Is work a necessary evil or a source for satisfaction and success? It depends on how you approach it. What does the Bible say about the results of hard work?
“Don’t work too hard!”
We’ve heard it many times. Whether we take that statement seriously or not, though, we face decisions every workday of our lives: Will I work? Will I work hard? Will I take it easy?
As we will see, the decisions we make and the actions we take will have a huge impact on our lives and our futures.
Many types of hard work
First, though, what do we mean by hard work?
When people think of hard work, they may have different pictures in their minds. One might think of manual labor, sweat on the brow, calluses on the hands and tired muscles. Another might think of working at a computer for long hours. Still others might picture being on their feet all day long, serving others in whatever way their jobs dictate. And some might picture having to travel to meet customers and enduring long meetings.
All of these pictures can certainly be examples of hard work. Hard work isn’t just how many calories we expend or even how many hours we invest, but how diligently we put forth effort to accomplish the job we have to do. This can definitely involve sweat and long hours, but it can also involve learning and working smarter to do a better job more efficiently.
What does God say about work?
In the middle of the Fourth Commandment, God says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Deuteronomy 5:13).
The Bible shows that God intended for us to work and to gain fulfillment and satisfaction from doing so. Work is to be a major part of our lives. It is one of the main factors in a happy, well-rounded life. It is a key to personal fulfillment as well as financial security.
There has to be a balance between work, family, worship and pleasure. But without hard work, a person’s life will become shallow and out of balance.
God has a lot to say in the Bible about work, our attitude toward it and the results of it in our lives. These are timeless principles that apply in any age.
Ants vs. laziness
Consider this fascinating analogy recorded by wise King Solomon: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).
There is a lesson here for us if we find ourselves tending to be lazy! Hard workers are known to those around them. They have good reputations. Can we train ourselves to be diligent and to consistently work hard? Similarly, can we as parents teach our children the importance of hard work?
Notice what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 24:30-32. “I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction.”
If you were an employer looking for someone to do an important job, which candidate would you choose to do it? The person whose belongings are well cared for, or someone whose property is run-down? Experience tells us the answer is the one who diligently cares for the things he has.
Proverbs 10:26 tells us, “As vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy man to those who send him.” Employers want employees who will work diligently even when they (like the ant) are unsupervised.
“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor” (Proverbs 12:24). Supervisory positions and jobs with more responsibility (and jobs that pay more) will be given to those who have proven themselves with hard and consistent work.
Another verse backs this up. “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 13:4). Financial well-being can so often be traced back directly to hard work and constant, faithful diligence. It was true in Solomon’s time, and it is true today.
We can find a lot of excuses to hold back and take it easy. There are difficulties that can stand in our way. Some may seem like such good excuses! But listen to Proverbs 26:13: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’”
Solomon replied in the next verse, “As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed.” Sometimes we just have to face the challenges head-on with courage and determination, and not shrink from them.
Some might say, “My job doesn’t amount to very much. It’s just not important.” Many find themselves in jobs that are boring and not challenging at all. But what should our attitude be? We don’t know our future. We don’t know what opportunities may appear.
Jesus Christ pointed out a principle about how He prepares us for greater responsibilities. He said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Will you be ready when opportunity knocks? Will you have proven yourself a good candidate for more responsibility? Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
We can apply these good habits in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps you are unemployed. If so, work hard at getting a job. Take good care of whatever property you may have. If you are a stay-at-home mother, you already know you have plenty to do. Do it well. Work at it diligently. Teach your children these principles too. The payoff will be apparent for them later on.
The blessing of work
Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). We have a working God and a working Savior. They set the pattern for us. They show us how to have a happy, full life.
A large portion of our life will be spent working. It’s the way God designed it. It’s not something we should look at as burdensome. It’s something we should enjoy as a blessing God has given us.
Solomon paints the picture for us in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
Sowing success: hard work pays
We reap what we sow! That’s in the Bible too (Galatians 6:7). We all have choices to make. How will we spend our lives? Hard work, drive and determination are going to be necessary in order to succeed in any endeavor we may undertake. But God has made us so that we can find pleasure, fulfillment and happiness as byproducts of work.
Our own nature may want to take us toward laziness, slothfulness or taking shortcuts. But our nature can be overcome! We can change. We can seek God’s help to live life His way. And if we persevere, we will see the benefits and the enjoyment appear in our lives. Our families, our friends, our neighbors and, indeed, our nations will all benefit.
Hard work pays in the end—in so many ways!
For related articles on wise use of our resources, see the other articles in this “Finances” section.