A Time to Work and a Time Not to Work

Labor Day - celebrating work

The Labor Day holiday weekend is coming. Ironically, it’s a holiday we celebrate by avoiding what we’re celebrating. We celebrate labor by not working.

This holiday reminds us there’s a time to work…and a time not to work.

And that applies to our Christian life, too. There’s a time to work and a time not to.

Our restored relationship with God is not dependent on any labor on our part. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV):

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We can’t take credit for our salvation. That’s what makes it so amazing. Every other religion is based on humanity’s efforts to work their way up to heaven. But Christianity is all about God reaching down to us. He did it all.

And it’s a good thing He did. Because we don’t have the ability to reach up to a holy God. Our sin separates us from Him—a chasm we couldn’t breach even if we wanted to. If restoration is to occur, it must be initiated by Him.

Still, there’s a place for our work. Because the next verse (Ephesians 2:10) tells us:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Yes, there’s a time to work—not for our salvation, but because of it. We serve the Lord from a heart overflowing with gratitude because He restored us to Him.

But what about Philippians 2:12-13?

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (NIV).

“Work out your salvation” or “It is God who works in you”? Which is it?

Both.

As Oswald Chambers explained:

“With focused attention and great care, you have to ‘work out’ what God ‘works in’ you— not work to accomplish or earn ‘your own salvation,’ but work it out so you will exhibit the evidence of a life based with determined, unshakable faith on the complete and perfect redemption of the Lord.”

But what about Labor Day? What about the work we do vocationally? The Bible has something to say about that, too, especially for Christians:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV).

So this weekend let’s celebrate labor. And as we celebrate, let’s remember that our salvation is the one area where God did it all, because there’s a time to work…and a time not to.