I’ve been surrounded by hard working people my whole life. I grew up in a rural area full of sunburnt farmers and greasy blue collar tradesmen, but my family left the biggest impression. On both sides of my family, I’ve inherited a strong work ethic. My mom’s side is full of high-achieving Filipino immigrants. My Lolo (grandpa) worked hard to send his kids to a good private school in the motherland while my Lola (grandma) worked in America to pave the way for her 12 kids to become successful citizens in the land of opportunity. My grandparents on my Father’s side also had a strong work ethic. My grandpa tried to retire once but after a couple months ended up going back to work as a chemist until he was 80.
My parents, in particular, have instilled in me the virtue of hard work. My dad worked in middle management at one of the biggest companies in the area. All the while he always served at churches either as a bi-vocational pastor or deacon. It also wasn’t unusual for him to be taking a seminary course to stay sharp in his theology. My mom worked as a nurse, even homeschooled us kids for a couple years, and through sheer hard work created a garden most millionaires would be jealous of.
You better believe I had chores as a kid. When my sister and I were in lower elementary we learned how to fold the laundry, wash the dishes, clean the bathrooms, take out the trash, cook, clean up puppy poop, and garden. Oh, the gardening. I would not be exaggerating to say that during summer we probably spent forty hours a week working in the garden. And if that wasn’t enough, we often helped family friends with their gardens too.
Am I bitter about the chores and all the gardening? Not for a second. In fact, I couldn’t be more thankful. If I have accomplished anything good in my life, it would not have been possible without my parents faithfully pushing me to excellence.
You see, when you’re young you can accomplish so much. When you’re young, you’re untethered by financial obligations or familial responsibilities and can do almost anything you want. You can work multiple jobs and save large sums of money. You can pay your way through an education. You can spend thousands of hours mastering a skill. You can accomplish your goals and move on to even higher ones.
But there is a problem. Young people today aren’t accomplishing as much as they used to. My heart aches for the millions who are going to hit 40 and look on the last 20 years with regret. “Why didn’t I go to college?” “Why didn’t I save up and buy some real estate?” “Why didn’t I grow up and ask her to marry me?”
18% of men between 21-30 haven’t worked in the last year (8% in 2000). I’ve been laid off before, so I understand not working for a couple weeks or even months, but an entire year? 18% of the men in my age range don’t know the satisfaction of earning a wage or accomplishing big tasks. This makes me so sad. We were meant for more.
1) Work is a part of who we are
The core fact of humanity is that we are made in God’s image. God works. Therefore, we are made to work. Work is an integral part of the human identity.
2) Work was commanded from the beginning
Read God’s first commands for men and women in Genesis 1:28,
“Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.”
Work is our inescapable duty. Work is how we were meant to spend our days.
3) Work is cursed
God cursed our work after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Genesis 3:17-19 says,
“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 brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground.”
It is still clear that we are made to work even after The Fall. The difference is now we get back aches and headaches while doing it.
4) Work can be enjoyable
Consider the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:13,
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.”
He says this phrase “find enjoyment in his toil” several more times throughout the book. What Solomon is saying is that since we have to toil, find the most enjoyable toil possible. Again, our work is cursed, we still get the aches, but we can still find deep satisfaction and enjoyment in our work.
5) Christians are saved to work
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
Christian, do you see this? When you were saved, you were made new. You were made for good works. Work is not only a core part of the human identity but of the Christian identity. And Christians should be the best workers of all.
What if I don’t know what to do?
Just do something. Go to barber school. Learn how to weld. Apprentice. Go to community college. Work your way into management. Learn web design. Move to China and learn the language. You will never find out what you like doing when you’re doing nothing. Do something, and you will figure it out along the way.
What if I hate what I’m doing now?
I’ve been here myself. This is not a fun place to be. Worst of all, it almost always feels like we have no other options. The pay and benefits may seem too good and you aren’t aware of any job that will pay you better. Worse yet, it never feels like it’s the right time to make a change. That’s because there never is a right time. At least not one that will appear on its own. If you want change, you have to work for it. My advice is start pursuing what you want to do with 10% effort. Put 10% of your free time into starting that business or pursuing that career you would rather be in.
While a lawyer and young father, John Grisham committed to writing for at least 30 minutes a day. After 5-6 years and a writing a couple unknown books he finally made it as a writer and has become one of the best-selling authors in the world. It may take a couple years, but the important thing to remember is that it is never too late to change.
What if I’m already overworked?
Are you spending 60+ hard hours at work every single week? You need to take a nap. As much as God made you to work, he also made you to rest. In fact, rest is so important, I wrote a piece on rest before this one. (See the link at the top or bottom of this page).
Jesus said in John 13:35,
“By this all peoples will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
According to our savior the #1 identifier of a Christian is their love. But what would #2 be? I’m convinced it is their work. While we have life to live, let us work to the glory of our God and may we all look forward to the day when He says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matt. 25:21).
Tim is a lifelong student and loves nothing more than a good conversation on faith and truth. He is the chapter director of Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan (his hometown). He has spoken on dozens of topics at various universities, high schools, churches, and non-profit ministries. He has a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. He has a passion for equipping the church to be effective in reaching out to their community. Tim, his wife Alexandra, and children MaryKate and Oliver attend Allendale Baptist Church where Tim also works as an administrative assistant. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they've ever met.