January 21, 2018
The government “shutdown” has dominated the news for some time now, and for many people it means that they have missed a much needed paycheck. We all know that people get paid by doing certain types of work, and the type work that they do determines the amount they are paid. For instance, the $500,000 CEO of a company is paid much more than the $75,000 salesman. In our culture, we often associate the amount of pay with the value or importance of a job, but that isn’t always an accurate measurement of the work that is done. Typically, the value of a particular job is only realized when it impacts a lot of people when that job isn’t being done, (i.e. TSA agents at airports).
Our culture has always tolerated the seeming inequity in pay and status, but there is growing public sentiment today that economic inequality is something government should remedy. Today, America finds itself torn between two basic schools of thought on how to remedy the disparity between those with high paying jobs and the rest of us, which has created the reality of the haves and the have-nots. Some believe that government must intervene in this inequality by providing subsidies and provisions through taxing the wealthy and subsidizing those who have not. The other point of view is characterized by those who believe that the government’s role is to establish laws and systems that provide opportunities for people to be able to work hard and prosper on their own. Christians need to determine which position they should take in order to honor God with their own lives.
First of all, the Bible is clear for us as believers, that we should be actively involved in helping others who are less fortunate than we are, and that we should do so in Jesus name so that God will receive the glory. Remember what Jesus said in Matt 25:37-40, “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”
I also believe that we are instructed as believers to pay our taxes and what we owe to the government, and the government is responsible for using our taxes for good. Mark 12:17, “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Fortunately, in America we still have some input as to how the government spends money through our elected officials, but there is a significant socialist movement in this country that if implemented will change how Americans value the work they do.
But how does God view the value of doing work, regardless of the pay involved or how much the government taxes or controls us. I believe that from the beginning, God planned for man to engage in meaningful work. Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” So the Biblical attitude toward work is that we should embrace work as a blessing from God because God assigned it, and because engaging in constructive work is a means by which we reflect that we’re made in God’s image. God ordained work before the fall of man and contrary to what some might believe, work is not the curse of sin. It is also interesting that leisure time and vacations are not a manmade response to overwork or to replace work. Genesis 2:1-1 says that, “…God rested on the seventh day.” When we set aside time for rest and vacation we are actually following the example of the Creator.
The Bible gives us a great example of the ant which provides a positive example of productive work which leads to meeting the needs of our families and keeping us from being lazy. Proverbs 6:6-11, ‘Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Like the ant, a diligent person makes plans that lead them to experience profit. God meets the needs of those who obey him and work faithfully in the work he has provided for them. The Biblical model for us is to earn our livelihood through careful planning and persistent, productive work. Work honors God when it is done, not just to please others, but God. God is honored when believers turn in the best quality of work possible. Every kind of legitimate work can be done in a way that honors God. Colossians 3:22-24, “…obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
Most of us will spend the rest of our lives working in some capacity. Our attitudes and actions should demonstrate our desire to live out God’s plan for work. We should choose to measure our success, not by comparing our pay to what others make, but by how the work we do honors God. Psalms 128:1-2, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord, all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!”