Why Work? Because You Help OthersDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Hard Work, Good Work: Part 6
Why should you work? In the last couple of reflections, you've seen two answers emerge from Ephesians 4:28. First, you should work because you're made for it. God created humankind—including you—to work. Your hands, as well as the rest of your body, are perfectly suited for working. Second, you should work because you can do good. Through working, you faithfully fulfill the mandate given to human beings in creation (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). Moreover, your work can contribute to God's kingdom purposes (Eph. 2:10).
Ephesians 4:28 offers one more reason why you should work. Notice carefully the last phrase of this verse: "Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." When we read this phrase, we naturally think in terms of money. By working, we make money, some of which we can share with those in need. This application of Ephesians 4:28 is surely faithful to its basic intent. But, as a craftsman, Paul might also have been thinking of a more immediate sharing. Perhaps he remembered times when he used his skills as a sewer of leather to create or mend items for people who could not afford his services. In our day, we might think of farmers who allow hungry people to glean in their fields or attorneys who work pro bono for the disadvantaged.
So, whether you fulfill Ephesians 4:28 directly or through earning and giving away money, the point is the same. Your work enables you to "share with those in need." What I find fascinating about this reason for work is that Paul seems to assume that workers will share with the needy. He doesn't argue that they should do this, but speaks as if they will, quite naturally. Or quite spiritually. When we consider all the ways God has blessed us, when we open our hearts to people in need, then the Spirit of God will move us to give generously to others. It just happens as we live in the flow of God's gracious Spirit.
A word of caution is due here. Many Christians in so-called "secular work" believe that their work matters to God primarily, if not exclusively, because of what they are able to give away to charity, including the church. This pervasive belief takes one reason for work in our passage (sharing with the needy), but leaves behind the others (your created purpose, doing good). As you think about work in general, and as you consider your own work, may you think broadly and truly about the value of your work.
Why should you work? Because you were created for this purpose. Because you can do good through your work. And because your work enables you to share with those in need. As you work, you put on your new self in Christ and offer your life as worship to God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you been able, through your work, to share with those in need? Do you ever fall into the trap of believing that this is the main value of your work? How might you think differently about your work in light of the full teaching of Ephesians 4:28?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you that my work matters to you. Thank you for creating me with the capacity to work. Thank you for allowing me to do good through my work. And thank you for the chance to share with those in need because of what my work produces. Help me, Lord, to be generous with the fruits of my labors, rather than hoarding them for myself. As I work, may I be aware of how my work makes a difference to others, and most of all, to you. Amen.
Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry
This article is part of The High Calling series, Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry. At The High Calling, we believe that art creates a space where people may encounter God, opening a door for transformation. Have you felt it? It’s the way the light ripples across water; it’s the way a good story names something within you; it’s the music you dream in the middle of the night that haunts you in the day. God uses beauty to touch us in the deepest places. As image-bearers of the one true God, we are also co-creators with him, made to impact our culture and each other through the art we bring to life. Does this resonate with you? If so, consider sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or through your other social media and friendship networks.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.