Summary: Work - we’ll get God’s perspective on it - on why we do it and how we are to do it, and we’ll also talk about some of the practicalities of the kind of work that we do.


Could you put your hand up please if you get paid to work? And those who don’t get paid - if you do housework, or some type of volunteer work? I would have thought that everyone would have their hand up because everyone works. Children have schoolwork, and homework. Almost everyone has housework of some kind. Some people even get paid to work. Raising families is work. You hear a bit on the TV every now and again about the value of "home duties". When people ask me if my wife works, my answer these days is that she does not participate in paid employment.

How do you view work? If you were to classify work somewhere between absolute drudgery and it being the highest ideal to which we can aspire, where would you place it? Some may consider work as drudgery - whether it’s your work you get paid for, or housework. Some may see paid work in terms of money - as a way of purchasing a lifestyle you’d like to become accustomed to. For some it may be a way to satisfy your ego and receive recognition. Some of you may see work as a way to use and develop skills, or a way to accomplish something meaningful with your life. Others may consider work as a way to serve humanity. Many of us would experience each of those feelings about work at different times.


Because work is important, people have had some things to say about it over the years. Let me see if any of these strike a chord with you:

- Confucius said, "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

- "There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group - there is less competition." - Indira Ghandi

- One for our retirees, "Cessation of work is not accompanied by cessation of expenses." - Cato The Elder

- "I am his mistress. His work is his wife." - Marion Javits

- "I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." - Jerome K. Jerome

- "Every job has drudgery, whether it is in the home, in the school, or in the office. The first secret of happiness is the recognition of this fundamental fact." - M. C. Mcintosh

- "Work either expands or contracts in order to fill the time available." - Parkinson’s Law

- "When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die." - Eleanor Roosevelt

- "A woman’s work is never done, especially the part she asks her husband to do." - Source Unknown

Some of these quotes idealise the concept of work, whilst others display a degree of cynicism about it. We all have good days, we all have bad days. Work is something we have to live with and so how can we make it easier to live with?

Today’s sermon is about work. We’ll get God’s perspective on it - on why we do it and how we are to do it, and we’ll also talk about some of the practicalities of the kind of work that we do. I don’t plan to make any real distinction between people who get paid compared to those who don’t, not to those who have retired from full-time paid employment - so you all have to listen.



However you perceive work, I want us to look at what the Bible says about it. Genesis chapters 1-3 provide the first clues. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created". The first words we read in the Bible are that God created. He worked. It was a creative work, but it was work nonetheless. And "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work."

But God’s work continued and continues today. Psalm 121 reminds us that "he who watches over you will not slumber". Psalm 104, which we read earlier, is a celebration of the Creator and his creation and highlights God’s continuing provision for this world.

Jesus, too, worked and works. He was a carpenter ’til age 30 and then he saved the world. John 5:17 says, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."


God works, and we are made in his image. God’s instructions to man in Genesis 1 were, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said, ’’I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

Work is a creation ordinance. It was ordained at creation before Adam and Eve sinned. It wasn’t rescinded after the fall, but work was made more difficult. "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of 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." With the effect of sin, man went from gardener to farmer.


We get a somewhat more cynical and worldlier view of work from Ecclesiastes. Let’s listen in as the writer laments his lot in life (Ecclesiastes 2): "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This ... is meaningless. A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God."

The problem highlighted by the writer of Ecclesiastes is one we all recognise - the search for meaning and value. The writer is meeting secular man on the secular playing field and concludes that there is no lasting significance in work. According to the author, any attempt to find that significance in work will lead to eventual disappointment. All we can hope for in our mortal coil is to find some satisfaction in what we do.

The Proverbs portray a view of work where application is rewarded and laziness is criticised. But they also remind us that work is not always meaningful, or useful or enjoyable.

And yet work is to be a collaborative effort between God and us - "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain."


Within the New Testament there is ample exhortation to work. The passage that Anne read is one such case, "We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you ... when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ’If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’"


A Biblical view of work is that it is something we need to participate in, but that raises additional questions as to why we need to work and how we are to work.

Firstly, and as we’ve seen, God made us to work. He wants us to work. Ephesians 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Our value must stem from our relationship to God. We are valuable in his sight. We need to value ourselves by who we are, not by what we do. And in so doing, the work that we do - whether paid or unpaid, whether perceived as valuable in the world’s sight or not, should be a response to God’s grace.

We work to bring glory to God. We are to do everything to bring glory to God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

In a similar vein, we work to serve God. Colossians 3 (23-24), "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ... It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

We work to support our families and ourselves. As we’ve heard from 2 Thessalonians, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

We work to help those who cannot help themselves. Within our society are people who cannot work. It is partly our responsibility to assist them. Not those who will not work, but those who cannot work. Ephesians 4:28, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need."

We work to support ministry in this church and in other places. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ’Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ’The worker deserves his wages.’"

We also work to develop and demonstrate stewardship over what God has given us. Matthew 25 describes the parable of the talents where those who have proven faithful and fruitful are told, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!"

Finally, we work as witnesses to and for God. We are salt and light. Matthew 5:16: "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." One of the books I referred to for this sermon put it like this, "The non-Christian people in the marketplaces of the world develop their opinions of Jesus Christ and His church by observing Christians as they perform their day-to-day responsibilities. They neither know nor care how we act on Sunday morning inside the four walls of the church building." (Management: A Biblical Approach by Myron Rush)

And so we have many compelling answers to the why and how of work:

- to glorify and serve God

- to support our families and those in our community who cannot support themselves

- to facilitate ministry

- to demonstrate good stewardship of what God provides

and to be salt and light in the world.

These can be summarised into two primary reasons - to glorify God, and to serve humanity. When we work in such ways then the work we are doing is valuable both now and forever.


God blesses hard work and conscientiousness, but he doesn’t expect us to work ourselves into the ground or to be so devoted to our work that our families suffer since that is why he instituted the Sabbath - a rest every seven days. Exodus 20 reminds us of the Sabbath - the necessity for regular rest, worship and fellowship: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God." God tells us to work six days, but generally our jobs are five days a week. The extra day, usually Saturday is to do that stuff around the house or yard.

These days we have a 35 or 40 hour week by legislation, yet many work 50 to 60 hours or more each week. Steve Biddulph is a family therapist and author of a number of best-selling books including "Raising Boys" and "Manhood". He believes that any man who works more than 55 hours a week will find it difficult to have any positive influence on his family or to be relevant to his children. Those 55 hours include travelling time.



But how should we spend those less than 55 hours per week? There are some jobs that, in my opinion, Christians should not participate in. Some examples would be professions that are illegal, or that promote illegal behaviour. Others are a lighter shade of grey like working for Star City or the TAB.

But we all face moral decisions in our work that require us to exercise wisdom. For example, what if you worked in a newsagent that sold pornographic material? Or being an accountant where you are occasionally aware that certain practices are employed that take a liberal interpretation of the law. What about an engineer who is aware that substandard materials are being used, or the person on the factory floor who sees that safety precautions are not adhered to for the sake of expediency or reduced costs? We are to be salt and light.


One of the distinguishing features of the Reformation was the recognition of the sanctity of all legitimate work. Because we live in God’s creation, and since this creation has value to God, then any work that we do, if it is not morally wrong has value to God. We don’t need to segregate what we may consider to be sacred from secular employment since "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it". You see our Christian faith has sanctified every occupation if we seek to serve and glorify God through it. You may be an ordained physiotherapist, or an ordained nurse, or ordained secretary, or ordained council worker or ordained office assistant. And I must mention ordained housewives and househusbands and ordained retirees. If we seek to glorify God, and serve humanity, then we are ordained to do the work that God has prepared for us to do.

But do different types of work have different values? Can we say that a Doctor’s work is more valuable than a garbologists? That an accountant’s efforts are more or less worthy of the Kingdom than a teachers are? No. We need to realise that neither money nor skills are measures of real worth. We are to define ourselves by who we are, not by what we do, and for many of us our significance is primarily determined by our relationship with Jesus Christ and within the body of Christ, we are all equal.


But what about clergy, how does the value of their work compare to other work? I must admit that this issue that has bugged me for many years.

A few weeks ago we looked at 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul speaks about us being the body of Christ. He writes, "in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers" etc. Paul emphasises an order of tasks with the primacy of apostles, prophets and teachers; but he also states that within the body, there is an equality of persons. All members of the body of Christ are equally valuable. Whilst the tasks that some people perform take priority, that is no reflection on the people doing or not doing those tasks. We should each seek to work to utilise our skills and gifts and for some that means full-time work, and for others it entails full-time ministry.

If we consider those amongst us who are in paid ministry positions, they can do so only because we don’t. It is only through our individual financial support of them that they are able to commit themselves to this exercise of service and ministry.


Coming back to the purposes of work, I indicated that these were:

- to glorify and serve God

- to support our families and those who cannot support themselves

- to facilitate ministry

- to show that we are good stewards of what God provides, and

- to be salt and light in the world.

We need to evaluate our work, whatever it may be, in the light of these purposes. Any work that we do that supports our families, and those in our community, and facilitates ministry, and displays good stewardship, and where we can be salt and light is good work because it glorifies and serves God. The support of those in need, or of ministry does not have to be financial. I know that a number of people within this church help out on a volunteer basis with Anglicare, and CMS, and Mothers’ Union, and the Gideons, and I’m sure there are others. Some are paid for part-time employment and are involved in ministry on other days.

Earlier I said that I was not going to draw any significant distinction between people who get paid for what they do as compared to those who don’t whether through retirement or otherwise. The reason is because I believe these Biblical imperatives apply to all regardless of your employment status.

If you undertake "home duties" or are retired, then there is perhaps more scope for you in some of these areas, less in others. There are many organisations both within and outside the church that are continually looking for volunteers. There are also ways where you can serve God through this church in ministry or administrative roles. All you need to do is ask. There are some organisations whose sole purpose is to fill volunteer roles. Equally, if you can serve God in a new way at this Church, have a chat to someone in leadership here.

Finally, we cannot, we must not define our worth by our careers or our wealth. We can measure our worth:

- by how well we support our families emotionally and spiritually

- by our willingness to be involved in ministry

- by our desire to help those who cannot support themselves

- to the extent that we are salt and light to our world

- but primarily by growing in faithfulness to our Lord and serving him because he served us by dying on the cross for us.

That is our work. May we have the faith, strength, wisdom and courage to do it well! Amen.

© Gary Bennett October, 1999

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version.

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission.