From coast to coast throughout our nation hang signs from the doors and windows of businesses reading “help wanted.” A vast labor shortage exists in our country and businesses of every kind and size are struggling to manage. The culprit behind this phenomenon is COVID-19 and its gargantuan ripple effects. Some are still afraid to leave their homes and go back to work, lest they catch the virus. Others have seen their industries crumble or their previous employer shutdown. But many, it seems, prefer not to return to work because they don’t have to. Government programs throughout the last year have prevented foreclosures and evictions and provided financial assistance and other forms of welfare to the extent that many are able to make more money staying at home than they would by going back to work. Several economic concerns could be raised concerning this problem, but the real concern is moral. Scripture is not silent on this problem–far from it. As far as God is concerned, those who are able must work to provide for themselves and their families.
God’s expectation for human work-ethic is found throughout the entirety of scripture. When the Lord placed man in the garden He also placed responsibility for the garden into his hand. Genesis 2:15 says, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” This responsibility intensified after the fall. Jehovah said to Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground…” (Gen. 3:19). The Law of Moses commanded “Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest…” (Ex. 23:12). Though dealing specifically with the Sabbath, the implication of the passage is clear. How can a man rest if he has nothing to rest from? If he does not work? Referencing Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:14 the apostle Paul remarked, “…the laborer is worthy of his reward” (1 Tim. 5:18). First Thessalonians 4:11 reminds the Thessalonian saints of the command to “work with your own hands.” Ephesians 4:28 commands, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” In passage after passage God’s will is clear¬– “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).
Though COVID-19 deserves a good portion of blame for the current employment and overall economic problems, the true culprit is more dangerous and pervasive. For years, influencers have worked diligently to inoculate American culture with an entitlement mentality. The fruit of their labors grows larger by the day. The over-emphasis on recreation and self-actualization, the failure to emphasize the importance of a good work ethic to each generation, and a number of other factors have produced a situation in which many feel it is their right to demand more for doing less, and in some cases, nothing. Many are able but unwilling to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Scripture condemns this sort of behavior. A similar mentality existed in Thessalonica. Paul said that those who refused to work displayed a lack of brotherly love (1 Thess. 4:9-12) and were “disorderly” and should be withdrawn from (2 Thess. 3:6-15). First Timothy 5:8 further emphasizes how God views this mindset by saying, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
As Christians we must learn to view work in a biblical way and teach our children to do the same. Scripture says “In all labor there is profit” (Pro. 14:23) and “the sleep of the laboring man is sweet” (Ecc. 5:13). The ability to work to earn a living is a blessing, not a curse. It produces happiness (Ps. 128:2) and fulfillment (Ecc. 2:24). What a man earns through hard work is precious (Pro. 112:27) and the laborer is worthy of his hire (1 Tim. 5:18). Christians should be employers and employees who are fair, honest, and hard-working (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:23-24). When the call for laborers rings out, Christians should be the first in line to answer. The ability to work to earn a living, then to enjoy the blessings that God provides through hard work, is a great thing and we should thank Him for it daily. Though it is true that God makes allowances for the willing but unable and commands His people to be generous and ready to meet the needs of their fellow man (cf. Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 6:17ff), it is also true that God expects all who are able to be willing to work hard to provide for themselves and their families.