Respect For Work In A World Of Leisure

By Harry R. Osborne

This time of the year is traditionally associated with leisure. Young people are getting out of school. Families are making plans for a summer vacation to relax. Most of us have put some thought into the best place to go on a trip to escape work and worry. With all of the recent rain, heat and resulting humidity which plague our area at this time of year, a cool climate to “take it easy” for a week or two is very inviting. A measure of that is certainly good for every family. However, we must not become a people obsessed with leisure and frivolity to the exclusion of honest, diligent labor.

Historically, once a society has achieved affluence, it begins to have a declining esteem for hard work and the worker. Those at the top of the economic ladder deem labor bringing the worker to a sweat as beneath their dignity. Those at the bottom of the ladder try to imitate the rich people’s disdain for work thus becoming less productive in their jobs.

A quick look around us will confirm that we are afflicted with this problem some are now calling “Affluenza.” Many in our time see work as a “low class” endeavor to be avoided. The advertisements of “get rich quick” schemes to avoid honest labor are all around us. The streets of many cities are filled with drug dealers, panhandlers, and others who have rejected work as a means of support.

God sees the value of work differently. When he made man and set him in the ideal world of the garden of Eden, God gave him work to do (Gen. 2:15). It was not as hard as the work man had to do after the fall (Gen. 3:17-19), but it was work. The God who made us knew that it was best for us to work  work was part of that ideal world.

God’s word repeatedly states the value of labor. Honest work is always held in honor, but laziness is consistently seen as a disgrace bringing problems to the sluggard. The book of Proverbs frequently declares the folly of the lazy man. The following passages illustrate the point:

Proverbs 14:23  “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”

Proverbs 6:9-11 “How long will you slumber, 0 sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; so shall your poverty come on you like a robber, and your need like an armed man.”

Since slothfulness is condemned, the Bible exhorts us to vigorously engage in honest work. Labor is portrayed as the mean to produce good, but the lack of it only brings hardship. Notice what God’s word says:

Ecclesiastes 9:10  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

Ephesians 4:28  “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12  “. . . work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

2 Thessalonians 3:11-12  “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”

The severity with which God views laziness can be seen in clear words. “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

If such is God’s view towards laziness, should it not also be our view? We need to see the value of honest labor and properly honor such. We need to engage in our work with all of our strength, not in a slothful fashion. Laziness needs to be abhorred in every facet of life. It should be seen as a disgrace! God does not encourage us to give the sluggard a free ride. Instead, he says the lazy person should bear the consequences of that laziness. Our efforts in benevolence should not minimize the consequences upon those who will not work.

When we are enjoying our leisure time this summer, let’s keep it in balance. While all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, all play and no work will cause Jack to grow up into a lazy, useless man who thinks work is a dirty four-letter word! However, God clearly upholds the honor and value of honest labor in his word.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 18, p. 21-22
September 15, 1994