“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23, esv).
One of the driving forces behind Western prosperity was the Protestant work ethic, which attributed value and virtue to hard work and self-discipline. Our society, though, continues to slip more toward entitlement—the belief that people deserve something for nothing. Paul reminds us we’re expected to work, and we have to work hard.
After the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God issued some consequences. To Adam He said, “‘Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread’” (Genesis 3:17–19). A consequence of sin is that work is toil; the ground is cursed, filled with thorns, thistles, and weeds, and work is painful, sweaty, and laborious. That’s why we call it work. The difficulty of work is part of the judgment for sin.
While work is cursed and twisted, working hard and coming home tired is honorable. But that doesn’t mean every job is fulfilling. The concept that you should have to find a job that perfectly fits your talents and passions can undermine the satisfaction you find in work. No one loves every part of his job. Yes, some jobs directly enrich people’s lives, which can feel gratifying: being a painter, a teacher, a heart surgeon. But just because some work seems more fulfilling does not mean other work isn’t just as honorable. Whether you’re a judge or a jockey or a janitor, there is honor in working hard and providing for your family.
Wise King Solomon promoted hard work: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Apostle Paul commended it: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Paul even added that those who won’t work can skip eating: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
The Bible is replete with models of hard workers: David, the shepherd; Amos, the fig farmer; Paul, the tent-maker; Lydia, seller of purple; Jesus, the carpenter. At the end of the day, it’s a good thing to exhaust yourself in meaningful work.
How hard is too hard? To clarify, you can’t work too hard, but you can work too much. Investing too much into your career, can cause neglect toward things that matter more. So while you’re at work, work really hard. Then go home and work really hard on what God has given you there: your walk with God, or your marriage, or the hunt for a marriage partner, or parenting, or your education, or whatever is next for you.
Embrace the honor, dignity, and joy of working hard. And work with all your heart—everywhere and on everything—as for the Lord.
Father, thank You for the work You’ve given me to do. Help me to see it as a commission straight from You. Remind me to work with all my heart as if I’m working directly for the Lord Jesus Christ, not for human supervisors. Forgive me for fixating too much on how I feel about my job, whether it fulfills me and makes me happy. Instead help me to embrace the dignity of my work. I want to work hard, on everything, for Your glory. In the name of Your Son, whom I want to please, amen.