Why We Work (2 Corinthians 9:6-11)

Why-We-Work
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Why We Work
Sunday, February 25th, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Prayer

Father, we thank you for creating us as your workmanship, and for re-creating us in Christ Jesus to do good work, work that serves our neighbor and brings honor to You. We thank you that we get to participate with you in the renewal of all things, and we ask now for your Holy Spirit to animate and inspire us as we seek to exercise dominion on the earth. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

Every Sunday, after the sermon, we stand up and recite the Ten Commandments. And by now, many of us have those ten commandments memorized and so if I ask you, what is the fourth commandment? You know that it is, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”

  • Now the version of the ten commandments that we recite is actually an abbreviated version of the full Ten Commandments as they are given in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, and so we don’t actually recite the totality of the 4th commandment in all of its context.
  • And so when most people think of keeping the sabbath, or obeying the fourth commandment, they typically think and think rightly that they ought to rest and go to church and worship the Lord. This is the essence of sabbath keeping in the new covenant.
  • However, going to church on Sunday is really only one-half, or perhaps more accurately one-seventh of the commandment, because the rest of the 4th commandment reads as follows:
    • “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
  • So not only are we commanded to rest as God rested one day in seven, but we are also to do good work on those six other days. Just as God worked and made heaven and earth in six days and called what he made “good,” so also he says, “six days shalt you labor, and do all thy work.” Meaning, you can’t actually have seventh day rest on the Lord’s Day, unless you have been busy working hard unto the Lord on those six other days. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” is just as much a part of obeying the 4th commandment as the cessation from work on the seventh day.
  • And so I have titled the sermon this morning, Why We Work, and in it I want focus on the other half or rather the other six-sevenths of the 4th commandment. I want to explore what God’s Word has to say about the way we live our lives on the six days that we are not here.
  • There are three basic truths I want to expound for us from the Scriptures, and they are these:
    • 1. Work is good.
    • 2. Work is hard.
    • 3. Good work is service to the Lord.

Survey of the Text

Now before we consider these three truths in depth, let us briefly survey our text in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. And I have chosen this passage to frame our study of work, because in it we find this most precious promise in verse 8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

  • Notice all the universals in this verse, the all’s and the every. Paul is telling the Corinthians in very comprehensive terms that they cannot outgive God. No matter how generous and loving and giving you are to others, the reward you receive from God in return, always surpasses whatever gift you gave. We pour ourselves out for others, and God makes us overflow even more than before.
  • He says in verse 6, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
    • In the immediate historical context of this letter, Paul is gathering funds from the various churches to help alleviate the poor Christians who are suffering in Jerusalem. He is taking an offering.
    • And so he holds out this agricultural truism to illustrate the way God’s economy works. If you sow a little, you reap a little. If you sow a lot, you reap a lot. So what size harvest do you want?
  • He goes on in verse 7 to describe the kind of sowing/giving God wants, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
    • When we give, or when we work, or when we sow a seed of whatever size, our sowing ought to be done without sadness in our heart for “losing” the thing we are giving. Because in God’s economy, no good thing is ever truly lost. And therefore, our giving should be done with cheerfulness and joy.
      • It would be a strange sight to see a farmer crying in his field, sorrowful at all the seed he is losing by planting it in the soil. And just so, it would be a strange sight for us to grieve at the gifts we offer to the Lord. God loves a cheerful giver.
    • This same principle of sowing seed cheerfully applies to every aspect of life. Whatever your vocation or calling or work is, God says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
      • And again, it says in 1 Corinthians 9:10, “he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.”
      • And most famously in 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
  • So our six days of labor in this world, at whatever job you have, whether it is scrubbing toilets, flipping burgers, teaching children, or milking goats, is a work that God wants you to do cheerfully, joyfully, with hope in your heart that whatever you sow in faith, God shall reward richly.
    • It says in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” This applies in the natural world with earthly things, and it applies in the supernatural realm with spiritual things.
    • God is always watching, God sees us at work when no one else does, and this truth allows Paul to encourage us by saying in Ephesians 6:5-8, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”
    • If you are a wage slave, stuck in a job you do not love, with a boss or coworkers you cannot stand, you have the same opportunity and responsibility as the person who has their “dream job,” to do your best work for your Employer as serving the Lord.
    • God sees, and God blesses. Consider the life of Joseph. When Joseph was at the bottom of the pit, and then sold into slavery, and then unjustly accused and then put into prison, what was God doing?
      • God was preparing him to be ruler of Egypt. What looked like a downgrade or a demotion in the world’s eyes, was actually a promotion and preparation in God’s eyes.
      • In a similar way, our whole life in this world is a preparation for eternal life.We experience a taste of the eternal sabbath when we rest by faith in Christ, and from thr strength that God supplies we then do the good works God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
  • So consider whatever vocation/calling/work you have now as the field in which God wants you to sow for six days, and remember that whatever harvest you do not receive in this life, you shall receive in the next on that eternal sabbath.
    • If you are a husband, your wife and children are your field. If you are a mother, your children and grandchildren and household are your field. If you are student, your studies and tests and books are your field. Whatever lawful work God has called you to, that is the field God wants you to sow and plow and water and weed. And when you do this in obedience and service to Christ, God is the one who gives the growth.
    • Proverbs 3:9-10 reminds us that if we “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
  • So this is the encouragement and promise we have from God and must cling to when things are hard, that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
  • With that as the motivation for our work, let us turn to consider these three truths about the work itself.
    • 1. Work is good.
    • 2. Work is hard.
    • 3. Good work is service to the Lord.

Truth #1 – Work is good.

One of the most common misconceptions that people have about work, is that work is a result of the Fall. Many people falsely imagine that if sin had never entered the world, our lives would be a perpetual vacation, lounging around, eating and drinking, playing games, and doing nothing productive with our time. But this is not the story that Scripture tells. Instead, we see in Genesis 1-2 that even before Adam sinned, Adam had a job.

  • Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
    • This word for tend is the Hebrew word עבד (avad), which is a very common word that is elsewhere translated as working, or serving, or doing, or tilling the ground.
    • Moreover, when God calls Israel out of Egypt, the whole purpose for delivering them from slavery and bondage is so that they can serve (avad) the Lord (Ex. 3:12).
    • So this avad, this work, or service, or tending of the garden, is something God gives Adam to do prior to sin entering the world.
    • When God looked out at all that He had created, and said it is all “very good” (Gen. 1:31), this included the work (the avad) that Adam was given to do. It was very good that Adam had to tend and keep the garden.
  • And so essential to who we are as human beings, not just as Christians, but as men and women created in the image of God, work is our first purpose and source of meaning in life.
  • Whereas many people work in order to live, the biblical doctrine is that we live in order to work. We live to avad, to serve the garden and serve the Lord. Rather than separating work from worship, Genesis 1-2 unites these concepts as the one purpose for which we were created.
  • You were created to work for six days, just like God worked for six days, and then rested on the seventh. So those six days of avad, of service in the soil are very good. And when we participate in this creational pattern that is reaffirmed after the fall in the 4th commandment, we participate in the life of God and His work to renew the world.
  • So work is not just good, it is very good, and when done as service unto the Lord it becomes a spiritual offering pleasing to Him. One of the reasons we work for six days is so that on the seventh day, when God calls us to his throne room, we can offer to Him the fruit of our hands labor.
  • Remember the story of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:2 says, “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Both men worked, both men made offerings from their work unto the Lord, but Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” And it says in 1 John 3:12, that Cain’s “works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
    • So it is not enough to simply give God an offering from the labor of your hands (this is what Cain did), your work needs to be actually good (like Abel’s, and it needs to be offered in faith for God to accept it and be pleased with it.
    • So again you see that worshipping God every Sunday is an exercise in hypocrisy if you are not doing good work unto the Lord on the other six days. It is what we do Monday-Saturday that God judges and rewards (or punishes) on Sunday.
  • So work is good. Work is very good. And even before the Fall, the Bible teaches that we were created to work for six days and rest on the seventh. This brings us to a second truth about work which is…

Truth #2 – Work is hard.

If Adam’s original task as a bachelor was to tend and keep the garden, God added to him a second task after he was married, which was “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

  • This work of husband and wife is often called the Cultural/Dominion Mandate, which is God’s command to extend the order and beauty of the Garden of Eden to the four corners of the earth.
  • It says in Genesis 2:10-13, “Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.”
    • So Adam and Eve were placed in a beautiful garden, and yet God doesn’t want them to just stay there forever. He wants them to follow these rivers and find gold, and precious stones and build things out of them.
    • It is the work of man and woman together that transforms nature into culture. God put raw materials into the ground and commissioned the human race to go and find them, dig them up, purify them, mix them, match them, build things out of them. And it is this cultivation of God’s world that transforms it from one degree of glory to another.
    • When we do good work in obedience to Genesis 1:28, we are God’s instruments for glorifying His creation. This is part of what it means to be God’s image upon the earth. God created, and we sub-create. God provides the raw material, and we refashion those materials into art.
  • Now as glorious as this task is, sin has made everything harder. When God pronounces the curse in Genesis 3, He tells them how their sin has frustrated and made more difficult the unique task that corresponds with their male/female nature.
    • Genesis 3:16 says, “To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
      • So because of our sin, being fruitful, bearing and raising children, becomes exponentially harder. And not only this, the woman’s work as a helper to her husband is going to be frustrated as well. Husband and wife will be tempted to blame one other when they get frustrated.
    • For the man, God says in Genesis 3:17-19, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
      • So not only will everyone eventually die because of sin, it is now through toil that we will get our food, and thorns and thistles are going to fight against us. Instead of working without a sweat, now we must exert far more effort than we would have in our unfallen state.
  • So for all us who are descended from Adam and Eve, we still have the Cultural Mandate from God, work six days, be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, but now it’s just way harder. Our work fights us.
  • So work is good, but because of sin, work is now toilsome and sweaty. And yet it is this hard and difficult work that Christ prepared in advance for you to do. All of the commands and promises of Scripture are given to us with the effects of sin already factored in. And this should bring us great joy. It is possible and can even become habitual for us to work joyfully unto the Lord no matter how difficult the task.
  • Jesus Christ is the supreme example of what good work looks like in a fallen world. And it is He who exemplifies for us this third truth…

Truth #3 – Good work is service to the Lord.

When God came to earth in Jesus Christ, He did not immediately start preaching and trying to evangelize his neighbors. As important as evangelism and missionary work is, Jesus Christ spent his first 30 years living in this toilsome world, first as a baby, then growing as a child “increasing in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52), and then working with his hands as a carpenter in Galilee (Mark 6:3). Before Jesus preached to the multitudes, he served the Lord by working with his hands.

  • Now what kind of work ethic do you think Jesus the carpenter had? We know that as a perfect man, he worked with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. We know that whatever he built or remodeled or fixed was done with all the care and attention to detail that the God who created the world could give. If Jesus Christ created the universe, imagine what kind of dining table he could build for you. Imagine the quality of the cabinets he installed. Imagine the excellence and craftsmanship of whatever came out of his shop.
  • It was the eternal and divine plan of salvation, that God would come to earth, and throughout his 20’s he would work with his hands building things, toiling in the same dusty and sweaty conditions that his father Joseph and every other blue-collar Galilean worked in. And yet that work was spiritual service to the Lord. It was not below the dignity of God to get his hands covered in sawdust. And this is the humble and excellent standard of work that all Christ’s followers should imitate.
  • Now there are two common misconceptions about work that many Christians have fallen into and must be rejected.
    • 1. The first is that work is only a means to paying our bills or providing for our families. Many Christians view their 9-5 or 8-6 job as only a means to an end and that end is a paycheck. But this is not the biblical view of work.
      • Work is a means to many things, but work is also an end in and of itself. When work is done excellently, as working unto the Lord, it is of real benefit to the person you are serving, and of real merit in the eyes of God.
      • What is God going to reward believers for on judgment day?
        • Over and over again, the Bible says God is going to reward us for our works. Jesus says in Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
      • Listen to 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 as Paul describes his own works. He says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
      • So think about your vocation(s), whatever it is, ask yourself, what is the quality of my work? What material am I building with? Are you building with “wood, hay, and straw,” which the fire of judgment is going to burn up? Or are you working in faith, hope, and love, building with gold, silver, and precious stones, materials that will be refined and made more glorious by God’s fire?
      • When Jesus was literally working with wood in his carpentry shop, in spiritual terms he was building with gold, because he was working excellently for the glory of God.
      • And so however humble your literal working materials might seem, remember that anything you do can become gold, silver, and precious stones, when you do it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, cheerfully unto God.
      • And this is how good hard work becomes spiritual worship. We treat it not merely as a means to a paycheck, but as an end in itself, that glorifies Christ.
    • 2. The second common misconception about work, is that in order for our work to please God, we have to use it as a means to evangelism or ministry. Again, the error is turning work into a means to a spiritual end rather than a spiritual end in itself.
      • This is the false teaching that says, the only purpose in your work is to give a portion of your paycheck to the church building fund. This is the false teaching that says, you are only serving the Lord at your job if you are leading a Bible study with your co-workers.
      • And while it is not a sin to lead a Bible study with your co-workers, assuming it’s not on company time, and it is no sin to give to the building fund,we must not view our work as somehow “less spiritual” if we are not doing those more “pious” sounds things. Christian piety includes doing excellent and outstanding work. God wants you to be tired and to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
      • Remember Romans 12:1, what is spiritual worship? It is when you present your your body, as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
      • Paul says in Romans 6:19, “present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”
      • This means that wherever your body is, wherever your members are, is a place of “reasonable service” or as the ESV translates it, “spiritual worship.”
      • So regard whatever it is that your hand sets to do as work for God. Whether you are changing a diaper, or pouring concrete, or typing code, or managing an office, or doing the dishes. All good work is spiritual service to the Lord.

Conclusion

What makes the sabbath sweet, is when we work really hard for six days, toiling, suffering, getting up early, plowing in hope, and then we stop, and we sit down with God around this communion table, and we give thanks to Him for the fruit of our hands. And we remember the promise is that is given in Revelation 14:13-14 which says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

  • Dust we are, and to dust we shall return. But by faith in Jesus Christ, we shall leave this dust behind and shall attain to a resurrection harvest that will make these days of sweaty toil as a dream. And so in this life we plow in hope. We sow with joy. And we cling to the promise that in due season we shall reap God, if we do not lose heart.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
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