Work is Neighbor Love

Amidst the relief packages flying around, both passed and proposed, there is the hope that infusions of cash from the government to individuals and businesses will help keep the economy afloat during the Coronavirus pandemic. This post is not designed to debate the relative virtues of one-time shots-in-the-arm for individuals or businesses, bailouts for states, or long-term and vastly expanded unemployment. (Though, the author most certainly has his opinions.)

I am interested here in helping people build a rational and biblical view of work. In the face of political theories which believe that checks are better than work (if you simply receive a check, you can do whatever you want and be “freed” from work), is there a clear biblical view on what work is for? Is it a necessary evil? Is it simply a means to money? (We will end up saying much more on this topic – there is much to be said! But let’s begin here.)

Work is how we take care of each other

In Ephesians 4:28 Paul says, “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.” There would have been plenty of excuses for theft in Paul’s economy, as many as there are now, but he doesn’t countenance any of them. The follower of Jesus Christ needs to avoid theft, they need to work honestly with their hands (their skill), so that they can give to others who have needs.

When we work, we give. When we steal, we take. Followers of Jesus Christ, living as God’s co-creators, learn to take their skills, employ them, and give.

When we hear Paul tell us to work so we can give, we think first of money. And true enough, this is the biblical model. From cover to cover, we work so we can take from our abundance and tithe, give to others in need, and celebrate with friends and family (see Deuteronomy 26). The fruit of our labor is a reminder of the gifts of God and a reminder to take care of others. But having money to give does not happen unless people take the skills and opportunities they have and turn them into product.

But it is more than just money. You also have skill to give that I need. For example, I am willing to spend money for a nice, reliable bicycle. When I exchange money for a bike, I am not only buying a bike, I am paying for the skill of the person who made it. I can’t make it, but someone else can. In this way, I exchange my money for your skill. Nearly everything you are willing to exchange money for is the skill of other people.

When you steal, or refuse to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10), you not only take from others when you ought to give, you withhold your skills from your neighbor. If our communities take care of each other through the employment of our skills, you have robbed others of something significant.

A check deposited in your bank account can’t account for everything that happens in a community when you work well. In fact, in many cases it may actually be a net loss to everyone involved.

Have you ever considered that the way you work is part of how I live my daily life?

Good work, on the other hand, is a gift. It is both how I take care of “us” (family, housing, food, etc.), and how I take care of you. Have you ever considered that the way you work is part of how I live my daily life?

Your work can be a powerful, almost daily, expression of love for your neighbor.

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