Does the Bible prescribe a work ethic? What is a work ethic? It seems that our present culture moves between two extremes. Some people refuse to work and are unwilling to put in any effort. Others make work their whole life, often neglecting other things, including their families. Also, some will treat others as if they are entitled to support even if they do not work. Others feel that there is no requirement to help those in need and that if they would just stop being lazy, they would not need help. How can we make work a priority without making it an idol?
Now we were meant to work even from the beginning (Genesis 2:15). And we are given the impression that even in the end there will be things for us to do (Revelation 22:3). But work became laborious after the fall (Genesis 3:17-19). And I do not think this is eliminated by modern technology. We often trade a life of physical toil for a life of mental stress. But God still requires us to put an effort into earning a living (Proverbs 6:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ephesians 4:28). We are also required to use diligence in serving God (Romans 12:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Colossians 1:28,29). But we are commanded to trust in the Lord and not our own ability (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Isaiah 40:29-31). And we must avoid the error of Martha, of letting service get in the way of the One who is to be served (Luke 10:38-42; Psalms 46:10; Isaiah 43:10-13). For putting anything in the place of God is idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Matthew 6:24; Romans 1:25). Further, we are required to help the poor and those in need (Proverbs 14:31; Deuteronomy 15:7; Galatians 2:10).
Now this is often a difficult balance to find. We do need to be those who are willing to work hard and not just think things will come to us automatically. But we also need to avoid becoming so consumed by work that we forget what we are working for and neglect more basic duties. And we need to have the right perspective toward the poor. We need to be willing to help those who are genuinely in need. We need to show grace even to those who may have brought it on themselves, for God has shown grace to us. But we should not just enable people to live a life of laziness. And we should, where possible, try to find a way to help those in need back into a place where they can earn their own living. These are often difficult things to bring together. But we cannot just settle for one of the extremes our culture teaches.