Today is Labor Day. Although this day was set aside to honor trade and labor organizations, I believe it is a day when Christians can also consider how they view work and labor. The Bible has quite a bit to say about how we are to view work, and so I devote part of a chapter in my book, Making the Most of Your Money, to a biblical view of work.
First, we are to work unto the Lord in our labors. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” We may have an earthly master (or boss) but ultimately, we are working for our heavenly Master.
Second, work is valuable. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” He also warns in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
The Proverbs talk about the importance and benefits of work. Proverbs 12:11 says, “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat.” And Proverbs 14:23 says, “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
The Greeks and Romans looked upon manual work as a menial task that was only for slaves (or else for people of lower classes). The biblical view of work changed that ancient view because work and labor were combined with the idea of vocation and calling.
These ideas were reinforced in the Middle Ages through the gild movement and even expanded during the Reformation. Martin Luther, for example, taught that all work can be done for the glory of God. John Calvin taught that all should work because they were to serve as God’s instruments on earth. This led to what today is called the Protestant work ethic.