We often recite the Lord's Prayer (Mat 6:9-13) without giving it a lot of thought. Have you ever wondered how God answers our prayer, 'Give us today our daily bread?' I think He answers with the gift of work. Indeed, regarding work, I think God ordains it, sustains it, inspires it, and requires it.
God ordains work in the Creation Mandate. In Gen 1:28 we see that God blessed Adam and Eve, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion (over all the earth)'. This means far more than 'Have lots of babies'. Filling the earth, subduing the earth, and having dominion all require intelligent work as we use the resources that God placed in the earth to produce goods and services that contribute to human flourishing. God left plenty of work to do in the garden! He put Adam and Eve in the garden to 'tend and keep' it (Genesis 2:15, 18). Work is fundamentally about stewardship and its purpose is to fill the earth with the 'garden' (the Genesis beginning) and to develop it into a 'city' (the Revelation ending).
God ordains work and he sustains it. In Deut 8:18 we see that it is God who gives us 'power' to create wealth. He created us as beings who are able to work creatively. In Deut 28:8-12 God commits to blessing our work: 'The Lord will command the blessing... in all to which you set your hand... The Lord will... bless all the work of your hand.'
God also inspires our work. One of my personal favourite scriptures is Is 28:23-29 which describes the tasks of the farmer. God declares, 'For He instructs (the farmer) in right judgment, His God teaches him... (God) is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.' God certainly does not leave us on our own to work!
God ordains, sustains and inspires our work. He also requires it.:
- 'Six days you shall labour and do all your work...' (Deut 5:13)
- 'If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat' (2 Thes 3:10-12)
- 'But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever'. (1 Tim 5:8)
This is a bit scary, for the consequences of indolence are severe indeed, not only temporal (2 Thes 3:10-12), but possibly eternal too (1 Tim 5:8).
Questions for discussion
1. In your experience does work appear to be a blessing?
2. Is all work 'good' work?
3. Do you think that the Fall (Adam and Eve's sin in Gen 3) affected work?
4. Does work have to be paid to be biblical?
5. What is the biblical response to people who, for reasons beyond their control, are not able to work? (Hint: Consider the tithe of the third year, the Old Testament law of gleaning, and the New Testament references to support for widows.)