18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).
The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. (Ruth 2:12, NKJV)
Ruth (the young Moabite widow whose loyalty to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi is memorialized in the book of Ruth) is acknowledged and blessed by Boaz, a wealthy landowner, and kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Ruth had pledged faithfulness to Naomi and Naomi’s God, even when she could have stayed in her homeland where family and familiarity would have (Ruth 1:16). Ruth clung to Naomi when returning to her family would have brought her familiarity and security. And so, Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. There, Ruth joined the gleaners during barley harvest to gather leftover grain to feed herself and Naomi. Upon seeing Ruth’s self-sacrificing devotion and diligence, Boaz showed her great kindness. Indeed God was blessing her (and Naomi) for her labor of faith. Eventually, Boaz and Ruth married and became the great-grandparents of David, king of Israel. Thus, a Moabitess of courageous faith and humble service is in the ancestral lineage of the Messiah. The Lord rewarded her work, not because Ruth earned her way into God’s favor, but because God blesses faith that graciously serves others (in this case, Naomi). God still rewards the work of faith, not because we deserve the reward, but because our faith relies upon His grace to bless us with His salvation (Rom. 5:1-2; Jas. 2:14-24; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Luke 19:45–46, NKJV)
The corruption of God’s house of prayer is on full display as Christ’s indignation raged against those who had turned temple worship into an oppressive and lucrative business enterprise (Matt. 21:12-13). Jesus used Isaiah 56:7 to expose and condemn their unholy treatment of God’s house and God’s people. Now, the church is God’s holy temple (Eph. 2:19-22). Despite Christ’s pointed warning against defiling God’s house, people continue to defile God’s house of prayer, the church. The reconfiguration of the church constitutes a departure from the faith the Spirit expressly warned would happen (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Gal. 1:6-10). Over time, the church’s worship became polluted with rites and rituals not found in the covenant of Christ. The church’s organization was turned into an ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over independent congregations of saints. The church’s work became contaminated by material pursuits as people made merchandise of the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). Jesus does not look on approvingly while the will and wisdom of men corrupt His church (Col. 2:8, 20-23). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Christ. Christ’s gospel continues to disrupt the innovations that defile God’s house under the guise of progress and advancement (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Jno. 9).
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV)
The Corinthian church had problems. Every church does. That’s because every church is composed of sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We struggle with temptations and sins, with our faith and our failings. Christians in every congregation must address weakness and weariness, responsibilities and relationships, and much more (Rom. 12:3-21). Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren to remain true to the Lord as they faced spiritual challenges from within themselves and from the world without. Like them, we must be “steadfast” (settled, firmly situated) in our faith. The roots of our faith must run deep within us, anchored by the word of God, in order for spiritual growth to flourish. By building our personal faith we become stabilized, standing firmly in the faith, and able to resist the enticements of sin (Col. 2:7; Jas. 1:14). By such steadfastness we become “immovable” (unmoved) against the external forces of error and evil (Col. 2:8; Eph. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 4:1-3). (Remember, the devil is always probing for our vulnerabilities, 1 Pet. 5:8.) Spiritual stability enlivens our duty (“work”) in the Lord with purpose, devotion, endurance, and fullness. Our incentive to fulfill our duty to the Lord is clear – our labor is not useless in the Lord. A full, everlasting harvest awaits the faithful (Gal. 6:7-8).
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3–5, NKJV)
The diligence with which Jesus labored is a model of zeal, endurance, and accomplishment. As He prepared to heal a man who was blind from birth, He explained the principle which drove Him each day. He had been given work to do by His Father (who sent Him to the earth). His time on the earth was limited, and so He diligently went about doing His Father’s work (which was teaching the gospel and showing Himself to be “the light of the world” – the Christ, the Son of God). Just as the Father gave the Son work to do, Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). With Jesus as our model, let us be zealous to walk in (do, practice) the good works of God each day, by living soberly, righteously, and godly (Tit. 2:11-12). Night is coming for us all, when our time to labor for the Lord will end. So, as long as we have today, let us be diligent children of light who do the Father’s will, and “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:9-12).
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10, NKJV)
The Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church fell far short of restoring New Testament Christianity. One such area was its failure to return to the Scriptural (and thus, essential) place of obedience to God to be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience is an “unprofitable” servant’s faith at work (Luke 17:10). Protestantism opted to demonize every kind of work while codifying salvation by faith only, even though Scripture says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Nineveh’s salvation from God’s imminent destruction well illustrates the part that a working faith plays in salvation. Why would God consider Nineveh’s “works” at all, if works have nothing to do with God’s gift of salvation (Jonah 3:7-9, 10)? Jesus endorsed their works as proof that “they repented” (Luke 11:32). Even so, we do not earn salvation when we obey God’s command to repent (Acts 17:30). But, without obeying God and repenting of sins, we will not receive His grace that saves our soul. Repentance is a work of faith, a condition we must meet to be saved (Acts 3:19). God has given commands we must obey as conditions to be saved “by grace through faith.” Unless we obey them, we do not trust God. All we have is a dead faith.