie, even though he died when I was pretty little.
This works in every arena of life, not just on the job (following Jesus, parenting, working through a marriage issue, learning a new hobby, etc.). This is one reason why small groups are so important, and why I believe the best small groups are the ones that have a mix of people—not just a group of people who are all in the same age and stage of life.
By the way, this principle goes both ways. Following the example of godly men and women will help you become a growing disciple of Jesus. But surrounding yourself with godless friends will slowly pull you away from the Lord.
Choose to have a good attitude about your work (v. 7-8). Decide that you will have a good work ethic.
Exposition: The ant (“she” in the original Hebrew text) has great work ethic.
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
She works, even without being told to (who does that, anyway?) (v. 7).
yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
She knows her job and does the right work at the right time (v. 8).
I remember as a restaurant manager the frustrating employees who were always standing around messing with their phones instead of working—they only worked when the boss was walking by.
“Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.”
Application: How can I choose to have a good attitude?
Put your feelings in their place. // Beliefs ---> Actions ---> Feelings
If you’re employed, choose to be a great employee… If you are not employed, remember that work ethic doesn’t depend on employment! You have a great gift of time that many others don’t have. Use it for the glory of God and the common good.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor (vv. 9-11). Take pleasure in the good things that hard work brings.
The Proverb teaches this point from the opposite perspective—what happens to the lazybones. Because he doesn’t do his work, he is eventually overcome with poverty. Like an armed robber, his laziness steals his resources and leaves him impoverished.
Illustration: Oversleeping can be as problematic as not getting enough sleep.
According to WebMD (https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/physical-side-effects-oversleeping#2), oversleeping has been linked to a host of medical problems, including:
higher death rate
They also point out that research has identified two other factors that are strongly associated with oversleeping—depression and low socioecomonic status.
The implication, by contrast, is very clear. While the lazybones is starving in poverty, the ant has plenty. She gathered the harvest, laid aside stores for winter, and when the winter comes, she has all she needs because she worked when it was time to work.
Application: Enjoy the rewards of hard work.
It’s not wrong to work hard and have nice things, or go on nice trips, or enjoy the benefits of having extra financial resources. It’s not a sin to be wealthy! The problem is not having wealth, the problem arises when we worship wealth—when our whole lives become about having more, getting more, working more.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor, and remember to thank God and give glory to Him as you do so.
Put work in its place. Work only works when it’s in the right place in your life.
Two ways we view work
Work is your god (identity, purpose, significance, self-justification).
Work is your curse (burden, stress, depression, despair).
But both these ways lead to the same end: enslavement.
Jesus offers a better way:
Find your life in Christ, and let Him turn your work into a calling and a contribution to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In sin, work became toil. In Christ, work becomes worship for the glory of God and the common good.
Principles for Developing a Wise Work Ethic
Learn by example.
Choose to have a good attitude about work.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Put work in its place—under Christ.