My dad likes to reminisce often about the good old days. He frequently tells me that his dad (my grandpa) would always say something like this to him: “As a Campbell, you may never have a lot of money or wealth, but the Campbells have always been known for being hard workers.” I’ve never forgotten those words and, quite frankly, never tire of hearing the story told because it tells me of the hard workers that came before me and also informs my own work ethic as I carry on the Campbell name.
Working hard is much more than just sweating or doing everything you are asked – working hard is working to the best of your ability. It is going the extra mile. It means doing the things you are required to do with a right attitude and heart. It means doing all that is required of you to the glory of God and the good of others (1 Cor. 10:31). Doing everything for the glory of God is the aim of the Christian life.
Working hard also has different demands as pastors of local churches. For the most part, sweating is not normally a requirement for pastoral ministry – though there are times when sweat is incumbent. Yet, most of the hard work of pastoral ministry is often rigorous mental and emotional work. Hard working pastors do the hard things whether they want to or not. Why? Because working hard is working for God and His glory. This was also the statement of the Reformation – Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone). As Michael Reeves and Tim Chester put it in their book, Why the Reformation Still Matters,
“No one can say, ‘I’ve received eternal life because of my good life or religious devotion or my clever reasoning.’ All the glory is God’s.”
While there are many things in life that can be related to this quote above, working is included in this vast array of elements. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is aiming to address many different issues in the Corinthian church, one of them being their motive for living as believers in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 10 is a striking discourse from Paul regarding the issue of Christian liberty and eating certain meats. Paul’s ultimate aim in this chapter is to persuade the Corinthian believers to live for the glory of God. Whatever they are doing, they do for the glory of God!
If they are working, work for the glory of God. If they are parenting, parent for the glory of God. If they are enjoying a day at the beach, enjoy it for the glory of God. If they are worshipping with our local gathering of believers at church, worship for the glory of God. If they are evangelizing, evangelize for the glory of God. If they are dating, date for the glory of God. If they are relaxing, we relax for the glory of God.
An All-Encompassing Principle
This idea is an all-encompassing principle for our lives. It is not limited to spiritual things – it encompasses every area of our lives.
In Ephesians, Paul exhorts slaves to work with our submission to Christ in mind in verse 6. He uses the phrase “not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers.” What Paul means here is that our work is not only to be done in submission to Christ, but our work ethic is to be glorifying to Christ also. The phrase eye-service literally means only working when your master is present. This is a crucially important aspect for us to learn. Our work ethic does not glorify God if we only work hard when our bosses are present!
Ths is especially difficult for me because I’m alone during the week at the office. However, as pastors, we must always remember that our Boss (that would be, the Holy Spirit) is always present with us and is constantly pushing us toward holiness and a holy work ethic.
Paul also lists the phrase as men-pleasers. This phrase essentially means what it says: that we aim to satisfy the desires of men. In short, we are not working to please our bosses, although it helps keep our jobs. When we work, we do hard work – going the extra mile – not for our bosses, but for the glory of God. And God will reward such attitudes and actions! When we work hard and go the extra mile, we are not only rewarded physically with promotions and bonuses, but we are pleasing the Lord with our work!
I want to add a quote of Jared Wilson’s from his book, The Pastor’s Justification. In his book, Wilson asserts “God does not chiefly tell elders how to sort out the problems of others; he primarily tells elders how to get their own lives in order.” In other words, Wilson proffers that pastoral ministry is more about getting your own soul in order to shepherd the souls of your congregation. Let me put in another way for you: if your soul is not in order, you cannot adequately shepherd others.
What this mean for pastors and church leaders is that doing faithful work is first doing the work your own soul needs to be devoted to Jesus and His Church. But, this also means that it is imperative to live for holiness because your calling depends on it too.
Brother pastor, prepare your soul to pastor for the glory of God. Devote your life and ministry to Jesus for the glory of God. Shepherd your congregations’ heart for the glory of God. Prepare sermons for the glory of God. Proclaim the good news of Jesus for the glory of God. Counsel broken marriages for the glory of God. Teach classes for the glory of God. Train your leaders for the glory of God. Present yourself for the glory of God. Remember that your labor is not in vain!
But what about people who are not pastors? The same principle applies. Live your life for King Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd who can lead you beside still waters and restore your soul (Ps. 23:2-3). His is the only opinion that counts. He must be your only source of identity and worth. So, dear brothers and sisters, work for the glory of God. Parent for the glory of God. Have fun for the glory of God. Treat your spouse the way Christ would treat His church. Give for the glory of God. Devote your life to King Jesus for the glory of God. You will not be sorry, nor will you regret this decision.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Why the Reformation Still Matters (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 181.
 Jared C. Wilson. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 29.