Work Ethics—According to the Bible

Second Edition


by Mark Mountjoy

The Bible, God's Word, has a lot to say about work, its meaning for man and its importance to God himself. Very often we are tempted to think of work as an endeavor to earn and accrue money and to have the resources to support our necessities, and responsibilities, entertainment and recreation, but in the eyes of God work is much more than that. In this short essay we want to examine eight aspects to discover what work ethics are according to the Bible.

Statement One:

According to the BIble, when we work, we work for God, not man.

"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye

service, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons" (Colossians 3:22-25)

God's Word also says,

"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh,

with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Not with eye service, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 

And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him" (Ephesians 6:5-9).

God's will is not only for the good conduct of employees, but also for bosses and employers.

 Statement Two:

According to the Bible, giving our best for Christ (not greed or avarice) motivates us to strive for quality and excellence.

King Solomon wrote,

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men" (Proverbs 22:29). He also said,

"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer

and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11).

Diligent Christian men and women will be blessed with abundance, recognition and advancement from God, but the slothful will endanger their lives with poverty and their affairs with lack.

Statement Three:

According to the Bible, Christians should serve and never steal from our employer or place of employment.  The Apostle Paul gave Christians this word from Almighty God:

"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:10).

Elsewhere he commanded,

"The thief must no longer steal.  Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need" (Ephesians 4:28).

Pulpit Commentary offers this nugget:

"Verse 28. - Let the stealer steal no more. Ὁ κλέπτων may be translated either as a noun or as the present participle. In either case it implies that even Christians might continue to steal, and that they had to be warned against the habit. This may seem strange to us, but not to those who consider how little theft was thought of among the pagans, and how liable such habits are to remain among converts from heathenism. Where there is a low moral tone and an uneducated conscience, very great irregularities may be found.

Dishonesty in trade, deceit in business, are just the same.  Among the Ephesians, thieving was probably the result of idle habits and of dislike to hard work.  Hence the apostle says, But rather let him labor, working with his hands the things that are good, that he may have to impart to him that hath need.  Idleness is mean, labor is honorable; Christ calls us to work, not for this reason only, but in order that we may have something to give away.  Paganism would rob others of what is rightfully their own; Christianity leads me to give to others what is rightfully my own. This different genius of the two systems appears here very clearly. Observe the true use of superfluities - look out for the needy, and give for their relief." (Source:

God is counting on and depending on his people to be his ambassadors to the lost in the workplace. But he can only do that as we submit to the Holy Spirit and walk in the light of his glorious Gospel.

Statement Four:

According to the Bible, our work is not only intended to supply money for our own expenses, but also to be in a position to give to others. The following Scriptures should make Christians think giving is a major aspect of what it means to be children of God.

James wrote,

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:17).

He also wrote,

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,

“Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:14-17).

In addition to the above, Paul's letters (e.g., Romans 12:13 and 15:1, Galatians 6:2 and Philippians 2:4) tell us that Christians of the Late Second Temple period were characterized by, not only their work ethics, but also their generous spirit, helping one another in meaningful ways over great distances—so should we emulate their godly example of genuine and sincere love and concern.

Statement Five:

According to the Bible, our conduct should be such that it puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

The Apostle Peter wrote,

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.  For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:(1 Peter 2:13-21). God also leaves no room for violent misconduct in the workplace or in any area of life.

We read,

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.  Yet if any man suffer as a CHRISTIAN, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:14-16).

If it happens that we are in trouble or in need, the Scriptures assure us that God hears us--

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14-15).

Since, then, we have recourse to God, we can boldly go to the throne of grace to find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Statement Six:

According to the Bible, whatever we do and wherever we are, we must be examples of believers.

"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.  Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.  In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;

10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:1-10). Paul's command to Timothy is an exhortation to all of us . . .

"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).

Statement Seven:

According to the Bible, without faith it is impossible to please God. But having faith in God and directing that faith in diligently serving God in the capacity of work augers great blessings.

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

And King David said it best,

"For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge: He puts down one,
And exalts another" (Psalm 75:6-7).

Put your hope in God and do good,

"Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.  Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.  Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.  For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:1-9).

Work also is an act of faith, for in exercising actions in hopes of unseen prospects, one is relying on outcomes that come with an element of risk of loss, but we trust in God for rewards.

Statement Eight:

According to the Bible, if any do not work, neither should they eat.

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw

yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible comments on this passage:

"For even when we were with you,.... At Thessalonica in person, and first preached the Gospel to them, we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat; the Ethiopic version reads in the singular number, "when I was with you, I commanded you"; using the above words, which were a sort of a proverb with the Jews, and is frequently used by them, , or , "that if a man would not work, he should not eat" (q). And again (r),"he that labours on the evening of the sabbath (or on weekdays), he shall eat on the sabbath day; and he who does not labour on the evening of the sabbath, from whence shall he eat (or what right and authority has he to eat) on the sabbath day?''

Not he that could not work through weakness, bodily diseases, or old age, the necessities of such are to be distributed to, and they are to be taken care of, and provided with the necessaries of life by the officers of the church; but those that can work, and will not, ought to starve, for any assistance that should be given them by the members of the church, or the officers of it.

(q) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 14. fol. 13. 1. Echa Rabbati, fol. 48. 4. & Midrash Koholet, fol. 65. 4. (r) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 1. " (Source:


We work for God not man, we give our best for Christ, not greed or avarice, we serve but do not steal from our place of employment. We also earn money for our expenses, but also to give to others, our conduct should be such that it puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men, but we must be examples of believers.

Moreover, having faith in God and directing that faith in diligently serving him in the capacity of work augers great blessing, and, finally, those who do not work, who are able to work. If they are able and refuse, should they eat? God says, No!

Our conduct should not only inspire and provoke those who do not know God, but also Christians who may have laid down their cross and slipped or backslid from their love, dedication and service to God.

By our words, conduct, demeanor and quality of work the Gospel of the true grace of God can prevail and spread in the workplace and (ultimately) into the lives of those we meet in the employment environment.

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