Inherent to our role as God’s image bearers is to engage in meaningful work. God planted the garden of Eden but Adam was to “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:8, 15). While the fall made work toilsome (3:17–19), laboring to provide for self, family, and others in need remains normative for us.
Even in the wilderness when God miraculously provided manna for the Israelites, they were called to gather and prepare it daily according to His revealed will and commandments (Ex. 16). They gathered enough each morning for the day at hand except on the sixth day, when God provided a double portion because they were to rest on the seventh day. Those who mistrusted God’s provision (either by trying to save some manna overnight on a weekday or by going out to gather on the Sabbath) experienced God’s rebuke. God sovereignly provided, and the people responded in the practical work of obedience, stewarding what He provided. Our work is important, but it is undergirded by the providential work of God.
In our role as stewards, God warns us against laziness that leads to poverty (Prov. 6:6–11), tells us to work quietly and earn our own living (1 Thess. 4:11–12; 2 Thess. 3:6–12), and exhorts us to provide for the members of our household (1 Tim. 5:8) and for those in need (Eph. 4:28). Even the Apostle Paul worked hard as a tentmaker so that he would not be a burden to his fledgling churches (Acts 18:3; 1 Thess. 2:9).
At the same time, God calls His people to remember that He is their ultimate provider. When the Israelites arrived in Canaan, God’s miraculous provision stopped and they were to do the work of cultivating the land (Ex. 16:35). Yet, God warned, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:17–18). We can only accomplish what He enables (Ps. 127:1–2). Further, Jesus reminds us not to be anxious about material provisions because the Father cares for us, knows our needs, and has already given us the greatest gift of all—His kingdom (Luke 12:22–32). As a result, Jesus encourages us to be generous with our material possessions as we trust our Father’s provision (vv. 33–34).
So, it is right to consider the material needs of our family, to budget accordingly, and to work diligently. Open a 529 college savings plan if you can. Set aside money in an IRA. Save money for the new roof or the kitchen redo. On the other hand, don’t hoard your possessions in self-protective ways, driven by pride, fear, or covetousness, as portrayed in Jesus’ parable of the rich fool (vv. 13–21).