Appreciating the Gift Called “Work”
Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”—Eccl. 9:10, An American Translation.
1. How do some people view work, and why? So, what questions are asked?
AT THIS time in history when men are working fewer hours and demanding more in return for their labors, it would be wise for all who seek happiness in what they do and also God’s approval to examine their own attitude toward work. Much dissatisfaction in the world today can be traced to people who are discontented with their work. A growing number of workers, especially among the youth, tend to represent work as a curse, a punishment or fate from which to escape, if possible. Their complaint is that work exhausts the energies and leaves the worker too tired to enjoy life. They argue, ‘Why work if it is going to destroy the pleasure of living?’ ‘Too many people are working without living,’ they say. To demonstrate the undesirability of work, workers often point to the many protests and strikes among industrial, office and social workers, who are concerned, not only with wages, but with hours and conditions of work. Some feel that the ideal life would be a world free of toil. Few regard work as a blessing or as a gift from God. What is your attitude toward work? Do you regard it as a blessing from God or as just a necessary evil? How should one view one’s work?
2. (a) In the Scriptures, how is work viewed? (b) What does the Bible say about lazy persons? (c) Why should we have no partnership with lazy persons?
2 The Holy Scriptures commend work. They declare that a man should eat, drink and “see good for all his hard work.” It is the divine will that man “rejoice in his works.” (Eccl. 5:18; 3:13, 22) Nowhere in the Bible are slothfulness, indolence and laziness encouraged as a way of life. To the contrary, man is urged to ‘exert himself vigorously.’ Industriousness is what is praised. A man should ‘do with his might what his hands find to do.’ (Luke 13:24; Eccl. 9:10; Heb. 6:10, 11) Lazy souls are told to “go to the ant, . . . see its ways and become wise.” (Prov. 6:6) Easygoingness is associated with the stupid. It is their ‘easygoingness that will destroy them.’ (Prov. 1:32) Rather than its being an ideal way of life, “a slack hand” soon finds itself engulfed in poverty. Those who love their sleeping, slumbering and folding of their hands are not bound for happiness but for ruin. (Prov. 10:4; 18:9; 24:33, 34) Therefore, people who practice true religion, the religion of the Bible, can have no partnership with indolent, lazy persons. The people of God are called, not to an inactive, lazy life, but to an active, vibrant life in imitation of none other than their God Jehovah. It is this active, productive life that is the gift from God that results in true happiness.—John 5:17.
GOD AND HIS SON ARE WORKERS
3. What can be said about God as a worker and the effects of his works on mankind?
3 Open your eyes and look around you. You need but a single glance to become aware that you are surrounded by works that are countless in number, matchless in beauty and precious to behold. These works are included in the expression ‘the wonderful works of God.’ (Ps. 145:4, 5; 148:3-10) There are the heavens above “declaring the glory of God”; and “of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” The earth, with its wide variety of animal, fish and plant creations, compels praise. An appreciative psalmist declared: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions.” (Ps. 19:1-4; 104:24) The whole universe is literally alive with the works of God. Their number is overwhelming, causing praise to bubble forth. Their beauty is awe-inspiring. Their magnitude and wisdom incite praise and gratitude. Their effect is humbling. Said the psalmist: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?” (Ps. 8:3, 4; 92:5; 150:2) All these creations receive God’s constant attention and care.
4. Who was God’s first creation, and what proof of his being a worker is there?
4 All of God’s works are incomparable, faithful and true. All of them are wrought in wisdom. In the Bible book of Proverbs, wisdom personified is represented as being beside Jehovah God in creative work as his “master worker.” (Prov. 8:12, 22-31) Under inspiration the apostle John revealed that Master Worker to be “the Word,” God’s first creation, his only-begotten Son who later on earth became Jesus Christ. Said John: “This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:17) This wise Son of God proved himself a master worker on earth. No one man before or since his time has accomplished as much, or had such an impact on man’s history. Methuselah, who lived 969 years, left not a single work behind worthy to be remembered. His long life might be viewed as a total waste. On the other hand, after reviewing the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly works, John writes: “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” (John 21:25) Whose life was the happier—Jesus’ or Methuselah’s? Yet Jesus lived only a short span of thirty-three and a half years. He obviously was an industrious worker!
5. Whose work habits did Jesus follow? Give proof.
5 When men tried to stop him from doing works of kindness on the Sabbath day, Jesus answered with an allusion to Jehovah’s ceaseless activity on all days of the week, saying: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (John 5:17) Why should not good works be done on the Sabbath? Does God’s sun cease to shine because it is the Sabbath? Do rivers stand still? Does the grass stop growing? Do not fruits ripen and birds sing? Is not God busy caring for the needs of his creation? Why, then, should his Anointed One refuse to do works of love simply because it is the Sabbath? Jesus in his work habits followed the example of his heavenly Father. “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me,” he said, “and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Whose example do you follow in your work habits? What is your attitude toward work?
MAN A WORKER
6. What proof is there that man was made to work, and why can work be referred to as “the gift of God”?
6 Earthling man was made by God to be a worker. Not only does the Bible say this, but the very makeup of man, his muscular frame, the design of his hands and feet, show that some form of work is absolutely essential to his well-being. All growth depends upon activity. There is no physical or intellectual development without effort, and effort means work. Work gives meaning and purpose to life. A man’s accomplishments are the measure of the man himself. Work that enlists a man’s energies and gives him contentment and self-expression is a safeguard against dissipation and sensuality. Men who work hard are usually the happiest. However, those who do not work for the love of work but for money or for some other selfish end are not likely to find much happiness in life. Hard work makes a man hungry, so he eats and enjoys his food all the more. It makes him thirsty, so he drinks. It makes him tired, causing his sleep to be sweet. “Every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work,” says the Bible. “It is the gift of God.” “With a man there is nothing better than that he should eat and indeed drink and cause his soul to see good because of his hard work. This too I have seen, even I, that this is from the hand of the true God.” (Eccl. 3:13; 2:24) Do you see your work as a blessing from the true God? This is essential if you are to derive lasting happiness and satisfaction from your work.
7. (a) Would life in perfection mean no work for man? (b) What fact makes work meaningful?
7 The first man Adam was surrounded with perfection, but even under these paradisaic conditions he was to be a worker. He was not to lean back and pass the time in indolent repose. Adam was commanded by God to cultivate the garden of Eden and to care for it. (Gen. 2:15) This meant work. It demanded initiative, imagination and resourcefulness. As caretaker of Eden, Adam could visualize himself as a co-worker with God, fulfilling the Creator’s will and purpose in the earth. His work was to make the whole earth a paradise garden and people it with a perfect race of mankind. (Gen. 1:28) This was no small assignment; it demanded courage and industry to fulfill. But it was this work that made his life meaningful. Knowledge of being a coworker with God is what brings satisfaction and joy. Wherever this awareness is missing, even today, work loses its sense of purpose and meaning. It soon becomes drab, a drag, a bore, without any lasting goal or purpose.
8. What was the pursuit of Adam, and that of mankind since, and with what results?
8 However, Adam chose to pursue a course contrary to the will of God. He worked at satisfying his own cravings and desires, which course proved disastrous to himself and the whole human race after him. (Rom. 5:12) The vast majority of mankind since Adam’s time have followed his unworthy example. They engage in pursuits that are almost solely selfish. God is not in all their thoughts. (Ps. 10:4; 14:1) For the most part their work does not relate to God’s will concerning mankind nor can they visualize themselves as coworkers with God. Their work has no constructive meaning. Thus they are left empty and disgruntled with what they are doing. (Eccl. 2:22, 23) Had mankind proved willing to work out God’s purpose of turning this earth into a paradise garden, think of what a beautiful place the earth would be after these thousands of years! And, too, how many tears, how much bloodshed, what misery and suffering would have been spared mankind in every part of the earth!
CALLED TO DO SPECIAL WORK
9, 10. Why was Noah given a special assignment of work, and of what did it consist?
9 From Adam’s creation until Noah was 600 years old, a period of 1,656 years, mankind’s pursuit was almost totally materialistic and selfish, with calamitous results. The record of the Bible reads: “The earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence. So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth.” (Gen. 6:11, 12) This declaration is somewhat reminiscent of the state of things in the earth today. Jesus Christ, in his prophecy concerning the end of this system of things, declared that this would be the case, saying: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:37-39) During such critical times on earth, God calls on men to do special work for him. Noah was one who received such an assignment.
10 This man of God, Noah, was commanded to build an ark for the preservation of himself and his household and all animal life. This called for extra strength and determination, for it meant the assembling together of much timber and other materials. Likewise the marshaling of a host of animals that later entered the ark required planning and orderly handling. This work involved knowledge of raw materials, animal habits, food, architecture, carpentry, waterproofing. Noah’s assignment also involved preaching and practicing righteousness. And this worker Noah was more than 500 years old when he began building the ark.—Gen. 6:9-22; 7:6; 2 Pet. 2:5.
11. Why can we say that Noah’s work meant his salvation and not just a demonstration of his faith?
11 After caring for all the preliminaries, Noah went into the ark in 2370 B.C.E., with an organized society of which he was the head. During the lunar year and ten days that he was in the ark he worked. He doubtless conducted worshipful discussions, led in prayers of thanksgiving, fed the animals, removed the waste and kept count of the time. This was meaningful work. It meant his salvation. Said the disciple James: “You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone.” (Jas. 2:24) Noah’s works testified to his faith. To what do your works testify? Noah’s example assures us that God is the One who determines what works are proper and what works are improper. God gives warning now that he “will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Eccl. 12:13, 14) Noah proved equal to the challenge of his time. Can the same be said of you? How are you responding to work, God’s work?
A NATION WORKING WITH GOD
12. How did Israel become a nation of co-workers with God?
12 In the purpose of God to produce a nation, men such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and others, received distinctive assignments of work from Jehovah. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews records their works of faith. Finally, at Mount Sinai in the year 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah organized the nation of Israel for his exclusive purpose, saying: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” To these words the people answered unanimously: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Ex. 19:5, 6, 8) The purpose of that Law covenant, said the apostle Paul, was to lead the Jews to Christ, “that we might be declared righteous due to faith.”—Gal. 3:23-25.
13. (a) What can be said about the duties of the priests and how they became distinguished in their assignments? (b) What fact does this help us to see about work we do?
13 Within the exclusive nation of Israel, various tribes had specific work duties. For example, priestly duties were confined to the male members of Aaron’s family, with the rest of the Levite tribe acting as their assistants. (Num. 3:3, 6-10) Setting up, dismantling and carrying the tabernacle was the work of the nonpriestly Levites. Their work was highly organized under King David, who appointed supervisors, officers, judges, gatekeepers and treasurers. Later, after the building of Solomon’s temple, a vast number assisted the priests in the courtyards and the dining rooms in connection with the offerings, sacrifices, purification work, weighing, measuring, and various guard duties. Much of this was hard and unglamorous work. On one occasion the number of priests totaled 1,760, all “mighty men of ability for the work of the service of the house of the true God.” (1 Chron. 9:10-13) These were priests of distinguished capabilities. We cannot, however, imagine that all these priests were highly qualified or gifted at birth, that it was exceptionally easy for them to be proficient in whatever was assigned to them. No, but by diligence in learning their jobs and by unfaltering attention to their assigned duties, one and all in due time won the reputation of being very able men for the work of Jehovah. This highlights the fact that men can work at things they either enjoy or dislike. If a man applies himself, no work is so crude or menial but that he can exalt it; no work so boring or lifeless but that he may breathe a little life into it; no work so dull but that man can enliven it with his imagination, if he but applies himself.
14. How did the priests view themselves, and what attitude expressed by the apostle Paul may help us in our work?
14 In their work the priests of Jehovah viewed themselves as co-workers with God, which made them look upon their assignments as a privilege and not as just a common task to be done. Despite the menialness of their assignments, they could maintain a fine spirit like that urged by the apostle Paul, who said: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” And again he says: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23) But even when men view themselves as coworkers with God, they still must apply themselves. It is this vigorous, diligent application of oneself as God’s fellow worker that eventually results in achievement and true happiness. Is this your attitude toward work?
15. How did the Hebrews regard work, and what was thought of diligence and skillfulness?
15 The ancient Hebrews, like their priests, never doubted the importance of work. It was regarded as most honorable, a sacred duty, a gift from God. The Talmud teaches: “He who does not teach his son a craft is, as it were, bringing him up to robbery.” “Labor is greatly to be prized, for it elevates the laborer, and maintains him.” The Bible praises diligence and skillful labor, saying: “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” (Prov. 22:29) Diligence was synonymous with riches. (Prov. 10:4; 12:27) The Christian apostle Paul also declared: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”—2 Thess. 3:10.
16. How was work on the part of Hebrew women viewed, and what do the Proverbs have to say about this?
16 Even among Hebrew women, industry was praised. A woman who willingly worked with her hands was highly recommended as “a capable wife.” “She works at whatever is the delight of her hands.”—Prov. 31:10, 13, 31.
17. Why were the Jews prized as captives?
17 With such a high regard for labor, it is not difficult to see why the Hebrews as a nation prospered. Also, it is not hard to see why conquering nations prized them as captives. Nebuchadnezzar, like the king of Tyre, no doubt found among the thousands that he had taken captive skilled Jewish craftsmen of all kinds: smiths and metalworkers, carpenters and masons, shipbuilders, masters in the art of spinning and weaving both wool and linen, shoemakers, tailors and painters.—2 Chron. 2:13, 14.
THE VALUE OF WORK AND REST
18, 19. What can we say about rest, and why should the purpose of night not be perverted?
18 Life has beautiful rhythms. There is a time for work and a time for rest. God’s sabbath laws to Israel provided that one seventh of man’s working hours should be free from toil. This was to rest the body and improve the mind, which tends to strengthen, invigorate and sustain the man. On the Sabbath day man was to rest and worship. The body required rest, while the mind and heart acquired the strength derived from worship, from feeding on the thoughts of God. (Matt. 4:4) Since man must worship God in order to live, it is only reasonable that that worship should be free of all distractions. While work is important, there must also be a time for quiet reflection in order to evaluate one’s effort and gain from such an evaluation a sense of living and accomplishment. This is not suggesting that workers dream away the daylight hours. No, but that some time be given after the day’s close to quiet contemplation. The night serves that purpose well.
19 The purpose of the night should not be abused or perverted, however. For many it is time consumed in listening to “rock” music, a time for liquor drinking in nightclubs and vigorous dancing in discotheques, all of which leaves a man or a woman more spent and jaded than all the work of the day. But God gave the night for the kind of rest that genuinely restores the body and mind. Honest rest like honest work brings well-being and joy.
20. Why should mankind ask about the work they do now, and why is there no cause for despair?
20 Nothing determines a man’s worth as much as the work he does from day to day. God gave man hands and muscles for action. It is his actions, then, that determine his worth. In fact, God will judge mankind according to their deeds. (Rev. 20:12) That is why it is well that we ask ourselves: What have we done with our lives? What works have we performed or can we point to that would prove our worth? If you have little or nothing to show for the time you have been on earth, do not despair. The good news is that it is not too late to change. There is still time in which you can do useful work to God’s glory and from which you can gain everlasting satisfaction. In these critical hard times God has a work in which you can engage and become his co-worker. Of that work and how you might take part in it to your eternal happiness, we leave for the following article to tell.
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After going into the ark that he built at God’s command, Noah cared for the animals and did other work. How are you responding to God’s work?