Labor Pains

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” – Proverbs 23:4

The many Biblical warnings related to wealth do not mean that the Bible discourages hard work.  To the contrary, we’re told that we are to work with all our heart (Colossians 3:23) and that those who do not provide for their families are “worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8).” The warnings come into play when wealth becomes the primary goal of our work or the basis of our security.

As we celebrate Labor Day this month, it’s a good time to consider why we work so hard. To be sure, some people have little choice but to put in long hours. Many low-wage earners heroically work two or more jobs to provide for their families. Others put in long hours because cutbacks at their employers have left them doing the jobs of two people. But how many of us, if we really tell the truth about it, are wearing ourselves out—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—primarily out of a desire for more money and more of what it can buy?

Every day countless societal messages tell us that more stuff will make us happy. And we too easily accept those messages.  One survey found that 39 percent of us believe a home entertainment system is an essential component of the good life.  So we work more, in some cases, in order to earn more in order to have more. brings up many more titles when using the search word “wealth” than when using “contentment.” It would be nice if that were because so many of us already have a good handle on contentment.  Some safer assumptions are that there’s simply more interest in getting rich, and that wealth is seen as an important key to contentment.  One of the best books about the relationship between money and contentment isn’t offered on Amazon, at least not as a stand-alone book: 1 Timothy, particularly chapter 6, verses 6-10. It would make for some good reading this month in honor of Labor Day.


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