Where does my responsibility end and God’s begin? That was a great question posed to me, one that I have wrestled with in my response. I have discovered that this is a question that all of us struggle with whether we realize it or not.Many Christians believe that salvation is freely given to us if we accept it. Realizing that works do not bring eternal salvation, they step out in faith, repent and accept Christ’s work on Calvary. Then the struggle begins between our works and God’s love and grace.
Throughout childhood, many are taught that the amount of love and approval is dependent upon what they do not for who they are. If they clean their rooms or do their chores, they are lavished with praise and rewards. There’s nothing wrong with that.
They should be rewarded when they do good things. Rarely, though, are kids taken out for ice cream to honor them for who they are. Character is being instilled in them, but character is rarely praised.
As children grow older, the approval and praise become less because doing chores is to be expected. For some parents, approval is withheld and kept out of reach of their children. Out of desperation, the child strives even harder to produce in order to gain the love and acceptance of their parents.
When becoming adults, they become workaholics. Love, acceptance, and self-worth are based on what they do. Our outcome-driven Western culture reinforces this belief by forcing employees to work long hours to produce more. It’s no wonder why believers become confused about God’s love and slink back into the works mentality to earn his approval. Let’s go ahead and break this question down.
Hard work is commanded.
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10, ESV
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. – Colossians 3:23, ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV
Why does God command us to work hard? For several reasons:
- The fruitful results of our labor are God’s gift. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
- To share with people in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
- You are serving Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24)
- To show love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
- To provide. (Proverbs 12:11, I Timothy 5:8)
- To leave an inheritance. (Proverbs 13:22)
God does value hard work. It is an action that we can do to provide for our families, enjoy the pleasures of life, help others in need, and show the love of Christ. That’s it. Period. The end. Well, it should end there, but it doesn’t. Work becomes our identity, and we come to believe that what we do will determine how God sees us. That’s where everything goes wrong, but here is the reality:
God brings the outcomes.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. – Psalm 37:4, NLT
The Lord was with Joseph so that he succeeded in everything that he did… – Genesis 39:2, NLT
Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives your power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. – Deuteronomy 8:18, NLT
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28, NLT
Obedience and faith are necessary.
If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. – Isaiah 1:19, NLT
And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. – 2 Chronicles 31:21, ESV
And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. – 1 John 3:22, ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6, ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV
He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20, ESV
Let’s put these thoughts together. Where does our responsibility end and God’s begin? Our responsibility is two-fold: obey and have faith. God says to work hard rather than be lazy and slothful. We are to obey this command, but then we are to have faith that God will bring the desired outcomes as He wills.
When my children were younger, I used to tell them to give their best to God and He will do the rest. If they studied well for the test, they were to leave the results up to God. If that result was a “C,” we would be fine with it because not all children are blessed with excellence in all subjects.
As long as we saw that they put forth the effort, then we were happy. Outcomes can happen immediately, or they can come over time depending on what God wants to teach us. Does it mean that we failed if we didn’t have immediate prosperity? Does it mean that God is against us? No. As long as we were obedient, then have faith to leave the rest up to God.
Your value is found in God.
To say that a person is not good enough before they accept Christ is true.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. – Romans 3:23, NLT
We are not good enough to get into heaven based on our good works. Only by placing our faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross on our behalf can we be brought into God’s holy presence. Once we have accepted Jesus, then our identity has changed.
To continue to say that we are not good enough is wrong. At the time of accepting Christ, we are then covered by His righteousness and His holiness making us now good enough. Unfortunately, Satan likes to keep us believing in who we once were. Many Christians live their lives through this negative lens.
This is how Jesus sees us:
Accepted: So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. – Ephesians 1:6, NLT
Forgiven: He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. – Ephesians 1:7, NLT
Chosen: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15:16, ESV
Loved: We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19, ESV
Holy: Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16, ESV
Valued: Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God/ You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price… – I Corinthians 6:19:20, NLT
I could go on with the affirmations that Jesus bestows on us, but these are the main ones that people struggle with. God declared these beautiful words about us, and He is not a liar. Believe these truths. If you have accepted Christ, this is your new identity. You don’t have to earn it; you already have it.
To summarize, your responsibility is to have faith. Out of faith comes obedience to God’s calling. Out of obedience, God brings the outcomes. Keep in mind the purpose of work: to provide for the family, to share with others in need, to enjoy the fruit of it, and to show the love of Christ. Work is not for identity or self-worth. That is only found in Jesus who declares that you are accepted, forgiven, chosen, loved, holy, and valued.
If you are struggling to separate your identity from your work, come see me! I am passionate about showing you who you are and helping you find your true purpose so that you can live a life of rest, joy, and peace.
“Nope!”, Courtesy of Gisela Fotografie, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Hammer and Toolbelt”, Courtesy of Anna Waldi, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Veggies”, Courtesy of ikon, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “I Love You”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License