The word "work" (or works/working) appears in 623 verses in the Bible (KJB), and appears at least once in almost every book. As Christians rightly give praise to the Lord Jesus Christ for his gift of Salvation outside of works, sadly I have witnessed many who are ignoring the importance of works. In this article, we will explore the Biblical definitions of work, and what the Lord Jesus Christ expects of His sheep.
There are two types of work the Bible talks about; work concerning basic needs of the body (food, clothing, shelter), and works of the spirit, which can consist of good works, or bad works (vanity, unrighteousness, iniquity).
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
In discussion with other Christians, I have sometimes pointed out the inquity in a certain preacher or minister, and have received a response where they explain that the person couldn't be wrong because he is really smart, works very hard, has written books, and spoken to thousands of people. This is a logically fallacious argument. We need to understand that just because someone works hard, or has a following, does not automatically mean they are producing good fruit. I simply point out that Adolf Hitler was really smart, worked very hard, wrote books, and spoke to thousands of people, but he was working unrighteousness, so HARD work does not necessarily equate GOOD work.
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
In Revelation 2, Jesus Christ speaks to each of the churches and says "I know thy works," because despite the fact that Christ has saved our souls from eternal suffering, we will still be judged by our works. Christ recognizes us, and labels us, by the work we do.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven... Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord... And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
-1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
-1 Corinthians 11:31-32
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
adultery (n): The unfaithfulness of any married person to the marriage bed; all manner of lewdness or unchastity, as in the seventh commandment
fornication (n): The incontinence or lewdness of unmarried persons, male or female
uncleanness (n): Foulness; dirtiness; filthiness; Lewdness; incontinence
lasciviousness (n): Looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; tendency to excite lust, and promote irregular indulgences
idolatry (n): The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God; excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration
witchcraft (n): The practices of witches; sorcery; enchantments; intercourse with the devil; power more than natural
hatred (n): Great dislike or aversion; enmity; an aversion to evil, and may spring from utter disapprobation; or may spring from offenses or injuries done by fellow men, or from envy or jealousy, in which case it is usually accompanied with malevolence or malignity
variance (n): Difference that produces dispute or controversy; discord; at variance in disagreement; in a state of difference
emulation (n): Striving to equal or do more than others to obtain carnal favors or honors; desire of superiority; competition; rivalry accompanied with a desire of depressing another
wrath (n): Violent anger; vehement exasperation; indignation
strife (n): Contention in anger or enmity; contest; struggle for victory; quarrel or war; opposition; contrariety; contrast
sedition (n): A local or limited insurrection in opposition to civil authority
heresy (n): An error of opinion respecting some fundamental doctrine; an offense against christianity, consisting in a denial of some of its essential doctrines, publicly proclaimed and stubbornly maintained
envying (n): Mortification experienced at the supposed prosperity and happiness of another.
murder (n): The act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice, by a person of sound mind.
drunkenness (n): Intoxication; inebriation; a state in which a person is overwhelmed or overpowered with spirituous liquors, so that his reason is disordered; Habitually ebriety or intoxication
revellings (n): A feast with loose and noisy jollity; clamorous merriment
(All above definitions were taken from Noah Webster's Dicitonary, 1828, retrieved Jan 10, 2014, [webstersdictionary1828.com])
All throughout the Bible, we have warnings against each of these works of iniquity (sin/unrighteousness). Sadly, the modern "Laodecian" churches seem to care more about pitch-in dinners and being entertained with music, than they do in preaching rebuke and reproof against iniquity, and cleansing their lives for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the other end of the spectrum, let's look at the works of the Spirit (good fruits):
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
love (n): An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual; it is opposed to hatred
joy (n): Passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; happiness; rejoicing; gladness
peace (n): a state of quiet or tranquillity
longsuffering (n): Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; not easily provoked
gentleness (n): Softness of manners; mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; benevolence
goodness (n): The moral qualities which constitute christian excellence; moral virtue
faith (n): Assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed
meekness (n): In an evangelical sense, humility; resignation; submission to the divine will; opposed to pride and arrogance
temperance (n): Moderation; particularly, habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions; restrained or moderate indulgence
(All above definitions were taken from Noah Webster's Dicitonary, 1828, retrieved Jan 10, 2014, [webstersdictionary1828.com])
In my personal experience, I have never been in Christian group discussions, nor heard any sermons preached, that have clearly defined these terms. As we look over these and examine ourselves, we should be able to see our weakness, and what we need to work on.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
-2 Corinthians 13:5
reprobate (n): A person abandoned to sin; one lost to virtue and religion
(See 'reprobate', Noah Webster's Dicitonary, 1828, retrieved Jan 13, 2014, [webstersdictionary1828.com])
There is another type of work that is most often ignored in modern-day Christianity, and that is vain works. Although works of inquity can be labeled as "vain," not all works of vanity are necessarily inquity.
vain (adj): Empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance
(See 'vain', Noah Webster's Dicitonary, 1828, retrieved Jan 13, 2014, [webstersdictionary1828.com])
Many times, I have witnessed a Christian have a legitimate problem, like his car breaking down or losing his job, so he goes to his Christian brethren, tells them about his problem, and they respond with some cutesy phrase like, "Remember, God is in control," all the while doing nothing to help. However, these Christians still believe that their cutesy comments are actually helping the Christian in need, and they are what I personally like to call "shake-n-bake" Christians.
In the video, you'll see a little girl who wants to help her mother fix dinner, and so her mom let's her shake the bag of chicken in preparation for cooking. What they don't show in the video is the time mom has to put in working to make sure they have
Again, we find this kind of thing cute in children, with their lack of understanding, and it can be quite comical at times, but in an adult, it is vanity, slothfulness, and in most cases a point of annoyance and frustration. Jesus Christ said we should be like children concerning malice (i.e. little children don't hold grudges like adults do - Mar 10:15), but we should NOT be like children in our understanding.
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
-1 Corinthians 14:20
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Understandably, there are some people that are going through hard times themselves, and are unable to help their brethren, but even then, if he/she absolutely feels they need to say something, a much better, in-private (one-on-one) response would be, "Listen, I haven't the wealth or knowledge to help you with that situation, but know that I will pray that the Lord will give me what I need to help you, or send someone else to you who can help." But overall, we really don't need to say anything if we DO it. If we have the ability to help someone else, even by prayer, then we don't need to say a word because the Lord will see our actions.
Even if it is prayer, everyone can do something, but in modern-day churchianity, Christians don't actualy do as much as they talk about doing. Belief in the existance of the one True Living God is good, but it's not what separates us because
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
(Read "Did Christ Come to Bring Peace?" here at creationliberty.com for more details.)
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
Man is like to vanity; his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
idle (adj): Inactive; doing nothing; useless; vain; ineffectual; unfruitful; not productive of good; of no importance
(See 'idle', Noah Webster's Dicitonary, 1828, retrieved Jan 14, 2014, [webstersdictionary1828.com])
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Even worse are Christians I have seen that have pointed out a need, and do nothing about it. I have watched a man/woman identify a problem to Christian brethren who needed the help (sometimes even insult them in the process), and then just say, "you should do something about that." Pointing out something needing to be done, but doing nothing about it, does nothing to help the situation. It's unfruitful vanity! As a Christian, if we are convicted enough to point it out, we should be convicted enough to do something about it, even if all we can do is take it to the Lord in prayer, but I see many Christians just whine and complain at the one doing the work that he/she isn't doing enough!
Another example are the Christians who "give advice" when it is unasked for, and they think they're helping. It's one of those "you missed a spot" Christians who don't really do much of anything but sit back and analyze the work of others, thinking that their advice is golden. If everyone sat around giving unwarranted advice, nothing would get accomplished.
Further still are Christians who see what needs to be done, and instead of just doing it, they ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?" The question is not wrong to ask, if one honestly doesn't know what to do in helping, but I often see Christians that know what needs to be done, but instead of just picking up and doing it, they ask about it because they are looking for others to acknowledgde a "charitable nature" in themselves, without them actually having to do anything or take any initiative.
I don't often do this, but I'm going to tell a parable of my own. Two women were shopping at a department store, and a well-dressed man walks down the aisle and notices piece of trash on the floor, so he picks it up to throw it away later. One woman says to the other, "That was kind of him to do." The other woman says, "Oh, he only does that because he's the manager." Just as they were speaking, the actual manager turns the corner and says, "Ladies, that man does not even work at this store, he's the manager of a restaurant down the street. He doesn't pick up trash because he's a manager; he's a manager because he picks up trash." (THAT should be a Christian's work ethic! -- Seeing what needs to be done, and doing it.)
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
Are we Christians going to sit around and talk ourselves to death? Or are we going to pick up and start doing what needs to be done?
Many Christians say they don't know what needs to be done, or that they "don't know God's Will for their life." Often, I find those who say these things do not read their Bibles much, and they sit around idle, waiting for God to send them an angel and give them a personal message. The Bible already gives us commandments in the New Testament, and tells us directly what to do:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
-2 Timothy 2:15
As a side note, there are some Christians out there who find it difficult getting anything done in a church setting. I've received many emails from Christians over the past year who have testified to this, and their frustrations with their church leadership's red tape. I, too, have experienced this problem of not being able to get things done in a church setting due to church politics of having to get special favors from the right person, or get "official ordainment" and permission in order to do any work. In the above verses, did you see any place where Jesus said you had to have ordainment in order to teach all nations? Do you have to get a pastor's permission to baptize someone? Do you need special favors to study and share the Gospel? Sadly, I was able to get more accomplished outside of church congregations than I ever did within them, and if that's what it takes, then we do what's right by God, not what's convenient by men.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
-1 Corinthians 3:8
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
-2 John 1:8
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.