August 11, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:28 (NRSV)
Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
According to the Bible, we should work. But why? Why is work such a big deal in Scripture? One answer is that human beings were created for work. In Genesis 1 we are made in the image of the God who works. God’s first command is that we be fruitful. In Genesis 2, human beings are created to take care of the earth and help it to be productive. So, work is in our DNA, so to speak. That’s not the whole story. There are other reasons why we should work. But the fact that we were created for work helps us to see that, through working, we can glorify God.
As we have seen, Ephesians 4:28 urges us not just to work, but also to work hard. This does not mean, however, that we should work all the time. We need to learn how to work hard, rest regularly, and play joyfully.
Today, we begin to consider what Ephesians 4:28 teaches about why we should work. One might answer, “Because the Bible says so.” But Scripture gives us more than mere commands. It also helps us understand the “whys” of our life so that our actions might stem from our own wise choices rather than subservient obedience. Obeying God is always a good thing to do; but it’s even better to choose to obey because we understand God’s will and want to please God.
The first answer to the “Why work?” question is implied in the phrase, “work honestly with their own hands.” God has given us hands not for stealing but for working. If you think of it, almost all work requires the use of hands. (For a moving exception, see this short video.) Even if your work is primarily a matter of thinking, your hands help you to get your thoughts out so that they might be useful in the world (by writing, keyboarding, texting, drawing, etc.).
God created us with hands—indeed, with bodies—so that we might work in this world. This is clear from the creation accounts in Genesis. In chapter 1, God created human beings so that we might do the work of stewarding the world, helping it to flourish. In Genesis 2, the man and then the woman are put in God’s garden in order to do the work of taking care of it and helping it to be fruitful.
Thus, one reason why we work is that we have been created for this very purpose. We have hands and arms and brains and eyes and mouths and legs and ears and the rest so that we might work in this world. As we use our body to do good work, we fulfill a core purpose of God for our lives, thus serving and glorifying him. We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
This truth may already be well-known to you. It may give meaning and energy to your daily work. But as I have spent much of my own recent work focusing on the integration of faith and work, I have discovered that many people – including many Christians – do not think of their daily work as a way to love God. Work is necessary for survival. It may even be something that people enjoy. But they have yet to discover that through their work they are able to honor and glorify God. Remember what it says in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” One of the main ways we can present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is through our daily work.
Why do you work? Really?
What gets you going in the morning?
What motivates you to keep working throughout the day?
Have you ever thought that God has given you a body so that you might work?
How might this perspective make a difference in your daily life?
Pay attention to how you use your body as you work today (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this devotion in the evening). As you do this, thank God for the physical capabilities he’s given you. Offer your body to God as “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of my hands, even more for the gift of my whole body. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” (Psalm 139:14).
One main reason I have a body is so that I might do the work you have called me to do. May I steward well this body, using it for your purposes and glory. Indeed, may I devote my physical frame and energy to the work you have given me. Today as I work may I be conscious of offering my work to you as an embodied offering. Amen.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Living Sacrifices for the Sake of the Community (Romans 12:1–3)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.