Is there a Biblical Work Ethic?
Devotional Thought of the Day”
15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)
Since we should behave at all times as God’s envoys, we must be very much aware that we are not serving him loyally if we leave a job unfinished; if we don’t put as much effort and self-sacrifice as others do into the fulfillment of professional commitments; if we can be called careless, unreliable, frivolous, disorganized, lazy, or useless … Because people who neglect obligations that seem less important will hardly succeed in other obligations that pertain to the spiritual life and are undoubtedly harder to fulfill. “He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much.”
It was known as the “protestant work ethic” but it was imbedded in me while I grew up Roman Catholic. Simply stated we were to work hard, simply because our work habits would reflect on our parents, our school, and our God. So, getting good grades, or doing the dishes, or shoveling the driveway was done the best we could do. To do less than a perfect job, well that brought into question our devotion to God, and our appreciation for the family God gave us as a gift.
So we pushed the limits, in our schoolwork, in our early jobs. We could be told to slow down, to stop embarrassing others who did not put as much (if any) effort into their work. Now we were embarrassing people we had to work with, live with and that too was uncomfortable.
As I read St. Josemaria’s words, I wondered about the tie between working hard and the two great commandments. Are we truly loving our neighbor Do we love them if we only invest ourselves 40% in the work, we are doing for them? DO we love God if our work reflects poorly as we fail to love our boss, our employer, our clientele? (Never mind the commandment about not stealing – which we do if we work at our best!)
These are heavy thoughts and could turn into using the Law to motivate behavior.
Because someone used the wrong tool to motivate us, are we free to slack off? Can we find the justification to argue we are only working at the level for which we receive pay?
I think we find the answer in Paul’s words to Timothy – the idea that we are presenting our work, not to a manager, owner, or board. We present ourselves to Him, the Lord who loves us, the Lord who cares, the Lord who fixes our mistakes, who forgives our sin. Our reaction to that is what our work is, or at least it needs to be. We do this because, not out of obligation, not out of some guilt motivated, but as a response to love. The response is not mandated, forced, it simply comes from know the love that is shown us.
Spend time with the Lord who loves you! Spend time thinking about the cross. You will never have to worry about whether you are working hard enough, or doing enough.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.