Labor Day is a good time to talk about work. God commands work. God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, build a culture and society in the world glorifying to Me. Building a God-glorifying culture requires work. The Eighth Commandments says, “You shall not steal” (Exod. 20:15). Putting it positively, “You shall work!” And the New Testament says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). God requires work.
But when we start putting God and work together, we can start patting ourselves on the back and think that since we are obeying God and doing our work, God is indebted to us. We think, wrongly, that God owes us. God may ask us, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” The most popular answer to this question is, “Well, I’m not so bad.” In other words, “I’ve done all my work faithfully and lived up to your expectations, God. So, of course, you should let me into your heaven. I’ve earned it.” Here is the big misconception. Simply doing our duty does not get us extra points in the ledger of life.
Enter faith. We have access to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. We have right standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are justified by grace through faith not on the basis of how well we have accomplished our work or conducted our lives. So where does doing our duty and accomplishing our work enter the picture?
James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17). Dead faith is not very helpful. James also says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24). Wait a minute! You just said that we are not justified on the basis of how well we conduct our lives. Correct. James 2:24 should be read as follows: “You see that a person is vindicated by works and not by faith alone.” That is, how you live outwardly displays the character of your faith. Dead faith has no accompanying works. Living faith is accompanied by a life that validates your faith. The proper formula is Faith leads to Justification Plus Works. Faith > Justification + Works.
Yes, the Bible connects God, our work, and our faith. On Labor Day, and on every other day of the year, it is good to remember how the Bible makes this connection. Faith > Justification + Works.