THE BOTTOM LINE
"But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." (1 Thess. 4:10-12).
"A bad day at fishing is better than a good day at work" -- catchy bumper sticker but don't believe it. Choose the good day at work anytime -- it's an important part of how God gives you meaning and value. When we're first introduced to God we find Him busy creating out of nothing, shaping the formless into form and filling the void with living creatures. He calls what He does a four letter word -- work (Gen. 2:2-3), and He places Adam in the garden to do the same (Gen. 2:15). A few truths about work for you to remember this Labor Day:
First, work is not the same as having a job or simply putting forth effort. If that was the case then the unemployed would lose their identity and the effort of the thief would maintain his. Work is the creating of value out of what is "formless and void" -- crops from the ground, meals from ingredients, houses from materials, learning from teaching, etcetera. And value is defined not only by the marketplace, but by God Himself. Which is why no one should ever think they are called to "retire" from work -- maybe from a job, but never from work, which is an important way we honor God and increase our joy (Eccl. 5:19). Regardless of the age, there is always work to be done in God's vineyard -- even if it's simply praying from a wheelchair in a nursing home.
Second, work is meant to sustain lives and the lives of others. Before Adam fell he never had to work for his food -- it literally "grew on trees." But afterwards, the garden gave way to the field, the sustaining fruit to the harvested crops, the naming of animals to wearing them. No work, no eat (2 Thess. 3:10) -- regardless of the age, which meant that hands that became weak depended on hands that weren't; an opportunity for ministry (Eph. 4:28) and testimony (1 Tim. 5:8).
Lastly, work is meant to attract the lost to the gospel. How a person works -- the integrity of an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, the sensitivity to not be a financial burden to others (1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8-9) -- speaks to the heart of the lost working man. Every Christian, like those who are deaf, must learn to "speak with his hands" if the gospel is to be received. Wanting something for nothing not only retarded gospel progress, but was an excommunicable offense to the hard-working apostle (2 Thess. 3:6-15).
When God really "rolled up His sleeves" it wasn't at creation but at the cross -- a work so great that it caused all other labors to cease -- a testimony to the hands of a man not with blisters for his efforts, but holes. A labor that will sustain lives for all eternity.