The exercise of physical or mental effort to accomplish a purpose or to produce something; work is commended in the Scriptures. (Ec 5:18) It is a gift of God for man to eat, drink, and “see good for all his hard work,” and it is the divine will that man “rejoice in his works.” (Ec 3:13, 22) Work was not first instituted in man’s case after he sinned, for Jehovah gave the perfect, sinless man and woman a work assignment when he commanded them to subdue the earth. (Ge 1:28) However, vain work resulted from sin.
Under the Mosaic Law, periods of rest from labor were decreed. The Israelites were not to work on the weekly Sabbath day. (Ex 20:8-11) Also, “no sort of laborious work” was to be done at times of holy convention.
Jehovah and His Son Are Workers. Jehovah is a worker whose works include creation of such things as the heavens, the earth, animals, and man. (Ge 1:1; 2:1-3; Job 14:15; Ps 8:3-8; 19:1; 104:24; 139:14) It is fitting to acknowledge the greatness of Jehovah’s works, extolling and thanking him for them. (Ps 92:5; 107:15; 145:4-10; 150:2) God’s works are faithful and incomparable, are wrought in wisdom, and are “truth and judgment.”
Jehovah did a “great work” in effecting the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage and enabling them to take possession of Canaan. (Jg 2:7) His works sometimes involve the execution of divine judgment. (Jer 50:25) Thus, through Isaiah, it was foretold: “For Jehovah will rise up . . . that he may work his work
Wisdom personified is represented as being beside Jehovah in creative work as his “master worker.” (Pr 8:12, 22-31; compare Joh 1:1-3.) When on earth as a man, God’s wise Son, Jesus Christ, showed that he was a worker and that, though material creative works relating to the earth had concluded, Jehovah continued to work, for Jesus said: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (Joh 5:17) To Jesus it was as nourishing, satisfying, and refreshing as food to do the work he was assigned by Jehovah. (Joh 4:34; 5:36) Christ’s works were done in his Father’s name; they were from the Father and showed he was “in union with the Father.” (Joh 10:25, 32, 37, 38; 14:10, 11; 15:24; Ac 2:22) Jesus successfully finished his God-assigned work on earth.
Jesus said: “He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father.” (Joh 14:12) Evidently, Christ did not mean that his followers would do works of a more miraculous kind than he did, for there is no Biblical record that any of them performed a miracle surpassing that of Jesus in raising Lazarus who had been dead for four days. (Joh 11:38-44) But, since Jesus was going to the Father, and his followers would receive the holy spirit to be witnesses of him “both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth” (Ac 1:8), they would cover a greater area and work for a longer time than did Jesus, in this sense doing greater works than he did.
Necessity of Working. Jesus Christ said that “the worker is worthy of his wages,” thereby indicating that those who labored in connection with spiritual matters would not lack necessities of life. (Lu 10:7) However, as the apostle Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians, the lazy person who refuses to work does not deserve to eat at the expense of others but should learn to work with his hands to care for his needs. (1Th 4:11; 2Th 3:10, 12) Likewise, the stealer should “steal no more” but “do hard work.”
Quality of the Work of God’s Servants. When doing any work, the servant of Jehovah should remember his relationship with God, doing everything “whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Col 3:23) This calls for industriousness (Pr 10:4; 13:4; 18:9), honesty, and fidelity. Manifesting such traits brings glory to God, as is evident from the admonition given to Christian slaves: “Let slaves be in subjection to their owners in all things, and please them well, not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full, so that they may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.”
Proper Evaluation of Acquisitions. Christians should appreciatively look to God for his blessing on their work and not be unduly anxious about their material needs. Jesus advised his followers to seek first the Kingdom. (Mt 6:11, 25-33) He also urged: “Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting.” (Joh 6:27) Hence, God’s servants wisely view the money and material things obtained as a result of their work as subordinate to the much more important spiritual riches. They also use material resources acquired by labor to advance spiritual interests, and they thus “make friends” with God and Christ.
Improper Works to Be Avoided. Jehovah determines which works are proper and which works are improper. He “will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Ec 12:13, 14) God will also deal with each person according to that one’s work. (Ps 62:12) This and especially love for Jehovah God are good reasons for shunning improper works and doing works that are pleasing in his sight.
To experience divine favor, Christians must avoid the “works of the flesh,” which include such things as fornication, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, fits of anger, and drunken bouts. Such practices would bar one from inheriting God’s Kingdom and are evidently included among the “unfruitful works that belong to the darkness,” works that result in no benefit.
Proper Works. Dependence upon Jehovah God is essential if one’s works are to succeed. (Ps 127:1; Pr 16:3) It is God who backs up and strengthens those who work at doing his will. (2Co 4:7; Php 4:13) Whereas the lives of humans abound with vain works (Ec 2:10, 11), works relating to true worship are not in vain. Hebrew Christians were given the assurance: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.” (Heb 6:10) Such work evidently included rendering material assistance or other kindnesses to those in need or to those experiencing suffering and persecution. (Compare Eph 4:28; Php 4:14-19; 1Ti 6:17, 18; Jas 1:27.) Other fine works include sharing in making disciples (Mt 28:19, 20; 1Co 3:9-15) and, in the case of men, serving as an overseer in a Christian congregation and teaching fellow believers.
Faith and Works. Works of the Mosaic Law, which included such things as sacrificial offerings, purifications, and circumcision, did not make a person righteous. (Ro 3:20; 4:1-10; Ga 3:2) Yet, the disciple James