The Theology of Work

Rev. Daniel Herb

Work Today

The topic of work has been regularly in the news lately; the subject of multiple editorial pages and opinion pieces in the media for months. The number of businesses looking for people to work, the low unemployment rate, people not seeking work, the perceived safety of the work place, and the number of people who have quit one job to take another, has resulted in a great deal of open employment positions and a labor shortage. This has led to a designation of our current labor situation being labeled as the “great resignation.”

There are numerous anecdotal evidences as well as various theories and opinions as to the reasons, motivations and cause(s) for the current labor shortage. Initially, the economic shutdown resulting from forced business closures swelled the ranks of the unemployed. Then, out of fear of the pandemic – still in the minds of people today – there remains a feeling in some people’s minds that it is not safe yet to go back to work and be around groups of people. For those working, there are reports that people are moving from one employer to another and changing their field of work to take advantage of rising wages. Some have written opinion pieces stating that because of the generous social welfare and assistance afforded from our federal and state governing authorities, people are able to live better off welfare than working and earning money; that they would have to give up too many “free bees” from assistance if they worked full time. Then there is a report that found an older demographic of people who have experienced living off less income and decided that they are doing just fine not working and are content to just take retirement early to live a simpler life. The truth is that the entire employment, labor and staffing market is complex and likely a combination of all the reasons above that people have identified.

Perhaps the true underlying cause of our work dilemma and attitudes is that there is no longer a godly basis and foundation for labor. People’s attitudes regarding work are more influenced by worldly ideologies, personal motivations and human philosophies. As the influence of a biblical way of thinking about work is declining with the diminishing Christian ethos and influence, so the idea of work has been experiencing a seismic shift, accelerated and exacerbated by the catalyst of the pandemic. There is a confusion regarding the nature and purpose of work.

The Origin of Work

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground… then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:5, 7).

From the beginning, man was created to work. As the text from Genesis 2:5 reveals, that when God had created the vegetation of the fields, “there was no man to work the ground,” so immediately following this phrase in Holy Scripture, “then God created man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:5). And then “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). From God’s original design for mankind, people were to work in God’s creation; to work and till the ground. Work is a blessed and God pleasing vocation for man. And this work and tilling of the ground was not toil and drudgery as we view it today, but a joy of man in service and of thankfulness to the Father. A perfect design by God where work was life, man was content and his work a joy. It is odd that we now envision a perfect world and great joy then without work.

The Lord also had a blessed and life-giving labor for Adam’s helpmate, Eve. She was to be the “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Together Adam and Eve – and all mankind – are to work to “multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Women were designed and created by God to bear, nurture and raise children; a most blessed vocation. The role and work of women God has set forth in the beginning and even in the New Testament. Paul addresses widows: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (1 Timothy 5:14). So blessed is this vocation that the virgin Mary is “called blessed” (Luke 1:48) because of being the woman to conceive, by the power of the Holy Spirit and give birth to God in human flesh – the child and man Jesus – Immanuel. Work originally was glorious, fulfilling, God pleasing, and desired by man; but that joy did not last long.

Work Changes

And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Satan, in the form of a serpent came to Eden, spoke enticing lies to humanity’s first parents, which resulted in the tragic and deadly fall of man and all creation into the darkness of corruption, sin and condemnation. All this glorious and joyous work for God became a four-letter curse word from the lips of people estranged from God. Work had now become called: despised drudgery, tedious toil, laborious labor, mind numbing monotony, exasperating employment, and worthless work. The blessed labor that God had created, man had cursed and ruined for all time. Living forever in God’s original creation was gone, the gate to Eden had been blocked and eating from the eternal fountain of youth in the tree of life to live forever was no longer accessible.

Even after the fall and the corruption of all creation, the good design and work of the Creator remains for man to work. The perfect and joyful vocation of work was now going to be viewed as a cursed chore. Man’s work was no longer pleasurable, fun and enjoyable, but it was now going to be toil and the source of pain, sweat and exhaustion. Work was now going to kill mankind because work is cursed; it was now a source of thorns and thistles. It is amazing that people will say, “I am sorry that you have to work,” or “I hate having to have someone do things for me.” Consider how work is depicted in television shows such as The Office. Boredom reigns supreme and there is no sense of meaning or value to what people are doing each day. Work is monotonous. Your entire life is seen as a life of seemingly worthless, necessary work to merely survive, but ultimately has no lasting value or salvific benefit. This is all because of Adam listening to and paying more attention his wife and the words of the devil than the words of God.

The joyous work that Adam had to do was originally living in a God-pleasing way, but because of the fall into sin, it is now a cursed four-letter word; and the materials of his work were also cursed, making work difficult and no longer satisfying. The very ground that he was to work and till, would bring forth not only the intended food to nourish and sustain human life, but also “thorns and thistles.” We would label these unwanted weeds. All the work and effort that man expends does not bring forth lasting satisfaction and contentment, but also many undesired outcomes. No longer could man anticipate only good from his work, but must deal with and put up with the exhausting sweat of his brow and insufficiency of his efforts, resulting in a loss of joy and gladness.

Not only was manual labor cursed in the fall along with the very materials of that earthly labor, but the blessed estate and work of motherhood and the labor of giving birth was cursed. “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). While there is great joy in children, bearing them is accompanied by a great deal of pain. This is the tainted work of bringing forth new life in this fallen and corrupt world. Giving birth is difficult and can be very painful and even dangerous at times for mother or baby. The carrying of a child, the terror of birthing or delivery time, is necessary to bring forth that blessing of life from God.

Along with these results of the cursedness of work, there is also the resulting conflict between husband and wife in the realm of domestic vocational work. “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband but he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). To rightly understand this portion of text, you have to remember that this is still a part of the resulting curse from disobedience. This portion of the curse is the inherent conflict that we see to this day between husband and wife arguing over each one’s role in the family as provider and nurturer. Adam abdicated his role and work as head, provider and protector by failing to stop his wife from listening to the Serpent and not to God. Eve stepped into the headship role and set aside her work as helpmate by listening to Satan and drawing Adam into disobedience by handing fruit to him to eat.

So, all forms of vocational work are by nature for mankind dreaded and despised to some degree by sinners. With an inward focus and self-centered compass to navigate by, pagans desire that which is pleasurable and makes one “feel happy.” Leisure, play, entertainment, and relaxation are the goals of an unbeliever’s life and efforts. As the rich young fool, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry (Luke 12:19).

Work is a monetary means of reaching the goal of self-satisfaction. The prevailing way of thought is that the less I have to work, the more time I have to play. Work is better left for someone else to do. And others need to work for my personal entertainment, pleasure and enjoyment. If I am going to work, then I better be compensated with a large salary and benefits. David Zahl, in his book Seculosity, discusses the idea that people work enough so that they can feed the “Me Monster” inside of them, which is in complete opposition to the Christian ethos of work directed outward to your neighbor. This could be part of the appeal of socialism; envying and coveting what others have – wanting to reap their rewards of their work instead of working myself.

The end result of this prevailing inclination, rationalization and thinking is that the outward focus on the neighbor is no longer the object of a person’s efforts and actions, but purely inward directed at the self. The paradigm of “The world revolves around me and my needs and wants” drives and motivates mankind. This is the original sin of Adam and Eve; personal wants and desires being more important than God’s eternal and all sufficient Word.

The Christian at Work

For the Christian, however, your motivation and guidance come, not from the spirit of the world, but from the Spirit of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God’s people work, not for themselves, but for their heavenly Father in the many and various vocations or stations of life. Your godly work is focused on and directed toward the neighbor. This is not a selfish endeavor, although man can turn anything into something self-centered. For the new spiritual man there is to be a selfless impetus of serving prompted by the Holy Spirit in the manner of Christ himself; for Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Christ, the Second Adam, by giving His perfect sinless flesh and blood body over to death on the cursed tree of the cross, has worked salvation and reversed what the first Adam brought into creation. Eternal life that was jeopardized by Adam is now attainable through Christ. Living forever in God’s heavenly kingdom, that is not of this earth, is possible. While the gate to Eden’s paradise was blocked as a result of sin, the new Paradise of heaven is now open so that the faithful may live forever as was God’s original plan. The new heavens and the new earth will be an Eden restored; and man will live and never die – a place of no more sorrow, no more tears, no more sin, and no more death (Revelation 21:4) from his work. The object of Jesus’ work was not for Himself, but directed to and for you, His neighbor.

Jesus did the impossible work of the cross, dying for sins to pay the exorbitant price for all transgressions and iniquities. He worked out your salvation, and the benefactor of all His work is you; yours by faith in the complete labor of His hands. He did not try to escape or shirk His design as a human for work. He gave His disciples and you the answer when work is difficult and not enjoyable when He confronted the disciples’ concerns for the work that He came to do; Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour (John 12:27). Jesus’ work of the cross was not pleasurable, but the work had to be done and it was His work to do.

The Christian ethic for work flows directly out of Holy Scripture, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for me” (Colossians 3:23). To work is to live in peace and contentment as Paul records (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we have instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Work is God’s way of supplying for the needs of people. Mankind was created to work and even after the fall that original design, though tainted with the ravages of sin, is still pleasing to God and necessary. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuit will have plenty of poverty” (Proverbs 28:19; cf. Proverbs 12:11). “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tend only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). To be able to work and serve is truly a blessing from God.

Failing to work is dangerous for the physical and spiritual welfare of man as the Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah (48:10a), “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness…” Scripture goes so far as to say (2 Thessalonians 3:10), “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Each is to be honest in his or her labors and abilities as our Lord Jesus makes clear, Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14b). The apostle Paul gets more explicit in writing; “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).

Learning to Work

This biblical and godly ethic of work directed to the neighbor has been expounded upon in the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther in the section titled, Table of Duties. It is in these writings we are instructed on how we are to live life in the servant attitude of Christ. Mankind was originally created to serve; to serve God by serving in creation. When the true Word of God and faith are absent from man, then work is not performed in the correct service of the neighbor, but of self. This is a constant struggle for the Christian also, for we all live in the fallen world and it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that our work is not of the world in thoughts, words and deeds. The remembrance of our baptism is where we daily drown the Old Adam in us so that daily a new man will rise to live (SC, Baptism, Part Four, Meaning) the God pleasing work life. And the frequent hearing of God’s Word renews the Christian’s mind and heart for the proper view and value of daily work.

Just who is your neighbor? Your closest neighbor is your own family; your spouse, parents and children. You work to protect, provide for and nurture your nearest neighbor of your family. This is not a selfish and prideful endeavor, although man can turn it into such self-centered actions, but a selfless impulse of serving prompted by the Holy Spirit in the manner of Christ himself; for “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Family Estate

Dr. Luther discusses this intimate work among the estate of the family when he speaks of the husband being considerate and respectful to his wife; to not be harsh with her and to love her in the same manner that your heavenly Father loves you (1 Peter 3:7, Colossians 3:19). Paul expounds greatly on the role and godly work of a husband in loving his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33). He acts Christ like toward his bride – giving up His life for her. This relinquishing of life is more than just a physical death for his wife. It more rightly includes focusing on, not his own personal desires and serving self, but giving up self-centeredness and putting his wife first, as Christ put His bride the Church first.

The godly work of the wife is set in correct focus caring for her husband and family. Paul also explains this as submission to the husband as to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24). The world today wants the wife to aspire to be the head and have her husband submit to her, a fulfillment of the curse spoken of by God in Genesis 3:16; of her desiring the place of her husband.

Together, as husband and wife, the two that become one flesh are to “multiply and fill the earth”; to bring forth children and “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is a difficult work in this life, but God instructs parents to Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Paul, in his letter to Titus (2:1-8), lays out how parents are to teach and model godly behavior for their children’s instruction. Older men are to instruct and be an example for younger men and boys in godly work and being a man of faith. Older women are to likewise teach and model for younger women and girls work that is pleasing to God for living as a woman of faith. And children are given the command and work to obey their parents “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3).

In the family estate, husbands and wives that work under such guidance will be living a life pleasing to God. Children raised in such a godly home are much more apt to be well behaved, respectful, courteous, and godly. This work of husbands, wives and children that is not done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God will end in trouble and contribute to the current godless state of life that we see today in work and other facets of society. Out of laziness and other personal interests, other institutions are used to try and fill the parental void, such as absent fathers or both parents working and absent for example, but the results are usually not favorable. The institutions cannot equally and completely substitute for the lack of a traditional family and the various vocations.

Civil Estate

Men and women occupy the civil realm and have godly work to do here also. Each and every individual is a citizen and has the obligatory work of citizenship. We are to honor God’s establishment of governing authorities by submitting to such authorities. We are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). As Paul unpacks in more detail the meaning of such work, we submit to authorities to avoid punishment, yes, but also by paying taxes, revenue, showing respect, and giving honor; for God has established such authority as His servants to promote a stable and peaceable kingdom to live in godliness and holiness (Romans 13:5-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-3). We are to offer up prayers and intercessions for these rulers that they might work justly and in a godly manner. And when these authorities act in opposition to God, we are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Also in the civil realm, there are work obligations for the Christian concerning that of employers and employees. We are living in an age and with attitudes by both that show a complete lack of dedication by workers to their company through frequent job changes. No more working for one company your entire career. There is nothing wrong with advancement and changing careers of employers for better opportunities, but many changes are motivated by greed, power and resentment. Paul puts it to the Ephesians (6:5-8) this way: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respectand fear, and with sincerity of heart,just as you would obey Christ.Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ,doing the will of God from your heart.Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do,whether they are slave or free.”

Here it is critical to understand Paul’s discussion not in an early American context and focusing on our current definition of the words master and slave as an oppressor and victim scenario. These verses depict a working relationship of employer and employee, as one who has authority over another to properly understand these passages.

When Paul writes to Titus (2:9-10) he makes clear, Teach slaves [employees] to be subject to their masters [employers] in everything,to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviorattractive. We are, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to work to the best of our abilities at all times, not in laziness and idleness, thus glorying our Father in heaven.

It is correspondingly important to recognize that loyalty of companies to their employees as an expression of godly work. In many organizations, workers were viewed as an asset and given training and development. Employees are now seen, not as an asset, but as a liability and expense. God, through the Apostle Paul, instructs both employers and supervisors; masters, treat your slaves in the same way [with respect]. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:9). Employees are to be paid a fair and respectable wage and provide a safe work environment for the workers and work performed.

The worker is not to withhold his labor and industry from the employer, working for them as for the Lord. In the same manner, the employer is obligated to treat those who are employed by and work for them in a manner that is benevolent to its personnel. The Bible records, “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until morning” (Leviticus 19:13); and “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”, and, “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18).

We all do not have the same capabilities and work to do. God has endowed each person specific talents and skills to utilize for the sake of all people (Romans 12:3-8). While we all are offered and given the same grace and forgiveness in the Gospel, a diversity of skills and capabilities allows for all the aspects of life to take place. Luther expounds on this in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer for our “daily bread,” where we are “to include not only the oven or the flour bin, but also the broad fields and the whole land which produces and provide for us our daily bread and all kinds of substances.” For it is God that provides our food and drink, clothes and shoes, house and home, wife and children, land animals and all that we have” (SC, Creed First Article, Meaning); and He does this through the varied vocations and work of a multitude of people.

From the beginning God ordained people to have differing skills and abilities to complement each other; the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Eve was created to be a compliment and helper to Adam. Their first children, Cain and Able, each had different skill sets and vocations, for “Able was a keeper of sheep, and Cain was a worker of the ground” (Genesis 4:2). Because of God’s unsearchable wisdom, He gave a diversity of abilities and talents to persons for the support and benefit of others as these passages from Exodus show: “He has filled them with skills to do every sort of work done by an engraver or designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver – by any sort of workman or skilled designer” (35:35); and “…every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary…” (36:1). The Almighty Creator has, through His forming each and every child in the womb of their mother, endowed each and every person with capabilities and aptitudes to be used in service to the neighbor and the Lord.

With the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in you through the recreative work of God in Holy Baptism, you are to seek to work in a Christlike manner for your neighbor as Jesus did for you, His neighbor. The Christian therefore sees work as a manifestation of Jesus in their life, seeing that work is pleasing and gives God glory.

When the Christian does the work that the Lord has given him or her to do, there is great blessing to the neighbor and also for the individual themselves as Solomon writes, “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). He goes so far as to say that “there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work” (3:22). The psalmist days, “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128:2). For the Christian, there is therefore great blessing and contentment in the work that the Lord has given you to do. So, our prayer to the Lord should be, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us” (Psalm 90:17).

Spiritual Estate

Luther identified a third estate and that estate is the church. The Christian’s work here, of course, is to be godly and holy; but only through the work and directing of the Holy Spirit can this be achieved. Those called to be pastors and overseers are to be of good reputation and temperament; self-controlled, be able to teach, not violent or quarrelsome, nor a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:2-4). They must also fulfill their pastoral work and duties in a godly manner, mature in the faith and must not be conceited (1 Timothy 3:6). “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9). We use the short hand of pastors preaching the Word in its purity and administering the Sacraments in accordance with Christ’s institution. This work of the pastor rightly supports and empowers the Christian’s living in their various vocational realms of their lives; “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

There then is a reciprocal work hearing the pastor that is owed to God. “[T]hose who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). The congregation is to share the gracious bounty and blessings that God gives them with the one whom the Lord has called to instruct them in the Word and mysteries of God and deliver His grace (Galatians 6:6-7). The congregation’s godly work toward the minister of the Word is to not despise preaching and God’s Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it (SC, 3rd Commandment, Meaning). The Christian can do so because they realize each pastor is appointed to “keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy…” (Hebrews 13:17). The pastor serves the people; serves the congregation the grace of God in Word and Sacraments. In response, the sheep thank God’s under shepherd by obeying their pastor.

As the body of the Christ, the universal Church, we are to have the mind of Christ to support our Lord’s most holy work as given to us in Matthew 28:20 to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… and teaching them all I have commanded you.” Every Christian is to be ready to joyfully “give the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). This is a lifelong work that requires hearing and learning the Word.

Who is to Work

When are we to stop working? When is the proper time to retire from work? Joshua, when he had led the of people Israel into the promised land and settled them, did not retire and stop working. Even when he was old (Joshua 13:1), he was still able to work for the Lord, only in a different job. No longer as leader of Israel, but he went up into the hill country of Timnath-sera of Ephraim and built a city and settled there (Joshua 19:49-50). So, he rested from one vocation changed his career, continuing his working for God.

No matter what stage we are at in life, there is still work that we can rendered to God. There are times when vocations change and the way that we serve our neighbor does too. Most will move from care giver as parent and laborer, to being cared for by others. Later in life, as a person ages and comes to a point of being unable to care for themselves and in need of assistance, the family should do the godly work of caring and providing for parents and those who are widowed. Paul writes to Timothy on this topic (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16): if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God… But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever… If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them.” As God cares for His creation and mankind, like Jesus giving of His life to serve and work for all people, so we are to reflect and manifest that same care toward family and those in need.

Work is what we are to do as Christians, whether single or married or widowed, even if it does not have a paycheck. Work done in faith is pleasing to the Lord and it is the Holy Spirit’s motivation within the Christian. Absent the Spirit, a person falls into sin as Paul writes (1 Timothy 5:11-13), But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marryand so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. A person that is able bodied is not to be driven by their natural passions, idle, a busy body, or a gossiper. This is not pleasing activity for the child of God.

Learning to Work

This godly work ethic is a learned behavior as Paul states, You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance” (Titus 2:1-2). Men of God are to teach the younger men what it is to be a man of faith. “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousnessand soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8).

For godly women, it is the same process and maturing to become a woman of faith. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:3-5).

This theology of work God himself has thoroughly summed up for the Christian in the simple phrase; “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). Luther concludes his Table of Duties, “Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall share.” Share in the abundant mercy and grace of God and be able to live in His kingdom forever and ever.


Earthly work has become cursed by the rebellious actions of man. Mankind is still rebelling against work because of his rejection of God. It is said that “Boredom is a bad place to be” and “Idle hands are the devil’s tools.” Should man turn back to the Lord and His Word, the current labor problems would be mitigated and improved, but with unbelief increasing, change may well not happen.

Work, for the believer, is a godly thing to do just as God Himself did at the beginning of time. He worked the six days of creation to establish all things; and it was very good. God embedded in creation work, for all of creation was made for man; and out of thanks to God – and in obedience to Him – man was to have dominion over God’s creation. Man serves God by his work in God’s earthly creation and toward his neighbor as the Lord always intended. There is no other way to serve God in this body He created for us.

Work has always been the lot of mankind from the beginning. It was a very good thing, but because of man’s rebellion, God cursed it for man’s benefit (Romans 8:20-21). Work, however, is still pleasing to God and blessed for us, even when cursed, difficult and life threatening. The Lord has endowed each of us with skills to be utilized for their neighbor. “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tend only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). Work truly is a blessing from God and when done in faith glorifies your Father in heaven.

Rev. Daniel Herb is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Middletown, OH.