What is Christian work ethic? There is no doubt that as Christians, we are called to work hard and be diligent in our labor. Work is essential to a fulfilling and pleasurable life. The Bible calls on us to work cheerfully, purposefully and with dignity. As a matter of fact, we are called to stay away from laziness or “sluggishness.”
“How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep— So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man (Proverbs 6:9-11). Matthew Henry describes the sluggard as “he who loves his ease, lives in idleness, minds no business, sticks to nothing, brings nothing to pass, and in a particular manner is careless in the business of religion.” We are clearly warned that the result of such laziness is poverty. If we neglect our duties, we will not move forward in life, and even worse, we will most likely move backwards. “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Proverbs 21:25). We should refrain from being lazy and refusing to work, and instead we must aspire to avoid doubt and slothfulness so that we may flourish in our lives. We should be prudent in our work affairs, not with anxious care, but simply with wise foresight.
As we work, we must make sure to provide for our loved ones. The Bible is quite strict about using the tools that we have been given to support people around us. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). We are called to provide for our wives, children, parents and even strangers if needed. Our family is one body with us, and we must be careful not to spend on our individual lusts on expense of our loved ones.
Sometimes we are confused about what to do for work. We might be struggling to find a career path, or we do not know what our true calling is. Solomon the wise tells us “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). These concerns we might have should be committed to God’s providence, and He will establish our path. If we lay the matter before God in prayer, in full dependence and submission on Him, we can rest assured that whatever pathway pleases Him for us, will please us as well.
Apart from working for ourselves and for our families, we should also work for God in the service of others. “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” (Acts 20:35). Serving others has many benefits and gives purposes to our lives. As we serve others, we can expect a sense of joy as we connect with other people. Working hard in the service off others teaches us humility and diverts the focus of ourselves.
We should also work on our self-improvement. The Bible calls us to care for our bodies as they are a gift from God. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). Therefore fitness, good eating and pure moral behavior are all important matters for us to care about. We should seek God first in our self-improvement and ask for his help and we should not become obsessed with image and our outward appearances. It is certainly important for us to take care of our bodies, but ultimately God cares about what is in our hearts.
We are also not to confuse our call towards diligent hard work with workaholism. Just as God wants us to work hard, he also wants us to rest. In our work, we should strive to bring glory to God, and not simply work to gain earthly wealth. We should not overwork ourselves to the point of exhaustion simply for the greed of money. After the six days of the creation, God instituted the Sabbath for rest. Not because God needs rest, but to set an example for us. So while we as Christians are called to work hard, we are also expected to take times of rest.