The Christian Work Ethic: Are You a Worker-for-Hire or Are You Working the Family Farm?
My great grandfather moved his family from northern Georgia across the Chattahoochee River into southeastern Alabama and purchased a sizable piece of land they called a plantation. My grandfather had 13 children who worked the land until he retired. My father and one brother and sister bought portions of the land for themselves.
I grew up helping dad work our family farm. By the time I came into the family, it was mostly just dad and me working along with the tenant family that lived on the land. Though it was a relatively small farm, my mother would sometimes refer to it as part of the plantation. When asked where some of us might be, she would say, “I don’t know exactly; somewhere on the plantation.”
The children of the tenant family were my playmates and my working partners. We all did pretty much the same work, but the perspective was different. They were working on the plantation. I was working on the family farm.
Just a Job
The gospel not only transforms our inner lives, it affects our work ethic. We are heirs to his mission and adopted sons working on his family farm. Plantation ethic is mostly about working for hire. You do your job to be paid. You instinctively know that doing a good job brings job security and maybe better pay. But, there is no sense of ownership nor future dreams for development.
Sadly, many Christians have never made the transition. Believing that spirituality and work are in different categories, they spend most of their time involved with secular work, and less time with the spiritual business of worship, discipleship, and church activity. This duality is a great thief of joy. Work is seen as a necessity but not a vital part of being God’s people on earth.
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It is easy to see how people adopt different value systems for the business sphere since, in their minds it is not a part of the spiritual life. It also might answer why some feel so demeaned or even dirty because they are forced to do secular work. If work is dirty, then the pay must be dirty, so even the management of finances is extra-Christian activity. When wealth is the goal, materialism is the god.
People who work for money have made themselves slaves to it. It tells them which job, how to advance and how to measure their worth. No wonder these believers feel shame when they come to church to worship the God of everything. They somehow must know that God has a competitor in their lives.
Working in the Family Business
Working in the family business is much different. You get to be with the father and the other heirs as you work. You have a sense of sharing in ownership. You have a common vision and hope for development. Excellence is not based on pay but on appreciation and hope. You are expressing yourself and fulfilling your design to subdue the earth as God’s partner.
Knowing that the pay-master is also your father, you are confident that he will be more than fair. You are free to be creative in finding ways to help others and make the place better. Working with God as Father, we know that every assignment is backed by unlimited resources. He supplies everything we need to accomplish what he has commissioned us to do.
We are also delighted to be working on a project that is guaranteed to succeed. We don’t have to compete for reward or recognition. We are working with God as a partner and the prospects are beyond comprehension.
All Work Spiritual and Eternal
The reconciliation and restoration accomplished by the gospel has made all our work spiritual and eternal in its worth. Everything we do is a good work if we do it as sons/daughters for the sake of the mission and to the glory of our Father.
Missionaries are not superior in their work if each of us is doing what we are assigned. Working on the staff of a religious organization is not better work than working on the staff of a plumber. We are each representing the mission of our Father to do good to all people and leaving the world a better place by reflecting the glory of God in every work of our hands.
Work is a privilege and God’s way of sharing his nature and purpose with us. He still works and invites us to work as his sons/partners.
Plantation or family business? Your choice.
Dudley Hall is a Senior Contributor to The Stream. He is the founder and President of Kerygma Ventures, a sought-after speaker, an engaging preacher, an effective consultant, and a trusted spiritual father. Dudley has authored several books including Grace Works, Incense & Thunder, Glad to be Left Behind, Men In Their Own Skin, Orphans No More, When Hard Times Come, Follow Me and his latest, a children’s book laced with gospel truth: Shorty the Substitute Ram.