Interview · Matt Wolfe · Proverbs · Work

Work with Matt Wolfe Part 3: Having a Work Ethic

Matt Wolfe has been my friend for about two decades. My youth pastor then my pastor, I then worked  for two years under Matt  as his  youth pastor.  He  was the best man in my wedding, and a few years  later I became his pastor. We’ve worked together on many projects, have had many late nights hanging out, and have lots of inside jokes. I contacted Matt a couple of weeks ago and asked him to be a guest blogger. Several years ago Matt stepped away from pastoring and worked in  construction for several years. Because of this I requested that he address the topic of work. Here is a great theology of work presented by Matt adopted from sermons he gave at First Baptist Church of Westfield, New York.  In Part 1 of “A Theology of Work” Matt laid out the argument of God being a worker. In Part 2 we saw how we can have satisfaction in our work. This week Matt will speak to something lacking for many today, having a work ethic.

Part 3: Having a Work Ethic

Let’s say that’s not enough motivation to plow through the thorns and thistles (see Part 2 of this series).  Let’s say you’re philosophy is like that of t-shirt wearer I saw not too long ago.  It read,

A LITTLE HARD WORK NEVER KILLED ANYBODY BUT WHY TAKE THE CHANCE?

To that guy and anyone else who would dodge their responsibility to work, we need to see, fourthly, that work isn’t an option.  Now, I know that as soon as I say that, some might say something like, “Yes, but there are those who can’t work ….”  Indeed, there are exceptions.  But you’re probably not one.  And frankly, if your knee-jerk reaction is to look for the exception to what is so plainly God’s rule, then you might just need to spend a little time in Proverbs.  In general, the Bible has a lot to say about those who would shirk rather than work.  But that teaching is most heavily concentrated in the book of Proverbs.  Solomon, its primary author, calls the excuse-making shirker a sluggard.  Now, you’ve got to be careful with Proverbs because they’re proverbs not contracts.  They’re slices of life that are, indeed, inspired Scripture.  But they’re not comprehensive.  In some ways, you could add the phrase, “All things being equal ….”  With that in mind, let’s look at a couple of these slices:

Proverbs 10:4: A slack [or lazy or idle] hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

This verse is a classic example of that “slice-of-life” idea.  Are all lazy people poor?  No, of course not.  Are all diligent people rich?  No, there are hard-working diligent folk who never get rich.  But all things being equal, those who work hard are the ones who are going to enjoy the benefits of their labor.

Now, again, there are plenty of diligent people who are not rich, but there are many others who are slackers whether it’s because they milk the system, seeking to merely subsist on handouts and freebies, or they bounce around from job-to-job, or they slack off at the job they have and are passed over for raises and promotions.  The problem is that all too often the ones who need to hear this message the most will read what I just wrote—about there being some diligent people who are, nonetheless, poor—and say to themselves, “That’s me.”  I work so hard, but I just can’t get ahead.  (Cue mournful violin music.)  That’s the reason why we need to keep reading other Proverbs:

Proverbs 6:6-11:(6) Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. (7) Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, (8) she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (9) How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? (10) A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, (11) and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

The sluggard is told to go consider the diligent, hard-working ant.  The idea here is that—like the ant—we need to prepare for hard times or “winters.”  Winter’s coming—both literally and figuratively—and those who don’t work hard are going to find themselves in a pinch if they don’t prepare.  This is an especially insightful proverb because it addresses that whole idea of those individuals you know who are always in crisis mode.  Every time “winter” hits, they panic.  But they really shouldn’t.  After all, winters tend to come quite regularly, at least, last time I checked.

Another important passage on this idea of exposing sluggardly ways is Proverbs 26:13-16, a passage that is actually kind of comical:

(13) The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!  There is a lion in the streets!” (14) As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. (15) The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. (16) The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.

Verse 13 pictures a guy desperately grasping for an excuse to not work.  It’d be like me saying to my wife 10 o’clock on Sunday night (trash night for our street), “Carol, I better not take the garbage out tonight.  I read how the coyote population is really out of control.”  You can imagine her response.  Verse 14’s a good one too.  It sounds like it could have been written by the inventor of the snooze button.  Verse 15 pictures a dude who is so lazy, he’s annoyed that he has to take his hand out of the chip bowl.  I mean, isn’t there an app for this by now!?!  But verse 16 is my all-time favorite, where you have a picture of 7 men trying to reason with a slacker, 7 men who are sensible and caring, trying to reason with this dude who just refuses to own up to his lazy ways.  And Solomon says that—when it’s all said and done—this guy will walk out of that room saying, I’m not the one with the problem.  By the way, I have actually seen this verse play out in a number of ways down through the years among children, students, and even grown, able-bodied men.

Now, having said all that, you might think that the picture Solomon’s painting here is kind of hopeless.  But the good news of the Bible is that God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners—and some of those sinners are sluggards—Christ died for us.  The good news of the Gospel is that Christ came to pay the price for our sin and to offer new life to all who repent and trust in the risen Jesus.  And through the transforming power of the Gospel and the new life that is granted to those who trust in Christ, excuse-making sluggards can be forgiven and transformed into godly workers.  They see—as they come under the authority of God’s Word—that work is a gift from God.

Remember: God is a worker.  And the Creator created us to be creators, workers, as well. It’s not something to be shunned or avoided.  Work is an opportunity to show our employers, our families, our neighbors that we take our responsibilities seriously and that we care for them.  Work is the God-ordained means through which we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve provided for our families.

So fifthly, we see that by God’s grace, work can be redeemed.  This will be our focus in our next entry as we look more at the New Testament.  For now, let me just draw your attention to 1 Corinthians 10:31:

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Our work can be redeemed.  Even the most mundane of jobs can be done in a way that brings honor and glory to God.  After all, in many cases others are watching.  That’s the point of the Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12 passages.  (Look those up some time.)  But even if others aren’t necessarily watching, God is.  So do that task, fold that laundry, fill that prescription, check those papers, scrub that toilet, solder those pipes, clean that storeroom knowing that your Creator is honored and pleased when you who have trusted in Christ and seek to honor him through your work.

Sixthly and finally, take note of what takes place in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  As the faithful stewards are reporting in (clearly a reference to end times judgment), the two faithful stewards are both told,

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

I’m not sure I ever gave it much thought until just recently, but notice here how the master commends them, welcomes them to the table, but also tells them that their responsibilities will continue beyond this time of judgment.  So for God’s people, work continues on into eternity.  Work doesn’t just predate the fall.  It’ll be perfected in the new heavens and earth so that we’ll continue to function meaningfully and purposefully in perfect fellowship with the Savior who saved our souls.  What exactly will that be like?  I don’t know.  Personally, I’m kind of hoping that I’ll be able to operate a Krispy Kreme franchise for all of eternity.  But one way or the other, we can be sure that we won’t be bored or disappointed.

With these truths in mind then, believer, let me encourage you to get out there and work!  Work for the joy that comes from following your Creator’s example, rejoicing in and being motivated by the work of Christ in your life.  And I’ll close with this benediction delivered in our church service just a couple of weeks ago:

In the name of God our heavenly Father, may your work this week be blessed.  May you continue his creative work, reflecting his beauty, care, and creativity as you head back to work tomorrow.

In the name of Jesus Christ, the one who grew up in the home of a carpenter, may your hands work hard this week, working through the thorns and thistles, knowing that—as you do so—you are about your Father’s business.

And in the name of the Holy Spirit—who is at work in the hearts of his redeemed even now granting grace to will and to work for God’s good pleasure—may you know God’s presence as you work, knowing that He is audience enough.

Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes  or Googleplay.