Work was given to man not as a punishment but as a gift. The first thing God did with Adam was to put him to work. In the earliest part of the creation story we hear that God, the universe’s first worker, gave man the garden to “tend and keep” (Genesis 2:15).
We may think the term work only applies to the time we spend at our jobs, but we all know that when we finish our job each day, there is still much more work left to do. Think about your typical day. Before and/or after your job, you’ll make meals, clean and maintain your home and yard, care for family members, run errands, go shopping, volunteer your time and talents to sports teams, schools, churches and other social or community organizations.
There are different types of work, and at it’s very core, a Christian approach to all work is rooted in man’s relationship with God and creation. There is much more depth to our work than merely earning money or doing chores or volunteering. When we forget that our work is an opportunity to use our gifts and our talents to help meet the needs of our fellow man, and serve the Lord, we forget that we are called by God to be a worker.
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men—it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Realizing that we actually work for Christ is a gift we can use to integrate our faith and work lives, whether or not we are getting paid for it.
Just as many people divide their spiritual life from their finances, many people separate their work life from their spiritual life. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24 that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” If we are serving God with our work, then our work has a higher purpose. If we don’t understand the true nature of work in the world, we will feel unsatisfied no matter what kind of work we do or how much money we make.
We have a tendency to feel that the person with the big office and big paycheck has more value than the person who is emptying trash cans and cleaning bathrooms. We use work as a status symbol—not understanding that there is dignity in ALL different types of work. What would the workplace look like if no one ever emptied the trash or cleaned the bathrooms? The CEO and the janitor have different tasks, probably different levels of education and different sized paychecks. But their work has equal dignity in the eyes of God.
Each of us is called to work as a duty to God. Pope Francis reminds us that work is fundamental to the dignity of the human person. He explains that “work ‘anoints’ with dignity, and that dignity is not conferred by one’s ancestry, family life or education.”
It is clear that our wages provide the resources to physically support us. What is more challenging to understand is that our work (and how we accept, respect and support the work of others), is the mechanism that provides for the nourishment of our spirit.
Work honors the gifts and talents that we received from God. We are all called to use our talents in proportion to our abilities for our own care and the benefit of others. Everyone works in some capacity—whether you are single, married, employed full or part-time, work inside or outside the home, retired or have your own business.
Our paid work provides the resources required to meet our daily needs and also gives us the potential to save for the future. In Proverbs 30:24-25, The ants are commended as good examples of saving for the future. “Four things are among the smallest on the earth, and yet are exceedingly wise: Ants—a species not strong, yet they store up their food in the summer.” Even though the ants are tiny creatures they save for the future.
The Bible doesn’t teach an amount to be saved. We recommend saving 10 percent of your income as a starting point. Then increase the amount based on your capability. This may not be possible initially. But begin the habit of saving—even if it’s only a few dollars a month.
The first goal is saving $1,000 for an emergency fund to cover those unexpected, unplanned expenses that ruin your monthly budget. The washing machine dies, the car needs new tires or you have a medical deductible to pay. If you have an emergency fund, you can take care of these items without using credit cards and piling up debt to pay for them.
Once you get that emergency fund started, it’s time to start an investment strategy for the purpose of becoming financially free so you can serve the Lord in the unique way he has called you to serve. Whether that means going into full time ministry work, doing mission trips or staying at your paid employment and offering generous support to those who are working in ministry.
An automatic payroll deduction is a great way to save for retirement, especially if your employer will match your contributions. If at all possible, contribute to the maximum amount available for employer match.
In addition to any job related retirement program, start a long term investment strategy. The fundamental principle for becoming a successful investor is to spend less than you earn, and invest the surplus on a regular basis.
Nothing replaces consistent, month-after-month investing—because when you do, your investments will grow through compounding. Compounding occurs when the earnings your investments produce are added to the principle, allowing both the earnings and the principle to grow exponentially.
Diversification is essential when investing. Money can be lost on any investment. Stocks, bonds, real estate, gold—you name it—can perform well or poorly. Each investment has its own advantages and disadvantages. Since the perfect investment doesn’t exist, it is important to diversify. “Make seven or eight portions; you know not what misfortune may come upon the earth” (Ecclesiastes 11:2).
Every investment also comes with costs: financial, time, effort, and sometimes even emotional costs. For example, a rental house will require time, money and effort to rent and maintain. If the tenant is irresponsible, you may have to collect rent from someone who doesn’t want to pay, which could be an emotional nightmare. Before you decide on any investment, consider all the costs.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” The decision to purchase or sell an investment is best made prayerfully. Despite what so-called financial experts and pundits so confidently express about what will happen to investments in the future, no one knows the future. And be especially careful of following investment advice from those who will profit from your investment.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told a parable about a farmer who had a good crop and said to himself, “I don’t have a place to keep all my crops . . .I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I will store the grain and all my other goods’ . . . But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
The farmer wanted to build bigger barns for ALL of his crops. His only thought was hoarding and saving everything for himself. There was no thought to how he might give generously or share with those in need. There was no balance between saving and giving. There was no recognition that material possessions are fleeting.
The Bible cautions us against the desire to be rich. In 1 Timothy 6:9 we read, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction.” The next verse tells us why wanting to get rich is incredibly dangerous, 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.”
Nothing is wrong with becoming wealthy if it is a by-product of being faithful. The problem starts when our desire to be wealthy takes over our minds and hearts and we give material possessions and money an importance they don’t deserve.
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