God created humans to work
God set an example of diligence and work in the act of creation, Genesis 2:1-3. The text says “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done.” In creating the world He mad humans to work.
Genesis 2:5 notes that there was no man to work the ground. In verse 15 man was created and given work in the Garden of Eden. When the first couple sinned and were sent out of the Garden they still had to work but it would be more challenging.
Under the Old Law, the Jewish nation was commanded to observe the seventh, or sabbath, day. The sabbath was a reward for work and a time to honor God, Exodus 20:8-11. Exodus 23:12-13 describes it as a time of refreshing. After the release from Egyptian bondage it was to be a time of rest and remembrance of their freedom from slavery. God did not intend for us to work all of the time but to take rest as well.
Purpose of work
Provide for our needs
- Proverbs 12:11 and 14: Work of a man benefits him
- Proverbs 16:26 – Our hunger is motivation
- Proverbs 28:19 – “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”
The worthy woman highly praised in Proverbs 31 is a diligent hard worker:
- V.13 – works with wool and flax
- V. 14-15 – works to find and prepare food for her family
- V. 16 – invests in a field to make a vineyard
- V. 18 – works late and has pride in her work
- V. 19 – making garments for her family and to sell (v. 24)
- V. 27 – she does not eat the bread of idleness
- She is praised by her husband, children, the Lord, and those who see her for her faith and works
Be generous to others
Part of the reason we work is so we can have something to give to those in need. The worthy woman just discussed was generous to the needy, Proverbs 31:20. In the Old Testament farmers were commanded to leave the edges and anything that was dropped for the poor to come gather (the gleanings).
In the New Testament our work is tied to generosity. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:28 to not steal but work to give to others in need. Notice he commands them not to take anything from anyone but to work to provide for one’s needs and to have something to share with the needy. He also commanded the materially rich to be rich in good works and generous, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
We see examples of the early church in sharing what they had to help their needy brethren in Acts 4:32-37. During the Judean famine Paul observed that even those in poverty gave generously to help their Judean brethren, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 11-15. They let their abundance supply what their brethren lacked.
To honor God with our possessions
There was an important principle in the Old Law: The firstfruits and tithes, Deuteronomy 26:1-19. The law commanded that the first and the best was to be offered to God. This was a great act of faith for it is trust that God would continue to bless their harvest and herds.
The gift was to provide for those who are in need or who are dedicated in service to the Lord’s temple. The giving action was to be done with the complete heart and soul recognizing God as the giver of all things.
Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Under the New Testament we are not commanded to tithe but are to bring freewill offerings and to be generous with what we have been given. Previously we noted how God wants us to be generous with what He has given us. As the offerings paid the expenses for the upkeep of the tabernacle, and later temple, and met the physical needs of the priests dedicated to its service, so our offerings today help us to maintain a place of worship, provide financial support for those dedicated to preaching the gospel, purchasing materials for our Bible classes, and helping our brethren in a time of need.