Feed Your Family

Protestant Work Ethic

Heritage Men’s Retreat | Greenville


  • Creation, Fall, Justification, and the Spirit
  • Hard Work and the Apostle of Grace
  • The Key to Christian Work
  • Look to the Reward

1 Timothy 5:8

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Christian work ethic broader than just 40-hour/week vocational labors.

Our love-hate relationship with work:

  • difficult but rewarding
  • expected and unexpected obstacles require exertion, pushing, and endurance
  • satisfaction comes with completion of worthwhile work

Work Ethic Sequence:

  • creation, fall, justification, and the Spirit
  • calling: what to do and not (right kind of work)
  • looking to reward (right reasons)
  • overcoming initial resistance (right way)
  • diligence/following through (when the going gets tough)
  • completion, through the tape, final push
  • enjoyment, satisfaction, enjoyment of the completion
  • Rhythms of life: the place of play/rest/sleep

Creation, Fall, Justification, and the Spirit


Work is God’s idea and is good. Our God is a worker. And he designed those he made in his image to work as well.

Genesis 1:28

God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2:15, 18

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. . . . Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Work: the exertion of energy, investment of time and attention, and application of skill toward the ends of God’s calling.


Work, for now, is cursed.

Genesis 3:17–19

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


Our work cannot earn us God’s acceptance.

Galatians 2:16

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 3:11

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:24–26

The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The Spirit

God gives God’s power for God’s work.

Ephesians 1:13

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

Grace trains us to do others good.

Titus 2:11–14

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

2 Timothy 3:16–17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Titus 3:1–2, 8, 14

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. . . . The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things [saved by grace, not works, and given the Spirit], so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. . . . let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

Hard Work and the Apostle of Grace

1 Thessalonians 2:9

You remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

2 Thessalonians 3:7–8

You yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.

So too, all Christians should work.

1 Thessalonians 4:10–12

We urge you, brothers, to do this [love one another] more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Ephesians 4:28 is a vision to produce more than you consume:

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Paul commended hard work.

Romans 16:6, 12

Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. . . . Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.

Colossians 4:12–13

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.

Paul condemned laziness and idleness.

1 Thessalonians 5:12–14

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

2 Thessalonians 3:4–15

We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you [1 Thess 2:9]. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate [tacit dimension]. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing (not “able”) to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good [= work]. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Laziness betrays a gospel that does not demand our activity up front but always produces activity in and through us. And laziness dishonors the power and strength that has come to dwell in us in Christ: God the Spirit himself.

Christians should be the freest people on the planet to work hard. Because we know we do not have to earn the favor of God Almighty with our works — but that it has been secured for us by Jesus — we have been liberated to pour our energy and time and skill and creativity into blessing others.

Key to Christian Work

God is at work in and through us.

Philippians 2:12–13

My beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Hebrews 13:20–21

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Colossians 1:28–29

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

1 Timothy 1:12

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 6:10

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

2 Timothy 2:1

My child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:10

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Look to the Reward

2 Timothy 2:6

It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

Acts 20:35

I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Conversion may not produce a drastic, overnight change in work ethic, but it will produce change in time. Christianity, emphatically, does not make men lazy. It makes lazy men, at long last, into serious workers.

Paul doesn’t assume laziness must mean lostness, but he’s dead serious that genuine Christians don’t stay lazy. In Christ, massive new powers are now in place that make this progress not just possible, but hopeful, even certain.

Ephesians 2:8–10

By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.