Summary: God did not intend work to be viewed as drudgery. Work is a necessity of life. Given the choice between leisure and work, most of us would choose leisure. So how does the bible view work?
The Rewards of Work
The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. (Proverbs 13:4) NIV
Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. NLT
INTRO: When I discovered that the theme for this week’s message was "The Reward of Work" my first instinct was to ask, "Really, work can be rewarding?" Who knew? Now, of course you will be pleased to know, that I enjoy my work immensely. I cherish the challenge of teaching and mentoring young people to know Jesus, and to share their faith. Yet I suspect that when given the choice between leisure and work, most of us would choose leisure. Especially if it didn’t affect our economic position. The reality is that work is a necessity of life. Work is just a fact of our existence. The nature of work may have changed, as societies have progressed. Yet one thing remains, work is work.
It might surprise you that God did not intend work to be viewed as drudgery. Having created the first man and woman, God “… took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). What work they were required to do was not burdensome. Human beings were created to work in God’s garden. It is the agreement they had with him. What could be more peaceful and give greater contentment than to spend time tending to his creation.
Yet, after Adam and Eve, had fallen from God’s grace, they were driven from paradise with the promise of blood, oil, tears, and sweat as punishment for their disobedience.
In Genesis 3:16-19 God says to Eve,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
So one can rightly ask, "How can work be rewarding, when it can be difficult and tiresome?" I suspect as we see countless times in the Bible that this reward has more to do with our attitudes toward work. It has less to do with “labor” than it does with “living well.”
1. Wanting More/Working Less
Living well as Christians in a society that has become so fast paced and so focused on material things is difficult. We want to be successful, wealthy and be able to afford all the comforts that go with such a lifestyle. For some, the danger can be that we want such things, faster than we are able to afford them. Worse, even beyond what we are willing to do to earn them. In short, the temptation can be that we want to have more by working less. That is the kind of person that is referred to in this proverb as a sluggard, or a lazy person. A sluggard is said to be “a self-indulgent person who spends time avoiding work or other useful activity.”
There is no room in the Kingdom of God for selfish indulgence. A “me” centered person is only looking out for their own interests. They are not interested in sharing their resources. A self-indulgent person looks at what their neighbor has and says, “I want what they have.” Unfortunately, this is as far as they are willing to go to pursue their interests. They have no interest in working in order to get it. A self-indulgent person will never see the rewards of his labor.
See what Jesus says to his disciples in Luke 12:33-34
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
ILLUSTRATION: One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”