As ever you would give up yourselves to private prayer, Take heed of an idle and slothful spirit. If Adam, in the state of innocency, must work and dress the garden, and if, after his fall, when he was monarch of all the world, he must yet labor—why should any be idle or slothful? Idleness is a sin against the law of creation. God created man to labor, the idle person violates this law of creation; for by his idleness he casts off the authority of his Creator, who made him for labor. Idleness is a contradiction to the principles of our creation. Man in innocency should have been freed from weariness—but not from employment; he was to dress the garden by divine appointment: ‘And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it,’ Gen 2:15. All weariness in labor, and all vexing, tiring, and tormenting labor, came in by the fall: ‘In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread,’ Gen 3:19. The bread of idleness is neither sweet nor sure: ‘An idle person shall suffer hunger,’ says Solomon, Prov 19:15. An idle life and a holy heart are far enough asunder. By doing nothing, says the heathen man, men learn to do evil things. It is easy slipping out of an idle life into an evil and wicked life; yes, an idle life is of itself evil, for man was made to be active, not to be idle. The Cyclops thought man’s happiness did consist in doing nothing; but no excellent thing can be the child of idleness. Idleness is a mother-sin, a breeding-sin; it is the devil’s cushion, on which he sits, and the devil’s anvil, on which he frames very great and very many sins, Eph 4:28; 2 Thess 3:10,12. Look! as toads and serpents breed most in standing waters, so sin thrives most in idle people. Idleness is that which provokes the Lord to forsake men’s bodies, and the devil to possess their souls. —Thomas Brooks, The Privy Key of Heaven
Author: Tim Keller
Because of sin, work is hard. Because of God, work is good. Because of God’s work, sin is being undone. God worked. We’re supposed to. It’s a way we image Him. Because God in flesh worked like none of us ever have, because he sweat drops of blood and bore the heaviest of burdens, we can again worship God in our work. Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor looks at work as it was meant to be, as it is because of sin, and how the gospel changes things. If you work, you should read this book. If you don’t work, you should work, and this book will help you to do so in a God glorifying way.
Work is our design and our dignity; it also a way to serve God through creativity, particularly in the creation of culture.
Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. We learn not only that work has dignity in itself, but also that all kinds of work have dignity. God’s own work in Genesis 1 and 2 is “manual” labor, as he shapes us out of the dust of the earth, deliberately putting a spirit in a physical body, and as he plants a garden (Genesis 2:8). It is hard for us today to realize how revolutionary this idea has been in the history of human thinking. Minister and author Phillip Jensen puts it this way: ‘If God came into the world, what would he be like? For the ancient Greeks, he might have been a philosopher-king. The ancient Romans might have looked for a just and noble statesman. But how does the God of the Hebrews come into the world? As a carpenter.’
The applications of this dictum—that competent work is a form of love—are many. Those who grasp this understanding of work will still desire to succeed but will not be nearly as driven to overwork or made as despondent by poor results. If it is true, then if you have to choose between work that benefits more people and work that pays you more, you should seriously consider the job that pays less and helps more particularly if you can be great at it. It means that all jobs—not merely so-called helping professions—are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs.