Written Word

As a Christian, how hard should I work?

A Christian law student writes, “Proverbs 23:4 says not to weary yourself to obtain wealth. Does that mean that biblically one should not work 80-hour weeks? Does that rule out my accepting a job with a large firm that requires those kinds of hours?”

Not automatically, in my opinion, but this passage states a very important principle to keep in mind. Psalm 127:1 reminds us that success in any endeavour is God’s gift. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” The next verse highlights the futility of seeking ultimate fulfillment in one’s work. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labours; for God gives to his beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) Jesus teaches us that God will care for his own people, even as he provides for the birds and the flowers, and that we may trust him to meet our material needs while we make his kingdom our highest priority. (Matthew 6:19-21, 24-33)

At the same time, the Bible also encourages diligence, planning and hard work. The Proverbs twice recommend the busy ant as a model of industry and foresight. (Prov 6:6-8; 30:25) The “sluggard,” in contrast, lacks what he needs because his laziness leads to ruin. (Prov. 13:4; 20:4) “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might,” exhorts the author of Ecclesiastes. (Eccl 9:10) Paul urges Christians to “do your work heartily, as for the Lord.” (Col 3:23) The Scriptures do not support shoddy work or a slothful attitude.

The key here is perspective, priority and balance. Specific applications involve timing and other life circumstances. The false god of materialism constantly tempts. I commend you for raising this question. Steer your life by such biblical principles and you will make wise decisions that honour God. Keep asking God to guide your path, one step at a time. He has promised that he will do just that.

© 2001 Edward Fudge