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What the Bible says about Work Ethic
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The Laodicean is not indifferent to making money or making his way in the world. He is not indifferent to improving himself through education or experience. Spending huge amounts of his time and energy pursuing his own interests, his problem is that he chooses the wrong priorities in life. He spends most of his time and energy achieving the wrong goals.

This pursuit of wrong goals restates the actual sin the Laodicean commits: idolatry, placing something above God in one's life. How? He serves himself within the church as if he did it for God. Perhaps he is involved in the work of God but only halfheartedly. Though probably attending Sabbath services faithfully, he is not personally involved with God on a day-to-day basis. He may serve within the church to be recognized, respected, maybe even ordained, forgetting that God called him to be a faithful and true witness of Him. Because he pays attention to the wrong things, his witness suffers terribly. Expending so much energy and enthusiasm in pursuing his own interests, he shows little or no interest in God or His goals. He is indifferent and lukewarm toward his relationship with God.

Because he has had such great success in amassing wealth, the Laodicean judges himself to be self-sufficient, which reveals that his faith is in what he can see, whether his own abilities or his wealth. He is not living by faith, but by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). To put more money in his pocket, he can become energetic, hard-working, and fervent, but he cannot seem to arouse himself about the things of God, which he cannot see. Such an attitude will incur the wrath of God every time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Genesis 3:17-19

Over the past several hundred years, the idea of a "work ethic" has captured the imagination of philosophers, theologians, and ordinary men and women. The fundamental principle in any ethic of labor is that hard work teaches certain virtues and enables people to advance beyond the circumstances of their birth. If a young street urchin desires, he can—through hard work and integrity—climb from welfare to well-paid. The "rags to riches" motif grew from this ethic of work.

In His curse on Adam, God tells the man that his entire existence—"all the days of your life"—would be filled with labor. He would have to work for every morsel of food that would pass between his lips or those of his family. He would have to wage war on the natural processes of nature, such as weather, weeds, insects, fungi, and disease, to reap a crop, and he would never be assured of success. He would sweat in work, and he would sweat in worry.

All of this fighting, as one would expect, would take its toll on him. The constant pressure to provide for his own would drive him to work harder, longer hours. He would be constantly exposed to the fickle elements, which would sap his vigor. All this work would age him prematurely, and one day in the midst of his labors, he would simply die and return to the dust that he had been fighting all his life.

But amidst this struggle would come something of eternal consequence. Notice the words of Solomon:

For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work grievous; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:22-24)

Solomon, knowing the human condition was a result of God's purpose, reveals that men can receive something good from his toilsome lot. Verse 26 lists three virtues we can derive from our labors: "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God."

A person who combines his work with a relationship with God will receive growth in character! On the other hand, a sinner, cut off from God, must endure the drudgery of the struggle, and the rewards of his work would eventually benefit the righteous, not himself!

Later, Solomon repeats his observation in chapter 3:

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. . . . I know there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. (verses 9-10, 12-13)

This seems to verify that God's curse on Adam is in the end a gift from Him! Why is this curse really a blessing? We find the answer in verse 11:

He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time [or, God times everything beautifully]. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

The curse, if properly used, can lead a man to merge his life with God's "work" or purpose, which leads to "eternity" or eternal life! Man, apart from God, has no idea what God is doing, but one with a relationship with Him will have it revealed to him—and he can then use this knowledge to "work out" his salvation (Philippians 2:12)! He can direct his labor along eternal lines.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)

Exodus 20:9

The majority of people, even many retired folks, have at least some kind of work to do on a daily basis. All of our work should be done in the six days beginning at the Saturday sunset and ending at the Friday sunset that begins the following Sabbath Day. As well as giving further instructions regarding how we should properly observe God's Sabbath Day, this verse also indicates the work ethic that God's people should possess.

Staff

Related Topics: Desire to Work | Hard Work | Sabbath | Work Ethic


 

Ecclesiastes 2:22-24

Solomon, knowing the human condition was a result of God's purpose, reveals that men can receive something good from his toilsome lot. Verse 26 lists three virtues we can derive from our labors: "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God."

A person who combines his work with a relationship with God will receive growth in character! On the other hand, a sinner, cut off from God, must endure the drudgery of the struggle, and the rewards of his work would eventually benefit the righteous, not himself!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)

Ephesians 4:28

God's intention is clear. We are to gain property and possessions by honest work and/or inheritance from those who have the right to give them. We must come into possession of things in a way God approves.

The verb "labor" indicates exertion to the point of exhaustion. In addition, Paul admonishes us not merely to work to satisfy our personal needs and desires, but also to be able to give freely any excess to others in need. The admonition implies distributing the excess personally rather than indirectly through an agency. He adds in Acts 20:35, "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Stealing is totally against the grain of God's way of life. Our God is a working, creating God (John 5:17), and we cannot be in His image if we are gaining possessions through stealing. In the spirit of God's law, a person not only steals by taking another's possessions, but also by refusing to work in order to share and give to others in need.

This commandment does not reach its fullest expression until the ninth and tenth are added to it. Stealing frequently has its genesis in a desire to have something one has no money to purchase, or the unwillingness to work patiently until one does. Deception then enters. A person will try to acquire a desired possession in such a way that others will think he procured it honorably. We can stop this sin at any point in the process, but few make any effort to restrain their lust, deceit, and itching fingers.

Robert Kahn was correct in saying, "There are a hundred ways to steal but only one way to be honest." In order not to steal, we must be scrupulously honest. What good is it if we are one-half or three-quarters honest? What if God was honest with us only part of the time? Could we trust Him? Can others really trust us if we are only partially honest? Do we lock our doors because we trust everybody? Thievery creates distrust, fear, and suspicion, destabilizing institutions and communities.

The reason we should refrain from stealing is not just to avoid sinning. This in itself is very good, but scrupulous honesty produces integrity, wholeness. Such integrity enables us to live confidently before God and man. The apostle John writes in I John 3:18-19: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." Personal integrity is a major source of positive, confident living.

A conscience can be either a good or bad guide because it is educated by an individual's experiences. Practicing scrupulous honesty builds character and educates the conscience in the right direction so that it will send the right prompting at the right time. We cannot allow ourselves room to rationalize stealing. We must be scrupulously honest always, or our character will descend on a path of degeneracy.

There are hundreds of ways to steal, and dozens of excuses for stealing, but only one way and one reason and one law of integrity. That way is honor, that reason is a clear conscience, and that law is God's. He says, "You shall not steal." Never. In any way. From any one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Eighth Commandment (1997)

Ephesians 4:28

Paul's command is clear and straightforward. We are to gain property and possessions by honest work—hard work, as the verb "labor" indicates exertion to the point of exhaustion. In addition, we are not to work merely to satisfy our personal desires and needs, but that we can freely give any excess to the needy.

Besides mere survival, Acts 20:35 reveals an additional reason for working: "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Stealing runs totally against the grain of God's way of life. In the spirit of God's law, a person not only steals by taking another's possessions, but by the refusal to work hard and honestly in order to share and give to others in need.

Romans 12:10, 13 helps to clarify this purpose: "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; . . . distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality." Love has no meaning unless it is demonstrated by giving, and having the ability to give in this manner comes from sacrifice and labor. Paul is writing about total commitment to what is good, an undiminished devotion to kindness regardless of the recipient's response.

Our God sets the example for us. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." We are driven by self-concern, and all too often, that concern degenerates into greed. That desire, however, must be overcome. We are to become like God. He is a Creator, and He works. A major characteristic of His Kingdom is that it is a producing, working, creating Family that sacrifices itself to give and to share.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Eighth Commandment

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Do we lead a quiet life, or are things always in turmoil? Do we live in peace, or is it in constant strife? If we are living in strife and turmoil, what are we doing to contribute to it?

Do we mind our own business, or are we busybodies and meddlers? Do we always want to know what the other person across the fence is doing? Do we always call up somebody for the latest news about what's going on over in this church or with that person and his problem?

Is our "helpfulness" really a guise for poking our nose in where we are not wanted? With some people it is. They serve in order to get the goods on others.

Do we work, or are we lazy? This does not mean just our physical labor for the food we put on our table. It could be spiritual work. It could be our service to one another. Do we work with our own hands, or are people always making allowances for us? Are we living off the goodness of another's heart? Some people think they are owed something. They are victims of circumstance, and so they want everybody to give to them, rather than working for it.

Do we show the same Christian character to our work buddies as we do to the people who sit beside us in church? Paul asks that here in terms of "walk[ing] properly toward those who are outside." Are our lives hypocritical? Do we put on our best character and slip into a chair at church just once each week? Do our acquaintances in the world see Christ in us, or do they see "Joe Six-Pack" who has downed a few too many six packs? Do they see someone who curses a blue streak six days a week, but one day a week, he is the soul of pleasant and wise speech? How do people in the world see us?

Lastly, Paul says, "I urge you that you may lack nothing." He does not mean, "Do we lack a pair of shoes, a new DVD player, or the latest PlayStation game?" What he means is, "Do we lack anything that makes us better Christians, or are we satisfied with ourselves where we stand?" Have we come into the church and accepted God's grace, and then say "Take me as I am, Lord, without one plea"? Or do we know that we lack some quality that would make us better Christians and strive to add it to our characters?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

The result of their interpretation of an imminent return of Christ was that some of the more excitable ones quit their jobs. His return was one of the important and recurring subjects of conversations with them. They added to that by becoming busybodies—spending their time talking excitedly but doing no work—and so their minds were continually disturbed, excited, by what they thought were signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. They were convinced that the Day of the Lord was already happening, and in a very short time Christ Himself would make His appearance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)

2 Timothy 2:15

The King James translates that as "study." However, modern translation typically do not agree because the meaning and usage of this English word has changed. To us, study means "hit the books," "learn," "analyze, investigate, examine, scrutinize," or "earnestly contemplate." But the Greek word means something quite a bit different. It literally means to "make speed," "to hurry." It conveys the sense of "to make earnest effort; be prompt to labor." In almost all modern translations, "study" is rendered "be diligent," "work hard," or "do your best."

The primary question, then, is, "What can we do to show ourselves approved by God?" because God's charge is, "Hurry to do it! Be quick about it! Be diligent at it. Do your best."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 




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