For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Even though we may not always enjoy it, we recognize the value of labor and effort. It seems that people rarely can get away without expending effort or labor. Most of us have to labor in order to make a wage to survive. Yet even those who no longer have to labor still tend to engage in various forms of effort, for charitable purposes or toward hobbies or some such thing. While people can spend a short amount of time doing very little, for most, that gets old and boring after awhile!
This is understandable, for human beings are designed to work. Even before the Fall, God created man in order to work to tend the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). After the Fall, perpetual effort for food was part of the curse given to men (Genesis 3:17-19). Ever since, people have recognized the necessity of labor in order to provide for the necessities of the family (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:8). Those who are lazy or unwilling to work earn the scorn of people in all sorts of societies (2 Thessalonians 3:7-14, Proverbs 19:15)!
Labor, therefore, has value. Yet ever since the Tower of Babel, mankind has been attempting to make name for himself and not be scattered through his projects of labor (Genesis 11:1-4). Man attempts to find personal meaning from their labor, and seek to believe that their labor has lasting, perpetual value. Yet the Preacher tells us that, on our own, our labor will not last, we will not be remembered, and everything will continue as it was (Ecclesiastes 1:7-11, 3:9-10, 4:4-8). This is not to say that labor has no value, but we should not presume that everything we do, on its own, has lasting value. The Preacher also encourages people to find (temporary) value in their labor, and to do with all their might what their hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 3:13, 22).
If we seek to find permanent value in our labor, it must come through God in Christ. God’s efforts and God’s purposes are the only things that last forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15). When our labor is done for God’s purposes and for His Kingdom, even the seemingly trivial daily tasks can take on eternal significance (Matthew 6:33, Ephesians 3:10-11, 5:23-6:9). Labor that is done for Christ’s purposes is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
It is important that we labor according to God’s purposes, providing for our families, being full of works deemed good by God, and in so doing storing up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). Let us work for the Master!
Ethan R. Longhenry