Wikipedia says that the Protestant work ethic, often called the Puritan work ethic, is a concept which emphasizes hard work and diligence as a constant display of a person's salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to a focus on religious attendance and ceremonial sacraments. Even though he never called it that, my father set an example to his family of this work ethic.
Another website claims that all hard work is based on guilt and that people are stressed at work because of this Puritan work ethic. While this is an interesting observation, I don’t think the fault lies with the Puritans. Rather, it lies with the fact that most people miss the underlying reason why the Puritans were diligent in their work. It was not from guilt or an effort to earn points with God, but to demonstrate that He was in charge of their lives. That is, with Him, motivations change.
To clarify, with Christ in charge of my life, even living in my heart, He changes my attitude toward work. If He was not here and not my Lord and Savior, then I could not have His attitude or find the joy in work that is available to Christian people. I would not even want to be diligent.
And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:16–17)
Jesus worked hard, even in the most humble tasks. He washed feet, healed the sick, listened and cared about people. While His ultimate goals were far greater than these ordinary methods, He never shirked from persistent labor. I often say that God never goes on vacation, and I am thankful for that. I can work or rest, but His care is always diligent and He is always available.
Jesus sets an example for me. He worked, but He also loved what He was doing and loved the people He served. What is missing in many modern workers is this motivation. In many cases, people complain about work because they do not do it for other people or for God. Their goals might include paying the bills and having enough left over for recreation. Workers who love what they do are rare, but just that makes a difference.
I’ve never worked outside the home, but work is work, wherever it is, and whether or not a paycheck comes at the end of it. For me, learning to love my “job” means allowing Jesus be Lord of my life. He is a homemaker (He is busy right now preparing a place for me, John 14:2). He is also leader of a family (and so often His children are brats) and an organizer of events to such a degree I cannot imagine it. He has all I need to help me not only love my job but do it well and do it for others because I love those whom I serve.
Jesus also had balance in His life. On more than one occasion, the Bible tells of Him being asleep, even during a storm. He sets an example in work and in rest, in worship and in responding to the voice of God. He knew that God didn’t take the Sabbath off, but kept working for the good of humanity. He also knew when His body needed to rest so He rested, giving Him renewed energy for obedience and work.
Motivated by Jesus is much different than being motivated by guilt, money or necessity. Jesus makes work a delight rather than a stressful and despised activity. He even promised the weary and heavily burdened that they would find in Him rest and a lighter load.
As I look at my to-do list for the day, I am already praying for His grace and help, and that I can practice what I preach!