but rather let him labor, working the good with the hands, that he may have to give to the one having need. Ephesians 4:28
Have To Give – Why do you work? Try making the list of your work objectives. Let’s see – pay the bills, keep a roof over your head, provide for your family, gain recognition for your efforts, do what you love to do (and get paid for it). You might add one more. Paul implies that one of the reasons for working is to have in order to give. The Greek phrase is eche metadidomai. This is capitalism on purpose. Why? Because the biblical view is giving from excess, that is, giving from the profit made above what is necessary to live. You have to have something before you are able to give it away.
There are a few implications here that require articulation. First, work is good. God established the goodness of work in the Genesis account. Work is part of what it means to become human. Of course, in God’s design, work is supposed to be an expression of my true essence. I am designed by God to do exactly what fits His plan. When I work in that way, my work is a form of worship. It is fulfilling for me, delightful to Him and a blessing to others, all at once. If that’s not what you’re doing, it’s time to reevaluate.
Secondly, work is not about accumulating. I do not have in order to have. It’s not about collecting coin or toys. Work is designed to be the super-fruit of my life. I produce what God has designed me to produce for the benefit of others. My work becomes the vehicle for others’ consumption. In the past, we looked at the idea that what I bear in my life becomes food for other lives. In this way, we are all interdependent on each other and dependent on the Lord.
Finally, we should notice that this verb, metadidomi, is used to describe the action of giving alms. It is about sharing what I have with someone in need. In other words, Paul suggests that work is intended to produce charity. This was enormously important in the Jewish community. From a biblical point of view, people do not work to enhance their lives. They work in order to live so that they may study Torah, pray and give to others. In this way, work becomes an act of righteousness.
Maybe we need to do a quick evaluation of our attitudes and objectives when it comes to work. Outside the biblical culture, the objective of work is too often all about getting ahead, maintaining a lifestyle and collecting security for the future. All of those objectives rest on the basis of a world that needs to be controlled. Maybe you and I have unconsciously absorbed some of these misdirected goals. Maybe we need to take a long look at why we work and ask ourselves if eche metadidomai is at the top of our list.
Topical Index: give, charity, eche metadidomai, Ephesians 4:28, work