Honest Labor

By Royce Frederick

Many of the Spaniards who first entered Mexico coveted the gold of the Aztecs. It is said that one group of Spaniards stole a large amount of gold from the Aztecs and fled. As they were being pursued by the Aztecs, they came to a river and attempted to cross it. Some who threw the gold away were able to swim across to safety. But others held onto the gold and either drowned in the river or were overtaken and slain by the Aztecs.

The love of money is sinful and destructive. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows(1 Timothy 6:9-10). The love of money has ruined countless lives. Many men have forfeited their family, their health, their integrity, and their eternal soul in pursuit of more money. We must rid our hearts of “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5; see Hebrews 13:5-6).

But money itself is not evil. The Lord tells us we should work to earn the things we need for our families and to help other people. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Paul tells us “...to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). The Lord understands if we are physically unable to do any kind of work. And He understands if we are truly trying to find a way to earn a living. But regarding persons who refuse to work, He says, “...If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat...” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Refusing to take care of our family is rebellion against the will of God. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Laboring for our families and earning a living are part — not all, but part — of serving God.

The words of Paul to “servants”’ are equally true for any Christians who labor for others. “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong which he has done, and there is no partiality” (Colossians 3:22-25). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...” (Ecclesiastes 9:10), “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

Christians should support the men who labor among them, faithfully preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:6-18). Each congregation of the Lord’s church should try to provide for the needs of their preacher: “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches” (Galatians 6:6; see Matthew 10:9-10, 40-42; Acts 16:15, 33-34; Romans 15:26-27; 2 Timothy 1:16-18). Then each congregation should also help faithful men spread the gospel to other places (Mark 16:15; Romans 10:14-15). The apostle Paul occasionally received some financial help from Christians (Philippians 1:3-5; 4:14-17).

But Paul did not wait for financial help before preaching the gospel. He was determined to spread the glorious gospel everywhere, even without help from others (Romans 1:14-16; 15:20-21; 1 Corinthians 9:16). In fact, this great preacher and apostle often labored with his own hands to help support himself and others (Acts 18:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:6-18; 2 Corinthians 12:13, 15). He reminded the elders from Ephesus, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).

In every worthwhile work, let us diligently labor to glorify God and save souls!