The righteous worker is: happy, delights in God’s law, lends generously, conducts business fairly, is unafraid, gives freely to the poor, he is gracious, compassionate, and righteous, and the wicked hate it.
How do you think about the value of your labor? What do you think are the primary two or three outcomes of your work? You and I might answer these questions in terms of the product we create, but certainly there is more to it than just that. I worked in a cubicle for a major tech company that seemingly wasted most of my time and my work in order to produce an ephemeral product. We might also think about the paycheck we bring home and all we can do with it. We pay the bills, put food on the table, and if we are lucky we save to take care of our future and the future of our loved ones.
But is that all there is to our labor? According to the One who gives us things to do while we are here on earth, there is far more to our work than immediate products and a bank account. It might surprise us to learn that Scripture has a lot to say about the value of our labor, and that God’s design for our labor is actually quite magnificent. Sweeping, even.
Over time I hope to write more about these things, but let us begin with Psalm 112. It begins by talking about the “happy” person who “fears the Lord”. Quickly, however, we learn this means someone who “conducts his business fairly” and whose house is full of “wealth and riches”. Psalm 112 is about a righteous worker, or, if you will, the righteous entrepreneur.
Scripture neither demeans nor ignores the role of work in our lives. On the contrary, in passages like Psalm 112, it elevates it to the standard of something that can foreshadow the Kingdom of God here on earth. Christ taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10-11). Here we learn that one way God answers that prayer is for us to work well.
Look at some of the language used to describe this laborer. They are, “gracious, compassionate, and righteous” (vs 4). In our work, followers of Christ reflect several of the Christ-like virtues, not just in their inner character but in their interactions with their co-laborers. Christ is our prime example for grace, compassion, and righteousness as well as the empowerment for these characteristics in our lives. So Christ is at work in his disciples bringing the traits of his Kingdom into our lives so they can be lived when we work with each other.
It is worth reflecting on this: Christ gives me grace so I may become his child, now I learn to give his kind of grace to others and even learn how to work with that same grace. Then include the other two virtues of compassion and righteousness and you have plenty of fodder for prayer and reflection.
The Psalmist does not leave us just to meditate and ponder, however. He also gives us examples. This worker of compassion and grace “lends generously”. They conduct their “business fairly” (vs 5). This laboring disciple is open-handed with all the means and product of their labor. Does this include collaboration instead of selfishness? Does this include the resources that are at our disposal when we work? Does this include who gets credit for successes?
Beyond the workplace she “distributes freely to the poor” (vs 9) and simultaneously maintains “wealth and riches” in her home (vs 3). It is a paradoxical truism in biblical Wisdom Literature that the stingy fool is poor while the generous giver has all they need. The Psalm 112 worker has learned this lesson and gives freely. An attitude of giving requires at least two prior realities: they have accumulated (they collect the fruits of their labor), and they recognize that all things belong to God in the end. In other words, they are hard workers and they are happy to share what God has given them.
On your next trip into work, pray through some of these ideas and passages in Psalm 112. They can help us approach our daily labor with God’s goodness and grace in mind. And with His help we might even foreshadow the kingdom of God sometime this afternoon.