Work might not always be pleasant, but it is good to have the opportunity to do so.
All of us have to work for a living. Well, most of us. If you happen to be independently wealthy, good for you. For the rest of us, there is reserved a lifetime of work which may not always be pleasant.
One of the distinctive features of Christianity that made it conspicuous in the first century, though we sometimes take it for granted today, is the dignity that it affords to work.
Before Christianity, one’s worth was strictly judged by the nobility or value of one’s occupation. For example, Aristotle, in his Politics, distinguishes between “liberal” and “illiberal” occupations, that is, those fit for a free man (liberal in the sense of liberated; free) in contrast to those occupations that are “by nature” suitable only for slaves. He even goes so far as to assert “The object also which a man sets before him makes a great difference; if he does or learns anything for his own sake or for the sake of his friends, or with a view to excellence the action will not appear illiberal; but if done for the sake of others, the very same action will be thought menial and servile.” In other words, if you dig ditches for fun, that might be okay, but if you had to do it for a living, Aristotle would regard you with contempt.
The ancient world was extremely class and status conscious (how much has changed?). It was against this backdrop that the Apostle Paul penned the words; “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
In the context, Paul is addressing bondservants whose work was often menial and who did not get to choose their occupations. The Bible thus provides an encouragement and a challenge equally to the entry-level manual laborer as well as to the richest CEO.
The encouragement is that any honest work can honor God and carries the potential for eternal reward.
The challenge is that all work should be done to the best of one’s ability as a service to the Savior.
My church is too small to provide me with benefits and, hence, I must also work another, 40 hour per week job as a janitor. Cleaning toilets may not be at the very top of the list of “illiberal” occupations, but it has to be pretty close. I am encouraged that, even if the earthly status of a job may be small, nevertheless I can honor the Lord with the work of my hands. What’s more, I can be confident that my work will have a reward from the Lord.
Perhaps you are in a line of work that receives little respect and you feel discouraged. On the other hand, maybe it is not the nature of your occupation that has you discouraged. Maybe you have a rare and valuable skill that is widely respected but, for whatever reason, your own individual contributions go unrecognized at the office. Or again, perhaps you are tempted to do a half-way job because you do not like your work or your work environment. Perhaps your job is only a stepping-stone to better things and you have trouble taking it seriously. Maybe you have already put in your two weeks notice or are only a few months from retirement and you feel like “coasting” the rest of the way.
Be encouraged and also be warned; if you have trusted Christ by faith and received the adoption as a child of God, then it is Him that you are working for. The reward for which we strive is not merely monetary or social, but spiritual and eternal. Whatever you do, do it heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.
 Aristotle, Politics, trans. Benjamine Jowett (Adelaide, eBooks@adelaide, 2014), Chapter 8, section 2.
 Colossians 3:23-24. All references unless otherwise noted are taken from The New American Standard Bible (La
Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1977).