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Working on a Correct View of Work

July 11, 2013

Our postmodern society has redefined most of our culture’s traditional and Biblical institutions to the extent that our ancestors from just a few generations ago would be aghast. Common patterns and views about work may be near the top of the list of social norms most changed. We are barely 150 years from the Industrial Revolution, and 100 years from the first mass production of cars in America; we are barely 30 years beyond the first personal computer! The agrarian culture that had been basically stable in its patterns and practices for millennia, which focused so much of society’s resources on producing sufficient food, has been completely displaced within a few short generations. From engaging over 90% of the labor force before these innovations, agriculture now employs less than 2% in civilized nations…!

The economic impact of the Industrial & Technological revolutions have been staggering, but even more pronounced are their impact on how our society thinks about work.

From an apprenticeship and parental discipleship model where sons worked in the fields with their fathers and daughters alongside their mothers, we have transitioned to a normal pattern of Dad leaving home to go to work each day. Some families have yielded to the world’s temptation that they can “have it all” and send Mom out the door to work each day as well. (The Bible does show some men engaging in their work outside the household and as members of organizations, but nowhere do you see women doing this. Even the entrepreneurial Proverbs 31 woman conducts all her business for her household.) The responsibility to work to provide for the material needs of a family clearly belongs to the father and husband…

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” — 1 Timothy 5:8

But what are the Godly, Biblical ways men should fulfill these responsibilities? We know that it is not as simple as striving to obtain the maximum income, without regard for how much family time will be sacrificed for work hours and travel, or how much stress will be endured. A man’s responsibilities to love and nurture his wife (Eph.5:25), to disciple his children (Deut.6:6-7) and to participate in a church family (John 13:34-35) are as important and binding as the duties to provide and work – so we need to strike a balance to insure all are fulfilled. Understanding this, we must realize that there is no one perfect answer; each man needs to work on gaining a correct view of work.

One step in this process is to realize that for Christians, work is a duty not only for material gain but to obey God. In His providence, God has given us work as a chance to exercise dominion over the earth, to interact with our fellow men, and to provide for our families. He has gifted each of us with talents, interests and abilities to enable us to excel in one or more ways, and when we reach a level of excellence in our work, God is glorified. Do not believe those who claim that work is the result of the curse of the Fall, and was not part of God’s paradise; God instructed Adam to work well before the Fall…

“Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” — Genesis 1:28b

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” — Genesis 2:15

Seeing work as a providential plan from God is a key step in reforming our view of work and fighting our culture’s attitude that work is only “what we need to do to be paid, in order to be able to really live life.” Working gives glory to God as we follow His plan, and also gives us opportunities to be salt and light to the world for Him.

Working to gain a correct view of Work will require obtaining Wisdom and Truth to find the right balance of a man’s duties

– Working at home offers more discipleship opportunities with our children and more daily flexibility.
– Family businesses often consume more overall time (especially at startup); it can be difficult to turn work down because of the tyranny of future revenue uncertainty
– Working for a company may alleviate revenue “hunting” stress (unless you’re in sales), but in exchange for the loss of much flexibility
– The lower a man can drive his income requirements (especially by avoiding debt), the freer and more patient he can be to work on a family economy
– Working hard, especially at tasks we do not enjoy (or normal tasks when we’re not in the mood), is a great testimony – it is exactly the opposite of what the lost do
– A good reputation pays dividends and provides opportunities for the remainder of our career. Every day is an interview with everyone around us
– Integrity is rare in the business world, and only appreciated by few. With these few though, it is a golden key (Prov.22:1)
– Christ gave the perfect model of servant leadership – calling his disciples to righteousness but sacrificing Himself for our sins
– Homeschooling restores the Biblical discipleship model for daughters, but for sons extra efforts are needed if Dad works outside the home
– Have the courage to leave a job/project if your employer/customer loses your trust or respect. Do not waste your loyalty hoping they will change or that you can change them
– Have the courage to work through minor style and personality differences on a job/project. Loyalty to a deserving organization is a Christian testimony and is often blessed

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” — Colossians 3:23-24

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