The Theology of Success Part 6- A Work Ethic
Many of you have heard me tell tales about my mother. Margarite LaVelle Perry Nelson was and always will be the formative and shaping influence on my life. It was like being raised by Victoria Barkley (i.e. Barbara Stanwyck in “The Big Valley”). If I just lost you, then Google “Barbara Stanwyck” and “The Big Valley.” But of all the framing that she did in the lives of us 4 Nelson boys, the loudest hammer blow was a work ethic. I didn’t know at the time of “the Protestant work ethic” but it wouldn’t have mattered because to Bob, Tom, Bill and Jim Nelson it was “momma’s work ethic.”
It said simply this: “You do things right and with excellence. Not because you are awarded or praised but because it is you yourself who has done them.”
“The thing you do bears your name so do it perfectly. Not because anyone is watching you but because of a pride in who you are.”
If it wasn’t right we did it over. And above all you did not ever, as long as you drew breath and existed in the time space continuum, you never ever quit on what you committed to. You finished what you started. If there is something that I take holy pride in it is that I have never ever quit on what I committed to. And that is because of my mother’s influence. Whenever I read biblical admonitions toward finishing and being excellent in whatever you do “as unto the Lord rather than to men,” I already had the precedence built into me by my mother. A biblical work ethic.
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29)
Great workers rise in the workplace. Everyone wants an excellent worker.
“He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Prov. 18:9)
Sloppy work is ultimately destructive.
“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
So is the lazy one to those who send him.” (Prov. 10:26)
Nothing is more irritating than an irresponsible worker.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Col. 3:23)
We don’t work hard as long as we’re being watched and the video camera is on us. We are to have a higher standard and motivation- the glory of God in whatever He calls us to do.
Joseph was a faithful shepherd, servant, and even a faithful prisoner. It was an easy transition to be a faithful Prime Minister.
In Daniel was found “no negligence or corruption.” He proved “ten times better” than all others.
Jacob was the best of shepherds to Laban and Laban so increased under him that he was reluctant to send him back to Canaan. In the same way one of the phrases that came out of the Protestant Reformation, along with sola scriptura and sola fide, was that of the “Protestant work ethic.” It meant that all work was considered a holy thing- not just the priesthood. A farmer, a tradesman, or a housewife was to glorify God in the work of their hands. That is why one of the by-products of the Reformation was that of “capitalism” because it was felt that success and remuneration should logically follow excellent work. Even to the point that wealth was one of the marks of God’s blessing.
When do you learn this? You start as a child. Make sure you teach your kid early the dignity of a good job. Require of them some act of service in the home and praise them when they do well. Make them proud of work and pay the little rascals. Make entrepreneurs of them.
Without a work ethic no matter how devoted to Christ one may be, your devotion will be seen as eccentric.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)