I come from the stereotypical West Virginian family: a coal-miner dad and stay-at-home mom. If you haven’t been around a coal miner before, let me tell you that they’re some of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet.
As a kid, I remember my dad working long into the wee hours of the night to provide for our family. When things didn’t work out at a coal mine for different reasons, my dad did whatever it took to make ends meet. He would take on construction gigs or drive long-haul trucks for days on end. I can still remember as a child and teenager that my dad was gone a lot, working long and hard hours to support his family.
My dad didn’t gamble away his money or pick up cool hobbies to pass the time. He worked outside of the house long hours, and he worked around our home to fix things that were broken and needed to be repaired.
In looking back on my childhood, I can see the grace of God at work in our family through my dad who worked diligently to take care of his family.
I’m not sure where my dad stood in relationship to Jesus or understanding the scriptures about work during this time, but I know he understood the value of hard work and doing what it takes to make sure his family had food on the table, clothes on their back, and a roof over their head.
Work in the Bible
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” —Genesis 2:15
God created us to work. Not in a sadistic sense to do his bidding or face his wrath. But to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living creature (Gen. 1:28). In other words, all of life, culture, and work is to reflect the beauty and glory of God. This is emphasis of scriptures about work throughout the Bible.
Whether you’re a pastor, construction worker, elementary teacher, entrepreneur, or stay-at-home mom, work is rooted in God’s good creation, and it's to reflect his glory. We see this plainly laid out in the verse mentioned above (Gen. 2:15).
Jesus himself was a carpenter, and his earthly dad, Joseph, was a carpenter, too. God himself even got his hands dirty when he made “man of dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:15; cf. 1:28).
Not only did God command us to work, but, being created in his image as a Creator, we are hardwired with a desire to create—to work.
This doesn’t mean that we’re able to create something out of nothing like God. Instead, we can create things out of something already created. From creating a meal out of multiple ingredients to building a house out of different materials, to varying degrees, we can create.
What is more, like God, we can bring order out of chaos. “The earth was without form and void… And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). As the Spirit of God brought order to creation, we too can bring order to the world we live in.
Governments can establish an orderly way of life and commerce. Counselors can bring order to a disorderly life. Engineers can create order out of the systems they develop. And when we clean, we bring order to chaos (well, at least at my house).
If work is so glorious, what's the deal?
Why does it have to feel so challenging?
Why are Mondays the worst?
Tragically, the goodness of work was twisted by sin. You see, not only did sin enter the human heart through Adam’s disobedience, but sin has permeated the entirety of creation, including work itself.
Work was twisted by sin
In scriptures about work, we observe the presence of sin has corrupted the desire for the good work we were created to do, and it has made work itself difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). Here are three common temptations you'll face in your work.
1. Worship work
For you, you may be tempted to worship work as your idol. You will serve it gladly with long hours, bowing down to its demands despite the destruction it causes you or your family.
2. Reject work
Or, you might be tempted to reject work. Let’s face it; working is difficult. You’ll have carefree days, but there are seasons when you’ll feel tired and defeated. Whether you find work too challenging, or you struggle with laziness and worship rest and leisure, you’ll wrestle with a desire to reject work outright.
3. Twist work
Finally, you might be tempted to twist work. Have you been tempted to accept money under the table to push through a deal? Do you feel inclined to fudge the numbers on your sales quota? If you're a writer, have you plagiarized someone else's work? It doesn’t matter what type of work you do; you will face temptations to twist it with sin.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the three examples above, the presence of sin your life or the world doesn’t abolish your need for work. You can automate tasks or outsource responsibilities, but you’ll need to do work in some shape, way, fashion, or form.
Thankfully, you’re not left on your own to do this. In scriptures about work, we see that Jesus' goal is to redeem everything—including work (Col. 1:15-20)
3 things God says about work
Jesus has taken the “thorns and thistles” we work among (Gen. 1:18), and he wore a crown of thorns on his head as a reminder that he is indeed the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
The crown of thorns the Roman soldiers placed on Jesus’ head with the intent of mocking him, turned out to be a picture of Jesus’ rule and reign as the one true King.
As Jesus works to redeem all things, he has redeemed your life through faith in him. He has delivered you from the penalty and power of sin, and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, you are empowered to redeem your work for the glory of God and the good of others.
In the words of Stephen Nichols, “Christ through his redemptive work undone what Adam did in the fall. And he restores to us the ability and the capacity to be image bearers as God intended us to be.”
In redeeming your work, here are three ways you will find God at work in you and through your work in scriptures about work.
1. Jesus is your boss
How do you work for your employer? Do you work for him or her as you would work for Jesus? It’s easy for our eyes of faith to become glassy at work, and forget who it is we work for.
Jesus may not be your crew leader. He may not be physically sitting in an office watching your every move, or the one signing your checks, but he is the one you work for. Paul had this in mind when he said, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).
The next time your boss reminds you of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, and you feel frustrated, angry, or not compelled to do your job, then take a moment, pray, seek God’s grace in Christ, and remember that it’s Jesus who you’re really working for.
2. God works through your work
What did you eat for breakfast?
Did you enjoy a bowl of warm oatmeal and a cup of hot coffee? How about a batch of scrambled eggs and bacon? Or, did you pick up something through a drive-thru on your way to work?
Regardless of what you ate this morning, countless people participated in God’s work of providing you your daily bread. From farmers who planted the seeds and truck drivers who transported your food to grocery store clerks who sold you what you ate and bankers who provide business with financial resources, numerous people, without even knowing each other, participate together in God’s work in providing for one another.
God is at work in your life and through your life in more ways than you can imagine. Even though you may not see how the work you do benefit others, know that God has chosen to work through you, your skills, and experience for the good of others.
3. You can trust God with your work
Are you stressed at work?
If you haven’t felt this way at one point in your life, you probably haven’t worked long enough.
There are many causes of stress at work. There’s crushing deadlines, conflict with your co-workers or manager, or you’re not compensated well for the work you do.
Regardless of what makes you feel stressed at work, you are free in Christ from anxiety, and you can trust God wholeheartedly to meet your needs, meet you in the storms of life, and work through you despite what’s going on around you.
What does the Bible say about work?
These essential truths only scratch the surface of what God says about work. In scriptures about work, we discover many ways our faith influences our work.
The Bible is God’s guide for your life. In the words of the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
Now, when you flip through the pages of the Bible, you’re not going to find a verse telling you what job you should take or where you should live. What you will discover are verses about work providing you with direction in the decisions you make and the work you pursue.
From what the Bible says about work to gaining clarity on your calling, you will find what you need to know to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).
Bible verses about work ethic
“You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns.” —Deuteronomy 24:14
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” —Proverbs 6:6-11
“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” —Proverbs 10:4
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” —Proverbs 12:11
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” —Proverbs 12:24
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” —Proverbs 13:4
“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” —Proverbs 14:23
“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” —Proverbs 19:15
“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’” —Proverbs 22:13
“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” —Proverbs 24:30-34
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” —Ecclesiastes 9:10
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honestwork with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” —Ephesians 4:28
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” —2 Thessalonians 3:10-11
Bible verses on career guidance
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” —Genesis 2:15
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” —Joshua 1:8
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” —Psalm 90:17
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” —Proverbs 3:5-6
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” —Proverbs 16:3
“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” —Proverbs 18:16
Bible verses about work problems
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” —Proverbs 12:1
“Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” —Proverbs 12:20
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” —Matthew 6:34
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” —Luke 6:35
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.:” —Ephesians 5:11
“And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” —1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Bible verses about working in the church
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” —Ephesians 4:11-12
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” —Galatians 6:10
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” —1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” —1 Timothy 3:1
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” —1 Peter 5:1-4
How have you seen God at work in your work or through your work? Share you experience in the comments below.