God’s Gift of Work for His Servants
“I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.”—John 17:4.
1. What did Jesus do about his work for which he was sent to earth?
JESUS CHRIST, the only-begotten Son of God, is the chief servant of the Creator of heaven and earth. When Jehovah sent him to the earth for the purpose of vindicating His universal sovereignty and ransoming the world of mankind, Jesus became an object of amazement, particularly to mankind. This was as foretold in Isaiah 52:13, 14: “Look! My servant will act with insight. He will be in high station and will certainly be elevated and exalted very much. To the extent that many have stared at him in amazement—so much was the disfigurement as respects his appearance more than that of any other man and as respects his stately form more than that of the sons of mankind.” This rare work he faithfully finished, just as he confessed in his prayer to Jehovah God, saying: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.” (John 17:4) He is an example to all fellow servants of God.
2. In what sense are we in the image of God?
2 Men and women have a need to work. It comes from the way they were made. “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness,” Jehovah God said at the time of creating man as his servant on earth. (Genesis 1:26) This likeness is not in any physical resemblance to God, who is spirit and unseen by human eyes. Rather, it means that certain attributes of God were given to perfect man, qualities such as justice, wisdom, love and others that set man apart from the lower animals. That this is the correct view is shown by Colossians 3:9, 10, where dedicated fellow servants of Jesus Christ are told to change their personality, in these words: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.”
3, 4. (a) What do the opening words of the Bible show God to be? (b) In what sense was he refreshed upon completion of the work of creation?
3 One feature of God’s “image” is that of being a worker. Jehovah has absolute freedom to do as he pleases, and what he pleases to do is work. The opening words of the Bible introduce him to us as a tireless worker: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This work did not leave him exhausted: “Jehovah, the Creator of the extremities of the earth, is a God to time indefinite. He does not tire out or grow weary.”—Isaiah 40:28.
4 Hence, it could not be in the sense of needing to recuperate that he refreshed himself at the end of the sixth creative day: “In six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day he desisted and proceeded to refresh himself.” (Exodus 31:17, New World Translation, footnote, 1963 ed.) God did not rest from all work, but just from this particular creative work. Upon its completion he contemplated it and noted that it was very good, up to his standard of perfection, and he was refreshed and satisfied by the accomplishment of this work of highest quality. To see this fine work completed was a joy and a satisfaction and a refreshment to Jehovah the Creator of it all. (Genesis 1:31; John 5:17) From all of this we see that people, made in God’s likeness, have an innate need not only to be workers but also to be refreshed by a feeling of accomplishment over work well done.
Man’s Need for Meaningful Work
5. (a) What else is God shown to be, and what follows from this? (b) What is a partial explanation of the decline of the work ethic?
5 Additionally, Jehovah is a God of purpose and his works are purposeful. “Everything Jehovah has made for his purpose,” including mankind. (Proverbs 16:4) Hence, it follows that man’s works must also have purpose. “The striving to find a meaning in one’s life,” writes psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, “is the primary motivational force in man. . . . There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.” But many find it monotonous to perform repeatedly one operation on an assembly line on a product in which they have no interest or pride. Therein lies a partial key to the loss of the work ethic—much of today’s work fails to meet people’s psychological need for meaning and a feeling of fulfillment.
6. What purposeful work was the first man given to do?
6 Since everything God made was for a purpose, man was made for a purpose. He was made and put on earth to work. The work God gave him to do was meaningful, involving the use of both his mind and his hands in productive ways. “Jehovah God proceeded to take the man and settle him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to take care of it.” Perfect man was to “have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth,” and “Jehovah God was forming from the ground every wild beast of the field and every flying creature of the heavens, and he began bringing them to the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man would call it, each living soul, that was its name.”—Genesis 2:15; 1:26; 2:19.
7, 8. (a) Why can work in God’s service properly be called a gift from him? (b) Why do hobbies fail as a substitute for work?
7 It was for man’s pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction that Jehovah assigned him suitable work. The work would fill his life, rout any possibility of boredom or dull monotony, and give him the satisfying feeling of being useful. It would be purposeful work because of being assigned by the Creator of the earth and the universe, the Almighty God of purpose. Rather than the divine attributes being repressed or frustrated or stagnated by disuse, as often happens in secular work, the work assignment from Jehovah allowed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, free expression. And even after man’s ouster from the garden of Eden and after he was told that work would be done “in the sweat of your face,” it was still for man’s good.—Genesis 3:19.
8 Recent scientific studies confirm the Scriptural truth that man was made to work. They have shown that the majority of elderly persons in good health do not want to retire, that retirement more often brings boredom instead of happiness. Investigators believe retirement makes bored and idle persons lose the will to live and actually shortens their life span. Hobbies do not satisfactorily replace work in the lives of retired persons. Hobbies may be enjoyable a few hours a week as a change and relaxation from regular work, but they become tiresome when pursued full time. They fall short of making us feel that our lives are serving a useful purpose. Wise King Solomon wrote: “My heart was joyful because of all my hard work, and this came to be my portion from all my hard work. 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.” So work in God’s service is a gift from God.—Ecclesiastes 2:10, 24.
The Worker to Enjoy the Fruits of His Work
9, 10. (a) What illustrations show that man is to enjoy the fruits of his labor? (b) Whose cries does Jehovah hear?
9 Jehovah does not want man deprived of the fruits of his labor. “The hardworking farmer,” wrote the apostle Paul, “must be the first to partake of the fruits.” Elsewhere he expounded this divine principle at greater length, saying: “Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not eat some of the milk of the flock? Am I speaking these things by human standards? Or does not the Law also say these things? For in the law of Moses it is written: ‘You must not muzzle a bull when it is threshing out the grain.’ Is it bulls God is caring for? Or is it altogether for our sakes he says it? Really for our sakes it was written, because the man who plows ought to plow in hope and the man who threshes ought to do so in hope of being a partaker.”—2 Timothy 2:6; 1 Corinthians 9:7-10.
10 Even the working animals were to partake of the fruits of their labor. If Jehovah safeguards the interests of the working brute, how much more so will he champion the cause of human workers! Actually, he clearly indicates his intent to do this: “Look! The wages due the workers who harvested your fields but which are held up by you, keep crying out, and the calls for help on the part of the reapers have entered into the ears of Jehovah of armies.”—James 5:4.
Jesus and His Followers—Workers
11. How did Jesus feel about work, and why must we take to heart his view of it?
11 Along with his heavenly Father Jehovah, Jesus is a worker. “My Father has kept working until now,” he said, “and I keep working.” (John 5:17) He does the work Jehovah assigned to him. He willingly and voluntarily does this work and expresses delight in the doing of it. He finds it as nourishing, as satisfying and as refreshing as food. More so, in fact, for on one occasion when his disciples urged him to eat, he responded: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) The joy of accomplishment would refresh him at the end of the work, dissipating any tiredness and leaving him satisfied and exhilarated. Those who profess to be Christian should take to heart this course and attitude of Christ Jesus. Why so? Because the Bible shows that Christ left “you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Peter 2:21.
12, 13. (a) What illustration shows it is proper to commend good workers, and what reward was given them? (b) What happened to the unproductive slave? (c) What purpose do vacations serve?
12 By an illustration Jesus showed that work gives its own reward in joyfulness. A man was going on a trip. He summoned his slaves and distributed his goods among them according to their different abilities. He did not ask more of them than they were capable of, but he did expect them to produce according to their capabilities. After a long absence he returned for an accounting. The one given five talents doubled them, the one given two doubled them, but the one given one talent did nothing with it. How were the two industrious workers rewarded? With a vacation? No, but, of all things, more work! The master commended each one, saying, “Well done, good and faithful slave!” and then added: “You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” The master’s joy was in this work, and by getting more of it to do the industrious slaves entered more fully into his joy. But what about the lazy slave? The decision was: “Take away the talent from him and give it to him that has the ten talents.”—Matthew 25:14-30.
13 Now the lazy slave could loaf. But was he happy? No, he ended up ‘weeping and gnashing his teeth!’ To be happy we need useful work. However, we also need periods of rest. Unlike Jehovah, we do get tired. But after a vacation has restored our physical and nervous energies and revived our spirits, we are ready for more work—eager, in fact, to get back to work. This is so unless the work is boring and repetitious, lacking in purpose and meaning for the worker, as much secular work is today.
14. Of what lasting profit is a materialistic course?
14 But in addition to uninteresting work causing a decline in the work ethic, many today are ensnared by materialism. Yet, of what lasting profit are material possessions accumulated beyond legitimate needs? As moderns say, “You can’t take it with you.” Solomon expressed it more forcefully: “Just as one has come forth from his mother’s belly, naked will one go away again, just as one came; and nothing at all can one carry away for his hard work, which he can take along with his hand. And this too is a grave calamity: exactly as one has come, so one will go away; and what profit is there to the one who keeps working hard for the wind?”—Ecclesiastes 5:15, 16.
15. By what further vanities are some ensnared?
15 Some involve themselves in another futile vanity: working to “keep up with the Joneses,” as the saying goes. Or, more often, to get ahead of the Joneses. “I have also learned why people work so hard to succeed,” Solomon said. “It is because they envy the things their neighbors have.” Or, “It means the rivalry of one toward another.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4, Today’s English Version; NW) Futile and vain indeed are the lives and works of the wicked: “You will become like a big tree the foliage of which is withering, and like a garden that has no water. And the vigorous man will certainly become tow, and the product of his activity a spark; and both of them will certainly go up in flames at the same time, with no one to do the extinguishing.”—Isaiah 1:30, 31.
The Exhilarating Work Ahead
16. What satisfying work lies ahead for obedient mankind?
16 Work for people on the earth will not always be a striving after the wind. It will be as purposeful and meaningful as that originally assigned to the first human pair in Eden. Jehovah’s purpose to have earth a global paradise cared for by righteous human creatures will be accomplished. (Isaiah 55:11) Over such an earthful of perfect people God’s kingdom under Christ will reign. Life in that new system will never become monotonous or boring, because there will be plenty of work to do—not the vain and futile work of this old world that makes the workweek a grind and makes men speak of its beginning as Blue Monday. No, it will be the interesting and fascinating work of beautifying the earth, exercising loving dominion over the animals, rearing children, and educating resurrected humans, until the earth is filled with a righteous race and many other undreamed-of joys. Then busy people will ‘long enjoy the work of their hands and use it to the full.’—Isaiah 65:22.
17. What shows that life will never become humdrum because we have learned it all and done it all?
17 Besides works of the hands there will be problems to engage perfect minds, using thinking abilities to the full. Never can mankind know it all, for “mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 11:33) There will always be new challenges and mysteries to be researched and penetrated. Although servants of Jehovah will live forever, eternity itself will never suffice for them to learn all there is to know about the earth and the universe that Jehovah has created.
18. What must precede our sharing in God’s gift of work in a paradise earth?
18 Before that exhilarating work will be our lot, however, there is a present work we must do to assure our getting there to become a part of that paradise earth. It is now a life-or-death matter for us to learn what that vital work is.
□ Why do people have a need to work?
□ In what sense did Jehovah rest after making the heavens and the earth?
□ What purposeful work did God originally give man to do?
□ Why can it be said that even in man’s imperfect state work is good for him?
□ What shows that humans were meant to enjoy the fruits of their labors?
□ How did Jesus show his attitude toward work?
□ What fine work lies ahead for God’s servants?
[Picture on page 13]
God gave man meaningful work to do