Life and Work
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.(John 4:34)
The highest manifestation of the Divine Being is in His work. In His work, Christ showed forth His own glory and that of the Father. It was because of the work He had done- and because in it He had glorified the Father- that He claimed to share the glory of the Father in heaven. The greater works He was to do in answer to the prayer of the disciples was that the Father might be glorified in the Son. Work is indeed the highest form of existence, the highest manifestation of the Divine glory in the Father and in His Son.
What is true of God is true of His creature. Life is movement, life is action, and life reveals itself in what it accomplishes. The bodily life, the intellectual, the moral, the spiritual life- individual, social, national life- each of these is judged of by its work. The character and quality of the work depends on the life as the life, so the work. And, on the other hand the life depends on the work, without this there can be no full development and manifestation and perfecting of the life as the work, so the life.
This is especially true of the spiritual life- the life of the Spirit in us. There may be a great deal of religious work with its external activities, the outcome of human will and effort, with but little true worth and power, because the Divine life is feeble. When the believer does not know that Christ is living in him, does not know the Spirit and power of God working in him, there may be much earnestness and diligence, with little that lasts for eternity. There may, on the contrary, be much external weakness and apparent failure, and yet results prove that the life is indeed of God.
The work depends upon the life. And the life depends on the work for its growth and perfection.
Everything that God created was for His glory and He is glorified through the work and actions of His creation.
For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him.
It is through the activity of creation that God is glorified. In nature, He is glorified as the sun, moon and stars shine and reflect His glory, the trees and flowers reveal His beauty, and the animals in their unique creation make known His creative power.
David the psalmist captures this thought in Psalm 8:
O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth! You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens. When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have established, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!
The idea of work and activity in God’s creation is well presented in the Bible and there is an encouragement to be engaged in both. This is not to say that we become so busy with the work of this life that we do not become involved in the work of eternity. We must guard against the trap of being engaged in busy work for the sake of being busy. Our work must have a significant purpose, especially the work of the church and the people of God. On the other hand we are not to be idle. In the Garden of Eden, in Paradise, Adam and Eve were given the work of maintaining the Garden. Although it must have not been as hard as work is now, nonetheless, it was work and their work and life were intertwined. We know that Christ worked, first naturally as a carpenter in Joseph’s shop and then doing the work of His Heavenly Father. The disciples were at work when Jesus called them, first as “fishers of fish” and then as “fishers of men.”
Both the writer of proverbs and in the writings of Paul we are warned of the danger of idleness.
Let’s begin our discourse about work In Genesis:
So the Lord God took the man [He had made] and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.
In Proverbs we find quite a discussion concerning work:
Go to the ant, O lazy one; Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Overseer or ruler, She prepares her food in the summer And brings in her provisions [of food for the winter] in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O lazy one? When will you arise from your sleep [and learn self-discipline]? “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to lie down and rest”— So your poverty will come like an approaching prowler who walks [slowly, but surely] And your need [will come] like an armed man [making you helpless].
He who gathers during summer and takes advantage of his opportunities is a son who acts wisely, But he who sleeps during harvest and ignores the moment of opportunity is a son who acts shamefully.
He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who follows worthless things lacks common sense and good judgment.
The soul (appetite) of the lazy person craves and gets nothing [for lethargy overcomes ambition], But the soul (appetite) of the diligent [who works willingly] is rich and abundantly supplied.
In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty.
Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], And your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance]. The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked [according to their role] for the day of evil.
He who is careless in his work Is a brother to him who destroys.
The lazy man does not plow when the winter [planting] season arrives; So he begs at the [next] harvest and has nothing [to reap].
Do you see a man skillful and experienced in his work? He will stand [in honor] before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.
I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man lacking understanding and common sense; And, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns, And nettles were covering its surface, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I considered it well; I looked and received instruction. “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest [and daydream],” Then your poverty will come as a robber, And your want like an armed man.
In the writings of Paul we find these instructions:
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined or inappropriate manner when we were with you [we were never idle or lazy, nor did we avoid our duties], nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we worked night and day [to pay our own way] so that we would not be a financial burden on any of you [for our support]; not because we do not have a right to such support, but [we provided our own financial support] to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even while we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. Indeed, we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined and inappropriate life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies [meddling in other people’s business]. Now such people we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work quietly and earn their own food and other necessities [supporting themselves instead of depending on the hospitality of others].
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve.
James will say to us that our faith is dead unless it is accompanied by work:
What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] But someone may say, “You [claim to] have faith and I have [good] works; show me your [alleged] faith without the works [if you can], and I will show you my faith by my works [that is, by what I do].” But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? Was our father Abraham not [shown to be] justified by works [of obedience which expressed his faith] when he offered Isaac his son on the altar [as a sacrifice to God]? You see that [his] faith was working together with his works, and as a result of the works, his faith was completed [reaching its maturity when he expressed his faith through obedience]. You see that a man (believer) is justified by works and not by faith alone [that is, by acts of obedience a born-again believer reveals his faith]. For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead.
We can conclude then that our work is a reflection of who we are. Proverbs, Paul, and James link our hearts and faith with the outward conduct of work and actions. Just as the glory of God is reflected in the sunshine of the sun, so then is His glory reflected in our actions. That there is much to be done in this world for the kingdom of God is obvious. That there is a need for workers is equally obvious and that many believers are so occupied with this life only has contributed to this great need.
Jesus said it this way:
When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion and pity for them, because they were dispirited and distressed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is [indeed] plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world [giving guidance through My word and works].”
27 Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures [and leads] to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you; for God the Father has authorized Him and put His seal on Him.” Then they asked Him, “What are we to do, so that we may habitually be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.”
May God give us grace to become productive workers in the kingdom of God, laborers of the harvest and may we sense the urgency of doing so while it is day knowing that night is coming.
Dr. John Thompson