The Goodness of Work

I love mornings. I do not love the sound of the alarm, or having to pull myself out of bed after several nights of minimal sleep, but for the most part, I look forward to mornings. I started to notice an affection for this part of the day when I moved from Los Angeles to San Jose, California in order to take a job as a Director of Middle School Ministries at a church in the South Bay.

Every morning during the week and on Sundays, I would wake up, shower, eat breakfast, and head off to work. I loved it. Granted, this is not headline-making news. What is remarkable, however, is during the days in which I did not have work—holidays, vacation days—and I was at home lounging around, watching television and cruising the Internet, I found I was far less satisfied indulging in laziness than I was by putting in a hard day’s work.

Now, I am certainly not setting myself up as some kind of righteous example—I think that all of us, when we are honest with ourselves, can attest to the deep sense of satisfaction that flows from hard work. Even though many of us may admit that we tend toward laziness and time-wasting, and often give in to these temptations, it is nevertheless the case that we, at the end of the day, will probably rue our indolence. That two hours in front of the T.V. just did not satisfy like it promised. O how we could have spent our time better!

It was not until recently that I started to understand why this was the case. Why do I find greater fulfillment in working hard than I do when I give in to laziness and ease and over-indulge in relaxation? The answer is simple, and is found in Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (emphasis added). We were designed—before the fall—to work. Work is a fundamental component to being a human. If we refuse to work, we are acting contrary to how we were made. This is why laziness leads to a lack of fulfillment, not more fulfillment, and why we find that focusing all our energies toward weekends and vacations never delivers the pleasure we thought it would.

That is not to say that we should never rest. Rest is a good gift from God; to reject rest would also run contrary to how we are made. We are not infinite, we are finite—we do not have unlimited resources at our disposal. Our need for sleep and rest is a clear reminder of this truth. But, I would also suggest that sleep, rest, relaxation, recreation and vacation should not supersede work; rather, we should view these times away from our daily labors as a means to refresh us and prepare us to work again. Interestingly, even when we enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 3:11), the final chapter of the Bible reveals that we will labor here as well:

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his bond-servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3, emphasis added).

This is why the book of Proverbs rails against laziness while at the same time enticing us with the rewards that often come as a result of a diligence (6:6-11, 10:4-5; 10:26; 12:11; 12:14; 12:24; 12:27; 13:4, 13:11; 13:23; 14:4; 14:23). It is also why Paul, at the end of his second letter to the Thessalonians, warned his readers to stay away from those who were lazy and to cultivate a correct understanding of work.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away form any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you…For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (II Thessalonians 3:6-8, 10-12, emphasis added).

We were created to work. To strive against how we have been designed will lead only to frustration, boredom, depression, and even rebukes from mature Christians. On the other hand, working diligently, fulfilling responsibilities and being productive will most often lead to joy and abiding satisfaction. I’ll take the latter.

Photo: MIKE KENNEALLY

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