Why Work? Because You Can Do Good

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Ephesians 4:28

Hard Work, Good Work: Part 5

Why should you work? Beyond obvious answers like "To earn money so I can eat," there are deeper biblical reasons why you and I should work. In yesterday's reflection, we saw that we were created by God for work. We should work because that's why we exist, at least in part. Today, we'll consider another answer to the "Why work?" question.

Ephesians 4:28 says that thieves, and by obvious implication, all people, "must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." The NIV translation gets the basic sense of the verse, though it misses some of the nuances. Consider, for example, the phrase "doing something useful with their own hands." The original Greek could be translated more literally, "working with their own hands that which is good [to agathon]." The Greek word agathos can mean "useful," as in the NIV rendering, but it suggests something more. In Ephesians 2:10, God has created us in Christ "to do good [agathois] works." Romans 8:28 promises, "And we know that in all things God works for the good [agathon] of those who love him." In Mark 10:18, Jesus says, "No one is good [agathos]—except God alone."

Yes, in many ways our work is useful. But the worth of our work goes far beyond some temporary benefit or practical result. Through our work, we are able to do good, to share in God's goodness, and to contribute a bit of goodness to the world. Why work? Because we can do good through our work.

Now, of course some kinds of work are not good. Thievery, for example, does not add goodness, but badness to the world. Yet, when we do work that fulfills our created calling, when our work serves others, when our work reflects God's design for life, when our work enhances community and culture, then it has value because of the goodness it contributes. Our work is good, in part, because what it accomplishes is good.

At this point, some of us might be tempted to discount the goodness our work produces because it isn't large in scope. But God is not interested so much in the quantity of our accomplishment as in its quality. Remember the story known as the Widow's Mite. Though wealthy people had given large amounts to the temple, Jesus said a poor widow's tiny gift counted as more than what the others had given because she "put in everything" (Mark 12:43-44).

So it is with our work. What you do today might contribute goodness to thousands of lives, or it may make a very small difference to one other person. Nevertheless, you work because you can do good, and this matters profoundly to God. He receives the goodness of your work as worship.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways does your work, whatever kind of work it might be, add to the goodness of the world? Can you offer your work to the Lord today, as an act of worship?

PRAYER: Gracious God, again I thank you for creating me with a capacity for work. Help me, Lord, to see and value the goodness my work produces. May I offer this goodness to you, even as the widow once gave all she had to you for the temple offering. Thank you for receiving my work as worship and for delighting in it and in me. Amen.


Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast. Send a note to Mark.

Visual and Creative Arts As Ministry

At The High Calling, we believe art creates a space where people may encounter God, opening a door for transformation. We explore this in our series, Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry. Have you felt it? It’s the way the light ripples across water; the way a good story names something within you; it’s the music you dream in the middle of the night that haunts you in the day. God uses beauty to touch us in the deepest places. As image-bearers of the one true God, we are also co-creators with him, made to impact our culture and each other through the art we bring to life. It is our hope that this series will spark in you an awareness of how your work is a part of this process, opening your eyes to the beauty that you create every day.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.