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It's Off to Work We Go


Proverbs 14:23

Like all good Israelites, the writer of Proverbs 14:23 assumes the place, dignity and validly of all types of work. "In all (kinds of) labor there is profit." The place and necessity of work are assumed throughout the Old Testament. This appreciation for work grew out of their doctrine of creation. The Israelite worked for theological reasons. It was understood that man made in the image of God was to cooperate with God in the management and development of the earth. God had graciously subcontracted aspects of his rule and reign to man (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). Work was, therefore, part of God's original plan. The Garden of Eden was not an early version of Club Med.

Two things emerge from the text of Proverbs 14:23.

First, it speaks to the essential dignity of work. Work is not a curse or a punishment. The fact is that work was ordained by God before the fall, and while the curse of God upon sin has made it harder, and sometimes futile, it did not remove the essential dignity of work (Gen. 3:17-19, 23-24). In all kinds of labor there is profit. Work is still a good thing, and God is glorified by it. You and I must see that work is an integral part of being what God has called us to be. We were created to be creative. Work is not a long dark tunnel that separates holidays; it is a call to join God in the subduing of the earth, and creating that which is beautiful and beneficial. We must not work as machines but as those made after the image of God. Our work must be marked by dignity, diligence, and delight.

Second, our text speaks to the equal dignity of work. By implication Proverbs 14:23 and the example of Adam and Eve, teach us that God views all wholesome work done in his name with equal dignity (Col. 3:22-24; Eph. 6:5-9). Ministers and missionaries are not the only ones doing God's work. Daniel was a government bureaucrat but he is called a servant of God (Dan. 6:20). It takes all kinds of people doing all kinds of work in all kinds of places for God's will to be done on earth. God can be served at the milling machine, and the kitchen sink as much as at the altar. God calls craftsmen to serve him as much as priests and prophets (Ex. 31:1-11). We can worship God just as much in a pair of overalls as in a choir robe. The Bible knows nothing of a hierarchy of labor.

In the capitol building in Washington D. C. is a statue of Crawford W. Long the medical doctor who discovered sulfur ether and its value as an anesthetic for medical surgery. Inscribed on the statue are these words: "My profession is to me a ministry to God." What a good reminder that every Christian has one calling but many vocations. Our calling is to live for Christ and the glory of God through our everyday work.