The Christian Work Ethic

January 23, 2013

The Christian Work Ethic

            Oh, come now, don’t tell me you don’t like that word “work.” The opposite of work is lazy.  Is that your preference?

Work is honorable.  From the very beginning the plan of God has been that we should work.  God made the first man, Adam, and put him in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 2:15 says, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” The word “dress” means to work.  Likewise the word “keep” means to guard and protect.  I can imagine that the Garden of Eden must have been beautiful, but even so it needed man’s attention to keep it in order.  In the garden were all manner of fruits.  Those of you who are gardeners know that it takes work to maintain a garden.  Grapes and raspberries would need to be pruned.  Then as now, no doubt someone would need to pick up the green, wormy apples and pears that fall from the trees and dispose of them.  Because of Adam’s sin, the ground was cursed (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam still had to go on working.

As a child I learned the work ethic.  I grew up on a farm where there is always work to be done.  Almost from the time I learned to walk, my mother took me with her to the hen house to help her gather the eggs.  My father took me to the pasture with him to help bring the cows home when it was time to milk them.  It wasn’t long before they taught me how to milk cows and gather corn cobs in a fruit basket to burn in the kitchen stove.  They didn’t pay me wages for my work.  “Why”, you say, “That’s child labor.  Your parents could have been convicted and sent to prison for that!”  No, they were teaching me what all parents should teach their children.  I didn’t expect any pay.  We were family and we all had to work to get things done.

Years ago, when farming was the leading industry in this country, couples saw the need of having a number of children.  The children  helped with the farm work.  Boys, from an early age, helped their fathers in the fields.  The girls helped hoe weeds in the garden and can fruits and vegetables for food in the winter.  They didn’t pay their children for their work.   Their parents prospered because their children helped them.  When their children were old enough to marry, their parents were able to buy them land and help them get started in farming.

Again I say, “Work is honorable.” In my concordance of the Bible the word “work” takes up more than three full columns.  That should tell us that work is important to God. A man has esteem if he works to provide for the needs of his family.  That’s the way it should be.  It is an emotional trauma for a family man to lose his job.

It’s unfortunate that our culture has stripped the stigma from being unemployed.  Millions are now able to live by means of government entitlements.  They like to think they are entitled to them because they lost their job or because they are poor.  What would they do if there were no such thing as unemployment checks?

There are societies that exist without a welfare program.  How is it possible?  To be sure, there are those who aren’t able to work because of health reasons.  In past decades people’s health care needs were usually met by means of charity.  Granted, that might be impossible in our day because of the unrealistically inflated health care costs.  That’s another subject.

How about those who lose their jobs?  In Argentina we saw what was done.  It wasn’t unusual to see   men in the street with a garland of garlic around their neck.  As they walked the streets they sang out their wares.  Others did the same with a bundle of brooms over their shoulders.  Many times we bought household cleaning supplies from men and women who rang our door bell.  Here in our country what would keep a fellow from ringing door bells and offering to wash people’s cars for $5-10.

Many young people today don’t have any skills to offer in the job market because they never had initiative to study and learn a skill.  Our welfare system has made it possible for millions to live without job skills.  They aren’t worried about being without a job because they can always apply for unemployment.  There is little stigma attached to going from being a maker of wealth to being a taker of wealth.  (See my article entitled “The Makers And Takers Of Wealth” under “Various themes.”)

It was the Christian work ethic that made this country what it was.  Thank God, there are still those who have it, but with every new generation there are less who are willing to work.  Civilizations rise and fall.  The cause of the fall of a civilization is not always the same.  No doubt one of the causes of the fall of our civilization will be because of the lack of the work ethic.  A civilization cannot long exist without it.

Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11).  That has always been true.  It’s no disgrace to be poor if it is because of reasons beyond our control. On the other hand, if it’s because of our own indolence, we have no right to expect mercy or charity from others.  The Bible says in II Thessalonians 3:10 “If any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but he also said, “Son, go work today in my vineyard” (Matthew 21:28). Jesus exemplified the work ethic when he was here on earth.  In John 5:17 he said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” At the end of his earthly life he was able to say to his Father “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”

Because Jesus finished his work it is possible for us to have forgiveness for our sins and the assurance of a place in heaven.  Jesus said, in John 14:2-3,6 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Have you taken advantage of the work Jesus did on the cross for you?


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