Sunday Morning Greek Blog

May 19, 2021

Work: The ‘Rest’ of the Story (Sermon)

Filed under: Greek — Scott Stocking @ 7:48 am

Sermon preached at Wheeler Grove Rural Church May 16, 2021. All opinions are my own.

It seems work has been on everyone’s minds lately, one way or the other. Will I be able to go back to the office, if ever? Will it be safe if I do? If you’re in the hospitality industry, you wonder if things will ever be the same again? When will we get back to the prepandemic “normal”? Such questions have been on my mind as well.

For my own situation, my full-time employer, based in Minneapolis, has let us know they’re closing our Omaha office building and everyone who previously worked from that location will continue to work from home indefinitely. Now on the one hand, I can understand why they’re doing that: I work for a pharmacy benefits manager, so we make sure people get the medication they need to feel better. We’re essentially in the information industry, so we’re not coming together to build buildings or manufacture cars, home appliances, or clothing, industries where it’s helpful to have people around to perform and look after the processes. We can do our jobs from home; people in those industries typically can’t.

But on the other hand, I fear that working from home with no one else around you (except needy pets in many cases) may threaten what some of have come to call the “culture” of a company. We no longer have others around us physically who share the same goals and objectives from a work perspective. And we lose the connectedness we have on a social level, especially with those we interact with who share the same values or likes and dislikes that we have outside of the work environment.

How many people do you know who’ve made a close friend at work who’s added value to each other’s lives. Even in the Creation story, which we’ll look at in a moment, God says it’s not good for Adam to be alone, so he provides a “helper,” one who shares his human nature but from the perspective of the opposite sex; equals in many ways in personhood, but different in their gifts, callings, and innate abilities. Together, they shared one primary purpose in the beginning: tend to the garden.

When God created male and female, he also created “work.” As we dive into the message this morning, I do want to give you my main point up front so you can get a feel for where I’m going with the topic. Here it is: Work produces Order, and Order produces Rest. Again, Work produces Order, and Order produces Rest. Thus the title of my message: “Work: The ‘Rest’ of the Story.” See what I did there?

I also want to give a couple disclaimers as well: Many of the Scriptures we’re looking at this morning aren’t just about the work we do for a paycheck. At times, they have more to do with how we interact with our families and those around us, or more to do with our relationship with God and his kingdom, than they do with our employer. The second disclaimer is, if you’re retired, you have my permission to tune out if I’m talking about an employer. You’ve already given your time to “the man” and have earned your earthly rest from that.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and look at Genesis 1:1–2 and 2:1–3.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

All Scriptures, unless otherwise indicated, are (c) 2011 New International Version, Zondervan Publishing.

Then for six days, God begins speaking creation into existence.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Day 0: “In the beginning”—Chaos

Day 1: Light Day 4: The lighted bodies
Day 2: Sky and water Day 5: Air and water creatures
Day 3: Dry ground Day 6: Land-dwelling creatures; Man

Day 7: “God rested from his work.”—Order

A couple things about the text first before taking a deeper dive into Genesis 1. Genesis 1 has some unique features as a written text. Several key words are found 7 or 10 times throughout the passage. This shows some intentionality in writing, even if the writer wasn’t aware of it, if you know what I mean. The phrase “formless and empty,” tohu vebohu in Hebrew (how poetic!), is found in a couple other places in the Old Testament, namely Isaiah and Jeremiah, where it refers to the utter destruction of the land coming on those nations that have forsaken God. [See for in-depth look at chart.]

Genesis conclusion

So you can see that in the very act of Creation, God created a theology of work. On this alone, I think I’ve made my main point that Work produces Order, and Order produces Rest. But that would be a very short sermon! I do think it’s important to take a look at how that theology of work plays out in Scripture. As such, I have a sampling of verses, especially from the Wisdom Literature of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, about the benefits of work and the consequences of neglecting our responsibility to work.

The Rest of the OT

Of all the books in the Bible, Ecclesiastes has the most practical wisdom and theology about life in general, and work in particular, than all the other Bible books combined. Solomon’s wisdom really shines through in Ecclesiastes, even as the cry of “Meaningless” echoes through the text. I think the key passage here is Ecclesiastes 3:9–15. Let’s hear that again:

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. 15 Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.

[For “beautiful,” see Eccl 5:18, where the Hebrew word is translated “appropriate.”]

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.

Think of all the “toil” we do each and every day. How do we make things beautiful? How do we find satisfaction? What are the tasks that bring you satisfaction? Let me run a few by you.

Around the house or the farm:

• A freshly cut lawn.

• A freshly tilled field ready for planting.

• A sparkling bathroom after cleaning it (including getting that nasty whatever out of the drain).

• Big ripe tomatoes on the tomato plants.

• Making your bed first thing in the morning. (Navy Seal Admiral McRaven: Bed inspected every morning at training. Accomplishing the first task of the day leads to getting more tasks completed.)

In the kitchen:

• King’s Hawaiian rolls with honey butter.

• A perfectly grilled thick pork chop or steak.

• A scrumptious chocolate cake. (Are you hungry yet?)

In the workplace:

• Crisp new copies of a dynamite proposal.

• Seeing the finished product at the end of your assembly line.

• Finding extra money in the budget for upgraded computers.

• Landing that big account.

At school:

• A pristine science project.

• An A+ on your history research paper.

• Hitting a walk-off home run to win the game.

I think we all know how good it feels at the end of a day’s work, regardless of whether it was physically, mentally, or emotionally challenging, to finally get to the (made) bed and lay our heads down knowing we’ve accomplished something important, bringing order out of the disparate parts of our experience, a finished product out of the many different parts that compose it, or adding beauty where there was barrenness. And even if in all your work you didn’t get the outcome you wanted, you can still have the satisfaction of knowing you gave it your best shot, and that tomorrow will bring another opportunity.

Now up to this point, I’ve kept it pretty upbeat, but to understand the contrast, we need to acknowledge the elephant (or is it a sloth?) in the room: all those verses in Proverbs and elsewhere about not owning up to one’s responsibility to work. Staying in Ecclesiastes, we find this relevant passage in chapter 10 verse 18:

18 Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

Proverbs has several verses about laziness or a general malaise about working. Proverbs 26:13–16 focuses on the topic with a bit of sarcasm to boot:

13 A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”

14 As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.

15 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

16 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.

You have to wonder, with four verses like that in a row, if Solomon himself had had a bad day when he wrote this. It wouldn’t surprise me if Solomon had witnessed each of these during his day, and that last sarcastic remark was accompanied by Solomon throwing up his hands in resignation!

New Testament

In the book of Acts, we see some of these contrasts as well. For example, in Chapter 5, we see how Ananias and Sapphira got together to conspire a plot to cheat the church and get ahead. Most of us know what happened to them. By contrast in chapter 6, we see the apostles take up a thorny issue of distributing food to needy Greek widows. They appointed 7 men full of the Holy Spirit to address the matter. They worked hard to earn the new believers’ respect in this matter, and it paid off with more and more people being brought into the kingdom.

Paul himself, later in Acts, reminded the Ephesian elders about his hard work among in the nearly 18 months he spent ministering there. Acts 20:33–35 says:

33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

The Thessalonians must have had a problem with not wanting to carry their weight. Paul has to warn them in both letters about laziness in the strongest terms. Paul says in 1 Thess 5:12–15:

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

And in 2 Thess 3:6–13, he says something similar:

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. [skip vs. 9] 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Our modern English translation needs two words and a conjunction to translate one Greek word about shirking your responsibility to work, whether it be at your job, at home, or for the kingdom. “Idle and disruptive.” This particular Greek word is only found in the letters to the Thessalonians, which emphasizes the point that something was wrong with the Thessalonians work ethic. In other contexts outside the Bible, the word has to do with being out of military formation or just general disorder and chaos. “Without form and empty.”

Paul continues from there in vv. 11–13, and emphasizes that word again, and transitions us back to a positive thought as we begin to wrap up the message:

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. Hear it again: “Never tire of doing what is good.”

Ephesians 2:8–10 (author’s translation; contrast with “walk” in 2:2) says:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithfulness—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to walk in good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As if to emphasize the point, he says in Ephesians 4:28

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Hebrews 4:6–11 (Sabbath rest)

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.


I hope you’ve seen to day how Work produces Order, and Order produces Rest. In a world around us that seems to be trending toward disruption and disorder, it is good to know we have a God who is working hard to hold it together, and to know that there are saints among us who are working hard to support, promote, and uphold God’s kingdom. And now you know the ‘rest’ of the story.


  1. Scott, you certainly did a lot of work for this sermon. I enjoyed the read and have a lot of thoughts of working hard.

    Hope you are
    Doing well

    Comment by Lee Terry — May 19, 2021 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

    • I’m doing well, sir! I trust the same for you. Thank you for reading.

      Comment by Scott Stocking — May 20, 2021 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

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