Today we are going to be encouraged in our work ethic by God. There is a reason they call it the "protestant work ethic." It is because it came from protestants teaching the Scriptures to their people. Actually it should not be called the protestant work ethic, but rather the "Biblical work ethic." Either way, let's take a look at it today.
Solomon warns against a man who is "slack" in his work. The word slack here is the Hebrew word, "rapah" and it means to relax, to cease and desist from doing something. It refers to one who is weak in his will to do something and thus it came to refer to those who were lazy in mind and in body. The warning is against becoming this way in reference to one's work. God wants us to work hard. Some think work is part of the curse, but it is not. God commanded Adam to work the garden before the fall. The difference after the fall was that the garden would now have weeds for the first time. Work would now be far harder than it had ever been before. Now it was labor - it was difficult to do things that would have been far easier before. There was also another problem. After the fall of man into sin, we were also rebellious. We no longer want to do what God wants us to do. Thus we have a double problem of work being harder - and us not wanting to work at all.
But Solomon lets us know that the one who is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. We have more at stake here than just the possibility that someone may think we are lazy. The meaning of destroy here is interesting. It means to spoil or ruin something. The idea is that of corrupting something, perverting it - and thus ruining it. When you have people who do not want to work - they are brother to those who ruin things. Let me illustrate with our current state of things in the business world.
We have a climate today where people do not want to work hard at what they do. There are more people who think that they deserve a paycheck, just if they show up to work. They deserve a job, they deserve a paycheck, they deserve health care - they deserve everything - but not necessarily for the reason of having worked hard for it. We are overflowing with rights - but "underflowing" with work ethic. That has led to situation where too many don't work hard - or work with excellence in the workplace. It has led to unions demanding more and more pay for less and less work. They demand more rights, more days off, more benefits - but they are not producing more and more products. The result of this is that our products cost more and more - and we are less and less competitive with other countries whose labor costs much less. The union only cares about getting more from the company - and not about whether the company can compete. The end of all this is plants closing and companies going out of business - because work ethic is pitiful, but demands are high. I know that there are other factors as well such as businesses not making wise decisions and greed - but then again what is this but executives being slack in their work as well.
The proverb tells us that the one slack in his work is a brother to one who destroys. There are growing numbers of those who are slack in their work in our workforce - and shock of shocks - our businesses and industries are being destroyed. I've talked with godly men who own businesses and their statement to me is that their greatest problem is finding people who will actually work. What is saddest to hear is that they feel this way even about the Christians that they hire. This is not universal - but it is at what I believe epidemic levels in our society. No small wonder then that we are also at historic levels of unemployment - or at least levels that are rivaling our worst economic situations of the past.
God desires for us to work hard. For those of us who know Jesus Christ we have a wonderful opportunity before us. Since the world is losing its work ethic, we will stick out and look much different than the world if we work hard. Thus we have an opportunity to be a strong witness in our actions, which will lead to an opportunity for us to share our commitment to Christ. It will give us opportunity to share why we still have a strong work ethic. It is because we know Jesus Christ. May we be known no longer as ones who are brothers to him who destroys. Instead may we be known as the brothers who build up - and bless.