By Stephen Castleberry, Experience Pastor •Antioch, Georgetown, Texas
Brett Cooper, from The Daily Wire, recently said there are three types of resignations going on: early retirements, burnout career changes and entitlement — that last one is my word, not hers. I love that some people have worked hard enough and saved well enough to retire early — I’m planning for that to be me one day.
I also understand burnout. The pandemic added a lot of stress to most jobs with vaccine mandates, masking, extra precautions, thin workforces due to illness leading to longer hours and more. I know many people from all sectors — like education, healthcare, retail, service and even pastors — are all feeling the pressures brought on by the past two years. Everyone is stressed and doing things outside their normal, so I completely understand taking time off due to burnout and even switching careers if the stress in your current job is too much.
But it’s the last one with which I have a problem. Many people — especially those in early adulthood — are simply quitting the workforce and living on the hard work of others.
Now, I know I’m old — I was born in the late 1900s — but that’s dumb. An “anti-work” movement? Quitting because you can’t use your phone? Put your phone down and work hard. Humanity will never progress beyond the requirement that we must work for a living. I don’t care what Marx said.
But it’s not just Americans that have this mindset — it’s the Chinese, too. I think it’s funny that it was Marx who said that we will progress beyond work, yet the Chinese Communist Party is fighting this tooth and nail. That really tells you everything you need to know. But all that aside, why now?
Why work when you can make the same or even more by not working? It’s a good question. It works on an individual level but literally collapses civilizations if everyone stops working. If there is no one to produce, there’s nothing. We need farmers and ranchers to produce food, factory workers to process it, truck drivers to deliver it, retailers to sell it and garbage collectors to discard the waste. If everyone stops working, the world stops working. If society “lays flat,” mankind flat lines.
So what should Christians — people of the Bible — think about all this? Can believers be anti-work? Can Jesus followers lay flat?
But wait, wasn’t part of the curse in Genesis 3 that we now had to work? We’ll get to that in just a second, but let’s start even earlier than Genesis 3 — Genesis 1. What do we see God doing in Genesis 1? Working. He created everything and He called it “good.” He did this in six days and then rested on the seventh — that is why we have a work week and a rest day, it’s modeled after God. God works.
But what about work being a part of the curse in Genesis 3? Let’s read it: “…the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat…” (Gen. 3:17-19). God didn’t curse mankind with work. The curse is that our work will be difficult — we’re going to sweat, and things will not always go right. In the Garden of Eden, work was effortless; now work is toil, challenging and exhausting.
But, no work in Heaven, right? Isn’t Heaven a place of rest? Therefore, we should make Heaven on Earth by not working? Heaven is actually a place of work. God is working. Jesus said: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17). Jesus taught, in the Parable of the Three Servants — you know the one where the master gives five bags of silver to one servant, two bags to another and one to the third — that when our life is over, God will say to those who use well what they have been given: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We know that part, but here’s the next sentence: “You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.”
But here’s the good news. Work in Heaven will be like it was in the Garden of Eden — before sin and the fall of man. It will be perfectly fulfilling, immensely satisfying and wonderfully effortless. Heaven will be a perfect society — free from sin, corruption and death — and Murphy’s Law will be nowhere to be found.
But Genesis was in our past and Heaven is in our future, if we are in Christ, so what about in your life this week? What does Scripture say about work? Well, it’s pretty harsh on laziness and not working. Here’s just one proverb on the subject: “A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things” (Prov. 18:9). Remember what I said earlier: “If society ‘lays flat,’ then mankind flatlines?” Solomon agrees with me.
The New Testament isn’t any less harsh. Paul tells Timothy, on the subject of people not working and therefore neglecting to take care of their families, that “those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” (I Tim. 5:8).
Paul turns the heat up even more to the church in Thessalonica: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: ‘Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.’ Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living” (II Thess. 3:6-12). The Bible isn’t unclear about this — Christians (who are able to work) are to work and work hard, or starve — their choice.
Even the welfare system laid out for Israel in the Old Testament still required work. Talking to those who owned farms, God commanded: “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you” (Lev. 23:22). Those in need still had to put forth an effort to go out and collect the intentionally left behind portions of crops — no handouts to those who were able.
So what should believers do?
• Provide for yourself by working hard.
• Honor God by working hard.
• Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes: “…people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” There is a satisfaction that comes from a good day’s work. There’s also dissatisfaction — a nagging in your soul — for being a lazy mooch. So work hard, honor God and enjoy the fruit of your labor!