Here, reprinted from the November, 1951, issue, is the answer to an important problem that arises in the minds of many brethren.
"I AM STRIVING to win the prize of God's great Kingdom. Why must I be forced by circumstances to spend my time working for a living when my chief concern is to aid in God's work?" Has this been a question in your mind? Then here's God's answer to dispel your worries!
Occupations Not a Curse
Every one of us probably has pondered the reasons why God permits events to befall us which seemingly keep us from achieving our goal in life — having an active part in God's work. The mistake is in our question, not with His lack of concern for us. Without thinking, we hold uppermost in our minds the erroneous concept that God is pleased only with preaching. That's false! The purpose of ministers is to instruct people in the law of God, to guide them so they can gain life and have it more abundantly here and now (John 10:10). The intent of the law is LOVE: its end, abundance of spiritual and material blessings. Do you see that action must bring this about? that work is the only method whereby the goal of life may be attained? You are not wasting your life if your labor is truly productive, whether it be manufacturing, carpentry or farming. It is not wrong to labor in these occupations or the myriads of other unnamed ones, if God has called you and equipped you for that service. Your job gives you a living and affords the means to make others' lives happy and abundant — through your labor.
A Wrong View
The necessity of laboring in a world composed of matter, where all is destined to perish, deceives many into concluding that nothing spiritual could come of the use of matter. How far from the truth this is! This material world, with all its creatures, was shaped by the omnipotent hand of the Creator to serve as the channel for expressing the supreme spiritual principle LOVE. God has permitted every human being the use of this massive earth to work out love toward fellow men. Spiritual principles can't be separated from matter entirely. God's eternal laws and statutes were instituted to teach us the proper use of material objects, to regulate our material relationships with other men. God yearns to see us observe His commands by using with diligence both mind and hand, the creation He has made for us. So let's turn to several scriptures to find the many reasons which should cause us to rejoice in material accomplishment as we do in spiritual accomplishment, that should make earning a living a blessing, not a curse — for all comes from God.
Bible Reasons for Having a Job
We know we should labor to give tithes and offerings. But scripture also explains other important results of fruitful effort. Ephesians 4:28 states a comprehensive purpose: let each "labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." We cannot execute the injunction committed to us by Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" unless we zealously produce those articles which render it possible for us to give, not only money, but also goods and foodstuffs. A great joy it is to be able to turn out superior products or food for our neighbors. The holy commands are not idle or void sayings; they are full of meaning. They constrain us to conduct our occupations with the utmost wisdom in order to possess the necessities by which others can enjoy happiness and material prosperity as we give. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecc. 9:10). Not only are we thus encouraging hope in others who have needs, but we also are reaping a reward ourselves in this present world; for it is more blessed to give than to receive. Love, carried out in labor, is productive both ways, to others and to ourselves. Solomon said: "Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man rejoice in his own works" (Ecc. 3:22). TO LIVE IS TO LABOR! no matter if it seems straining on our bodies for the moment. Working benefits others and returns joys upon the doer. Lust, the imposing motive which makes men think they can own happiness through getting, does not produce a lasting abundance. It brings, instead, mental fears, and physical satiety. It produces in the heart of men, not expanding love and inspiration for further labors, but an inflated and swollen sense of pride that eventually ruins the individual who aspires to take success and prosperity from another's endeavor. Romans 12:17 and II Corinthians 8:21 give further basic reasons for every Christian having an honorable job. "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." The occupations in which you are, the type of work you perform, is your example to a gainsaying and perverse world of that right way of life. Your job permits God to manifest through you now a forerunner of the prosperous civilization He plans for all in the thousand years to come. Receiving money from labor that produces nothing beneficial, which is often true of our modern society, discredits God. A fruitful occupation is one method by which the gospel of peace can be indirectly preached. This brings us to our third basic reason for being thankful about our station in life.
"What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it" (Ecc. 3:9, 10). This life is a training ground for eternity. We take nothing from it but experience, ingrained in our character. This earth is the arena in which we attempt with failures and with hard-earned successes to complete our transitory years. God has provided us with every tool to finish life's course and to make secure that hope of immortality in the family of God. The family of God is a laboring family (John 5:17). But by nature we lack the family characteristics of God. So, if we had not been put into a material world which compels us to work for a livelihood, we would not be fitted and trained to inherit a portion in the household of God. We have to strive against the laziness of human nature by working with our hands and minds for God in service to men.
Good Deeds Shine
Viewing good works through God's magnifying glass gives us a much larger perspective of divine love which we can let shine into the eyes of the world. Our obedience to God is not seen by empty words: it is seen in the occurrence of profitable labor and good deeds. While serving others, we have the opportunity to show fidelity and abhorrence of purloining (Titus 2:9, 10). Through productive labor we have the opportunity to prove to others, who lack inspiration, the gain in doing work heartily (Col. 3:22). Have you filled the shrivelled hearts of others with smiles from work gladly done?
A Common Example
"By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands, the house droppeth through" (Ecc. 10:18; Prov. 24:30-34). Is this your home? I hope it isn't. But if it is, you ought to consider very carefully that others measure our belief by how we live. It is our life to set an example for others so they will be stirred to procure from the seeds of toil and labor the bumper crop of joy, peace, hope, love and prosperity. The time will come, too, when those who fail to appreciate our acts today, will recall them tomorrow when God shall open their hearts and eyes to serve Him in the judgment at the last day (I Peter 2:12).
The foundation of Scripture provides us with a perfect balance for life. We are to set our affections and hopes on the enduring promises of God. We are not to spend our days fabricating an illusionary house of material prosperity which will terminate in death. Yet, because we do set our hopes on the promise of eternal inheritance in the earth and because we know the laws of life from the revelation of God, we can use the present world to the glory of God. Ours is not to build useless enterprises and foolish gadgets that please the vanity of men and women. Ours is to produce useful articles that benefit God-instituted homes. Ours is to cause hope and joy to spring forth from the faces of young and old by the goods and nutritious foods we provide. And all this beside tithes and offerings we give! Has anyone of us now any reason to think that God has not given ample opportunity to do Him service beside preaching?
A Different World
Neither worldly businessmen nor shackled laborers possess this Bible concept of work. But time has already proved, though the world is blind to it, that there is no permanent success in anything made in the world except the good others can derive, and the joy and training it instills in those who do productive laboring. Looking at our occupations with this attitude — a view which directs our endeavors to the service of the Kingdom of God rather than to perishable goals — we are privileged to depict in miniature the World Tomorrow when the bountiful Creator will bless the honest and diligent labors of His people and crown their works with joy (Isaiah 65:23). Everyone in the Church of God has a whole world of opportunity to give his supreme material efforts to a land needing the best in commodities. How different we can make our work by comparison to shoddily manufactured products. How rich and flavorsome we can raise our food in comparison to that produced by greedy and ignorant methods in which poisons deteriorate the soil and valuable insects are destroyed and in which the land is not allowed to rest every seventh year according to command. Is your life giving others a view of the coming Kingdom of God?