[Mike recently preached a series called “Take a Stand,” centering on the Judeo-Christian Ethic. He didn’t have enough weeks to preach to include this particular ethic, so we thought we might address it here.]
It All Started With Adam“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it . . . 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (Gen 2:15 & 19)
It all started with Adam. God created him and gave him a job to do. God didn’t just put Adam down here to be idle. He gave him the job of working in and caring for the garden. And then he got to name all the living creatures as well. That sounds like fun to me!“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Prov 6:6)
Have you ever watched an ant? I did a little research and here’s what I found: Ants are very organized, very hard workers. Their body parts are characteristic of the job they have to do, revealing the masterful design of their Creator. For instance, soldier ants are made to defend their colony. Their heads are large. Their jaws are like swords. They have a certain sting that secretes formic acid. Worker ants carry food and help to build the nest for their colony. They have smaller heads and a different type of jaw than the soldier ants. Queens have the purpose of reproduction, therefore they are much larger than the other ants. Ants are very industrious. The only lazy ant is a dead ant. You never see an ant sitting still. Perhaps they do sometimes, but they’re probably somewhere deep in their anthill resting where we don’t see them.For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)
We also have different gifts and talents to accomplish different works that God has prepared for us to do. Our friend, Randy Gladden shared about his singing ability. He said, “When I get to heaven and start singing, God will probably say, ‘Hey Randy, why don’t you go over there and burn some incense instead?’” Music is not one of his gifts. Does that make him any less than a Jim Bean? Of course not – they just have different gifts. We’re all made differently! Some of us have more compassion than others have. Some are better at leadership. Some have gifts of organization. Some of us are great with children. Others should stay as far away from children as possible! (LOL)Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. (Prov 10:4-5)
The son who gathers in the summer is not waiting until the last minute to harvest. He’s out watching and waiting for the ripening of his crops –he’s ready to gather at all times. This diligent son has a work ethic. It is a heart issue – a worldview that affects his decisions and actions. The sleeping son displays the opposite of that ethic. He is unaware. He disdains the value of the crop by neglecting it. This, the proverb says, is disgraceful.He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. (Prov 12:11)
A certain amount of fantasy can be a good thing – just like a certain amount of food or medicine is a good thing. Fantasy is needed for creativity. Edison probably would never have invented the light bulb if he hadn’t dreamed up the idea in the first place, then worked and worked on it until he made it work! Writers, musicians, artists, etc. all need some imagination to be able to create. God is a creative God. He has made us creative too! He has given us our imagination. It’s a tool we can use to create and form useful, beautiful and edifying things. Fantasy cannot have such outcomes without adding diligence and hard work to it. So the formula becomes: Imagination + diligence + hard work = a positive outcome.
However, there is some imagination that is fruitless. — that’s what Proverbs 12:11 is talking about. Consider the following time-wasters: Romance or mystery novels, soap operas, video games, television, etc. Now I like all of these things. I could easily let myself get hooked on them – and I HAVE been hooked on a few in the past. I have wasted days, weeks, and probably months of time on these things.
I know someone who is studying the Klingon language. Do you know who the Klingons are? They are an imaginary race of aliens in the Star Trek television and film series. They are not real people. Klingonese is not a real language. But this man is trying to learn their language. What kind of fruit can be borne from such a pursuit? Its only value is one of entertainment.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have entertainment in our lives. I’m saying that entertainment shouldn’t dominate and control our lives. If you find that your life is centered around entertainment, that you schedule your time and priorities around it, that you resent intrusions upon it, perhaps you should consider re-evaluating your lifestyle.Daydreams, demanding all your time Trying to fill your mind with
Things you just don’t need Remember, you’ve been freed From the things that would weigh you down, Keep you from the winner’s crown. (From Never Turn Around, by Jamie Owens Collins)
Daydreams can be time-wasters. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. But let’s dream about things that will be fruitful – and then let’s set some goals and accomplish those dreams – especially the dreams and visions that the Lord has given to us. If you’re spending a lot of time on fantasy – remember that God lives in reality!One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Prov 18:9)
Years ago my son worked at a hospital in the house-keeping department. Some of the employees in that department got mad at him because he worked hard and fast. They thought he made them look bad. He would be finished with his tasks long before the others, and long before his shift was over. He actually called me from work – bored. This verse says that people who are slack in their work are “brothers” to those who destroy.
Think about this: When the hospital hires people who are slack in their work, they pay more people for more hours to do less work. Why don’t they hire hard workers who would do more work in less time? Wouldn’t that be more cost-effective for them? Because they have to pay out more for less – doesn’t that end up making their products and services cost more? Do they bring correction to the lazy ones, or do they settle for the status quo? This happens everywhere in the USA–factories, hospitals, businesses, schools. Our work ethic has been seriously diminished. And the economy has gone the same way. Are we training people to be diligent? to work hard? to actually earn the money they are paid? Or are we (by default) training them that they can make a good wage for very little effort? This is a major part of the destruction of our culture. And we wonder why our jobs are sent overseas. We wonder why prices are driven higher and higher. Could it be because of this destructive trend of “being slack in our work”?
The Biblical Work Ethic
[This section is modified from Gary Cornell’s Judeo-Christian Ethic]
A good work ethic used to be deeply ingrained within the American spirit. There was an eagerness to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. There was a satisfaction and a sense of pride for hard work and the achievement of a job well done. This nation’s greatness is due to the ingenuity and sweat of the working men and women throughout our history.By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)
Scripture says God rested. It does NOT say that he retired or quit. He is still on the job!
The Apostle Paul also showed his work ethic to the church at Ephesus:I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:33-35)
And he also wrote about it to the church at Thessalonica:Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order to not be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. (I Thess 2:9)
Paul used his skill as a tentmaker to provide for himself and others rather than be a burden to the people he was teaching. He made a point of emphasizing this work ethic in his letter to the Colossian church:Whatever you do, work at it with ALL your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:23-24)
Christians should be the best, most responsible considerate workers on the earth. We should strive for excellence, going beyond the minimum of what is expected of us. Why? Because we are working for the Lord Himself, even if our work is at a secular job with an inconsiderate boss!Slaves (employees), obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (Eph 6:5-8)
Problems can occur when we view work only as an opportunity for self-satisfaction and personal success. Work is an opportunity to be a positive image-bearer of God. Loyalty, submission to authority, and participatory management are important parts of the Biblical work ethic.
There is great personal satisfaction that comes from doing a job well. This fulfillment is based upon our desire to please God. We were made to work, and we are fulfilling one of the purposes of God when we do it – and do it well.
This principle applies to both management and employee. A spirit of cooperation and mutual support should trump any tendency toward selfishness and antagonism. Then, a true spirit of trust is fostered instead of a spirit of anger or fear.
This principle replaces our tendency to focus on ourselves. We should always remember that God is in control. This should help us to control our circumstances instead of being controlled by them.
Glory or Shame?
We bring either glory to shame to God through our work. As those who are called by the name, “Christian” we should work excellently, doing the best we can do, no matter what the circumstances. Christians should be the best employees, the best bosses, the best managers, the best leaders on the face of the earth!