The Character of the Christian Part 4: Making Work Meaningful (3-8-92)
March 5, 2022
Genesis 2: 4-9, 15-17: Ephesians 4:28
This morning I want to talk with you a bit about WORK as we continue the series on The Character of the Christian Life. WORK! In America, if we’re fortunate to have a job, we have a tendency to run to one of two extremes: (1) We become obsessed with our work (we become workaholics), or (2) we try and get by by doing as little work as possible. Like the bumper sticker I saw once which read: “WORK FASCINATES ME. I CAN SIT AND WATCH IT FOR HOURS!”
It has been suggested that some people who think that they are not getting paid what they’re worth, ought to be thankful. Maybe you’ve seen the sign hanging in an office which reads? “If you don’t believe the dead come back to life, you ought to be here at 5 o’clock!”
Work! We have an ongoing love-hate relationship with it. Now maybe all of you here today really love your work. You just can’t wait to get to your work. Especially you students getting to your school work: “Let me at it! Turn off that t.v. I wanna do my school work. Mr. Miller can I have some more homework. Pretty please!”
But not everyone feels the same way about their work. Work dissatisfaction has reached epidemic proportions in our country today. A few years ago there was a Country Western hit song which expressed, in laymen’s terms, what a lot of people feel about their work: ”You Can Take This Job and Shove It!” This kind of feeling isn’t just confined to the adult full-time worker. Part-time teen workers have joined the ranks of the disgruntled. I’m continually curious over the short timespan in many teens’ feelings about their work. Over a period of time the supper table conversation goes something like this: (1) “I need a job!” (2) “I got a job.” (3) “What a lousy job I got!” Last summer I asked a teen how he liked his part-time job. “I don’t,” he said, “I’m gonna look for another job. I don’t get to spend enough time with my friends. I want a job with less hours and more money.”
What does the Bible have to say about work, especially for the Christian? Let’s take a look at Ephesians 4:28. I want to examine with you 3 steps toward Making Work Meaningful.
Recapture God’s Original Work Ethic
The first part of Ephesians 4:28 reads: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer.” Stealing is an attempt to get what we want at someone else’s expense. God designed us to be workers, not stealers. the Bible says in Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This is God’s original work ethic, the lost ethic in most work philosophies today. The ethic is “Recognize God as your employer.” All work is done in God’s world, and should be under His direction.
We are to be stewards not stealers, and stealing takes many forms: The employer who steals from his employees (James 5:1-6). Employees who steal from their employer (Ephesians 6: 5-8). The first step then toward Making Work Meaningful is to RECAPTURE GOD’S ORIGINAL WORK ETHIC: Make Jesus your employer and do all your work for Him. Colossians 2:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Give your job all you’ve got in both honesty and productivity (Ephesians 4:28b): “...but must work, doing something useful with his hands...” Be a “Second Mile” worker. (Matthew 5:41) The Greek word which “useful” means “profitable, generous, beneficent, upright, virtuous.” The Christian worker is not to just “get by.” Give all you’ve got to your job. Commit yourself to MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE where you work.
Notice here that the primary issue addressed here for the Christian worker is not personal fulfillment or “something I like to do,” but rather giving oneself fully to the task.
“Doing something useful with his hands.” This phrase raises up two things for us to think about concerning our work: (1) All honest manual labor is honorable. To work with one’s hands is an honorable thing. Jesus was a carpenter. Paul was a tent maker. In the Jewish culture every Rabbi and religious teacher had to have a craft he would work at with his hands. Working with our hands illustrates here an attitude of giving not taking (the only 2 things we can do with our hands).
The 3rd step toward Making Work Meaningful is WORK TO GIVE MORE, NOT GET MORE: “...that he may have something to share with those in need.” The economics of Christianity flies in the face of American consumerism. “How much is enough? is a question we need to be constantly asking ourselves, and teaching our children to ask. The Christian worker is to live with open hands and open heart toward those who cannot work (the elderly; widows and orphans: those who are going through some kind of tragedy).
Also the rewards of our work are needed in work of the Church. The point is that our new life in Christ should turn us away from consumerism toward caring for the needs of others. Paul says this is part of the meaning of our work.
Maxie Dunnam writes concerning this Christ-centered perspective on life: “What a challenging sign of newness of life. No more preoccupation with “building bigger barns,” accumulating huge estates to leave to our children when we die. No more frantic activity at the expense of what really counts-- human tenderness, family love, and togetherness. No more compulsive earning and spending as victims of consumer society. Guards up against media manipulation that would turn our whole society into a waste heap and each of us into garbage disposals” (P. 216).
Conclusion: Our work. It’s a big part of our lives, and many of us find ourselves less than satisfied with our job. Maybe that can be changed, maybe not, but even an unsatisfying job. Plain old work-work can have meaning if we apply God’s Word to our work:
Recapture God’s Work Ethic
Give your job all you’ve got in both honesty and productivity: Make a positive difference where you work.
Work to give more, not get more. Don’t allow consumerism to control your work, and sacrifice your family and your relationship to God.
Until next time,
Pastor Joe 1040-2021