We must remember that our diligent labor ordinarily leads to a profitable outcome. While Scripture rejects all false gospels of health, wealth, and prosperity, it affirms that God rewards the diligent labors of His people. Proverbs 12:11 states, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Proverbs 12:14 explains, “The work of a man's hand comes back to him,” and Proverbs 28:19 says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” The wise woman of Proverbs 31 “seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands (Prov. 31:13). Her family is better provided for by her labors. These verses set out the essence of this two-sided principle: As productivity leads to provision, so laziness leads to impoverishment. This is true in the spiritual realm no less than it is in the physical realm. Whether we are diligent or negligent in our work, study, management of our homes, devotional lives, physical care, and care for others, we will inevitably reap what we sow. God calls us to diligent labors. This present circumstance is an opportunity for us to diligently carry out the many responsibilities the Lord has given us.
It is, however, possible for us to busy ourselves in vain, under the pretext of being diligent (Ps. 39:6). Diligence must be always be accompanied by a skillful use of the gifts God has given us in the spheres in which He calls us to labor. As Proverbs 22:29 explains, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Charles Bridges observed: “[A skillful person] is marked out for our special notice . . . in his business—quick, ready, actively improving his time, his talents, his opportunity for his work. . . . If the letter of the promise is not always fulfilled, [such a person] will rule in his own sphere.”
We should use our time to pursue excellence in our labors. One day, we will all stand before the King of kings “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). One straightforward way to pursue skillfulness is to commit to reading and studying in a focused way. Focus on specific areas of our lives in which we wish to see growth. There are so many resources online to help us grow in knowledge. We can always improve the quality of our labors, seeking to do them to the best of our ability for the glory of God. Remember the Apostolic exhortation, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Whether it is in private or family worship, ordinary vocations, or special acts of service to our church family or others in the community, these can all be carried out through the principle of skillful labor.
We sometimes mistakenly consider our labors as merely futile and arduous tasks. There is certainly an element of futility to our work in this fallen world—as the author of Ecclesiastes frequently notes. However, Ecclesiastes also teaches us that “there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot” (Eccl. 3:22). There should be joy in our labor, knowing that the Lord has given us the privilege of being productive for His glory and the benefit of our neighbor. We can rejoice in knowing that we are benefiting others—whether members of our family, neighbors in our immediate community, or men and women throughout the world. Additionally, we get to enjoy the fruit of our labors as a gift from God. Ecclesiastes 3:13 explains, “Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” We can rejoice in the blessing of having provisions from God. What we do has an impact on others.
All biblically lawful labor tends to the betterment of society. There is no better example of this than that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus endured the awful God-forsaken travail of His soul at Calvary for the joy of “bringing many sons to glory” (2:10).
In the short time God has given us, we should seek to embrace our vocations and set our hands to work with preparation, diligence, skill, and joy. As we keep the biblical wisdom of work before us, we will find that we will be productive and fruitful in whatever we set our hands to do. If we seek to do all that God has called us to do as unto Him and for the good of others, we will come to realize that there is real benefit to all that we set our hands to do. May God give us grace to embrace and carry out our calling commensurate with what He has revealed about the wisdom of work in His word.
1. Gene Edward Veith, "The Doctrine of Vocation," TGC.
2. John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, on Luke 10:38
3. John Murray, Principles of Conduct (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957) p. 86
* This post is a revised version of a post first published at Tabletalk Magazine in April of 2020.