You were created for something. Many somethings. You were designed for purposes. For doing. You have a mind for thinking. You have hands for doing. You have a heart for feeling. Our entire makeup points to both a purpose and a Purposer.
One of those divine purposes we were designed for is honorable work. Quiet laboring at a task until it’s compete.
Ephesians 2 says this:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
What are the good works that God created for you to do? Take a second and ask the Lord. Meditating on the question of “what works am I to do” is one of the best uses of your time.
Hopefully the Holy Spirit has highlighted some things in your heart that you’re meant to be doing.
The mandate for work is something we see in the earliest moments of scripture. Scriptures says in Genesis 2,
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Work it, and keep it. This wasn’t an automated garden that spit out food prepackaged in cellophane. This wasn’t a garden that would continue to produce at full capacity without help. Overgrowth needed to be cut back. Other parts needed to be brought into the sun.
The garden needed gardeners. Adam and Eve weren’t given the option to just walk around naked, eating grapes all day.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1
What does having dominion mean? It means leadership. It means responsibility. It means you’re in charge of taking care of this thing God made. God was in charge of it, but now He’s giving that to you.
“Rule over the fish in the sea” Like Aquaman. Be a ruler of fish. You were made to be a fish king. (Reason number 3,938,183 why Christianity is pretty cool.)
“…and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Farming, and raising cattle, and taking care of pets and caring for plants… these are good things to do with your life.
He then tells them: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
What does that mean to subdue the earth? It means the earth is wild and unorganized, and Adam needs to organize it. Make sure the plants grow well. Tend to the earth. Forge paths and build roads. Construct shelters. Fill the earth with families and communities and nations. Steward this beautiful place God made.
This type of responsibility is one of the things they were specifically designed for. Adam and Eve were made to work. Made to create. Just like God Himself works and creates.
He tends and restores, and so his Creation, made in His image, tends and restores things.
A friend of mine just fixed up my van that had broken down. That type of fixing and restoration is something that reflects the nature of God. To take something that needs fixing and to fix it, is stepping into our heavenly Father’s shoes. Taking on the family business.
God has given each of us dominion over a portion of His creation. Your clothes. Your money. Your tools. Your toys. God gave you authority and power over those things. They’re under your control.
Are you caring for them well? Are you making the best use of those things?
Are they being wasted?
Are they a mess?
Are they disorganized?
Are they being ruined?
Or are they being used for good purposes?
Are they in order?
Are they being used as a part of a bigger plan?
Scripture is very clear, life isn’t about getting things. Jesus says in the book of Luke, “life does not consist of an abundance of material possessions.”
It’s not about becoming rich or accumulating a huge pile of wealth. It’s about being a good steward with what you’ve been given.
Do you have something that someone else needs? If so, be generous.
Do you have something that you could use for the sake of the Kingdom? Don’t withhold anything.
There was one point where Jesus needed a donkey. His disciples came to a person with a donkey and said only the words, “the Lord needs this.” The donkey was given up for the sake of the Kingdom.
Jesus needed a tomb to be buried in. (It was a short-term loan.) Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who was a believer who took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in his own linens, and put it in his own tomb.
Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector who came to faith in Jesus. The first thing he said is, “I’ve got this money here, I’m going to give half of it away to the poor, and anything that I’ve stolen that I’m going to give back four times as much.”
These people had open hands with their wealth. They were ready and willing to use it for God’s purposes.
Does this mean that every dollar we get we’re supposed to give away??
No. Not usually. Some people are called to give away everything they have. Jesus wasn’t shy about telling people to sell all they have and give to the poor. But check out what Paul says in 1st Thessalonians:
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one”
This means you have income. You have something honorable that you do for work. There’s no room for laziness here, where you expect to live off of the generosity of other people. No Christian moochers. You work however you can so that you can provide for your own needs.
Paul’s life was a missionary life. And scripture is pretty clear, missionaries should be supported by the people they bless. The church should give to help them, so they can keep preaching the gospel. But even though it was Paul’s right to ask for money to support him in his work as a missionary, he still worked whenever he could to provide for himself so he wouldn’t be a burden to other people:
“With toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 2 Thessalonians 3
Paul is emphasizing the importance of being willing to work. Willing to labor to earn your own living. That’s honorable. Proverbs says that one who is slack in his work is a brother to one who destroys. Our Christian faith is a working faith, not a lazy one.
This goes beyond just providing for ourselves and making sure that we’re not just mooching off other people: we work so that we can provide for the people around us. So that we can meet other people’s needs.
“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1st Timothy 5
Paul says that anyone who does not provide for the people he’s responsible for is worse than someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus.
The people who live with us are our responsibility to care for. We use our possessions, our tools and investments and savings and income to provide for the people God has placed under our responsibility.
If you’re a teenager who’s reading this, you may think this is a passage of scripture that you can just ignore for now. It’s not! In fact, this is probably the best possible time for you to hear this: God wants you to be a person who can care for other people.
It’s not going to be long before you have people you are responsible for taking care of. For many of you, it’ll be just a few years before you have an actual household to care for. A husband or wife that’s not your God-given responsibility. And children who are under your care.
Begin working towards caring for them now. There are three things you can do:
Learn the skills you need to care for your future household. Find out how to work with your hands and develop an income. How to care for your home, and make your money and possessions stretch as far as they can. How to cultivate a home environment that’s good for a growing family. Glean wisdom from scripture. Proverbs has a lot to say about work, frugality, planning and running a home.
Become more independent now, where you’re at. I can bet that not very many teenagers reading this can say, “I’m following Paul’s instructions completely, I’m dependent on no one.” We all started as children in our parents’ house and were given everything we needed, and gradually, we’ve learned to take more and more responsibility for our own needs. Keep walking that road towards honorable self-support. Maybe you get a part time job. Maybe you start saving up for a car. Maybe you pick a bill like a cell phone or insurance, and you start paying it yourself. Even if you don’t have a job yet, you can work to become more responsible where you’re at: Do your own laundry. Clean your room and make your bed. Make your own meals.
Practice generosity towards your household. Improve at taking care of the needs of others. This means doing other people’s laundry. Or making meals for the family. Or giving people rides in your car. Watching your little siblings. Chores that benefit the whole household. These are ways that you can rehearse the attitudes of stewardship and responsibility for when you’ve got your own household in just a few years from now.
You’re not going to magically become independent and responsible when you move out. The habits and mindsets that are developed as a teenager follow you into adulthood.
One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is that of the Good Samaritan. There are many characters in this story. The victim who got robbed. The Priest and the Levite who walked away and didn’t help. There’s the good Samaritan who actually helped.
We don’t often talk about the thieves who robbed and beat up the man. These are people with no honorable work. They’ve decided to live their life being the exact opposite of the Good Samaritan. Hurting and taking, rather than healing and helping.
The opposite of stealing isn’t just “not stealing.” It’s becoming the sort of person who can share what you have with those in need. Who can see the man on the side of the road and take him to an inn and tell the owner, “take care of him, and if you need more money, I’ll give you more when I come back to check on him.”
Can you imagine being able to be in that position? To be the one with the attitude and the means to meet all of the needs of someone else?
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” Ephesians 4:28.
There’s a progression of choices here: You can either steal, you can work in order to have for yourself, or you can go all the way and work in order to give. You have the choice.
If you don’t have honorable work, you may feel that taking is your only option. But there’s a better way.
For those who feel like their life is becoming aimless, I have this encouragement for you: find honorable work to do. It’s what you were created for. It’s what God Himself does.
And the best news is this: when you’re working, doing the things you were meant to do, you’ll come alive.
I’ll tell you, I know God created me to teach. And when I’m teaching I come alive.
God created me to be a father. And when I’m being a father to my kid, I come alive.
When you find the things you were meant to do, and do them, your soul will come alive too.
And that’s because work is something that God gave us not just to do… but to enjoy.
Ecclesiastes 3 says:
“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
Work, labor, toil… these are God’s gifts to man. It’s not something we have to do before we get to the good stuff. It is the good stuff. Participating in the beauty, care and restoration of God’s creation. Tending and keeping the earth. Meeting the needs of those around us. It’s the family business.