This is part 1 of a 2-part mini-series on Work for Justice.
What do the following verses have in common?
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
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. (Ephesians 4:28)
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29)
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
One answer among others is that the LORD values the quality of our work output tremendously. There are verses all over the Scriptures about work, that we often overlook because our memorization programs gloss over them. Yet, given that we spend the vast majority of our lives at this sacred task, we should really work on getting our theology of work right.
What kind of work should we be engaged in? Generally, work that has a positive effect on human flourishing. I’m staying general here because there is a large gray area that is conviction-based, not worth delving into here. The hill I would find worth fighting on is that you can work for a corrupt, multi-national company in a God-honoring way, wresting back a little enemy territory by the way you refuse to take part in moral decay, bribery, and dishonesty and instead promote human flourishing in a hostile environment—this is wildly redemptive and should be celebrated.
Meanwhile, think about the fast that the LORD calls Israel to in Isaiah 58:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:6-11)
Whatever work we engage in, we should consider how we are loosening the bonds of wickedness, undoing the straps of the yoke, freeing the oppressed, sharing profit, providing affordable products, etc.
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.