By Rob Genin

What is our motivation for work? There are many possibilities. We might work to feed our families or to grow professionally and gain new opportunities for other work. We might work to buy luxuries or (ironically) work so we don’t have to work. It could be joy of the work or fear of the loss of a job. It could be to make a name for ourselves or to outdo the neighbors. It could be to serve people. Every day when someone gets out of bed for their job, they have to decide if they are going to do it again. What you need in that moment is motivation. If you are a Christian, you might go further and ask: What motivation can honor God and will be lasting and sufficient for the really hard days? Paul the Apostle gives some insight in his letter to the Thessalonians:

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Thessalonians 1:2-3

I love how Paul began his letters with praise and prayer. This is such a good model for us as we work to communicate – to share things about others that we like and are grateful for. It would change the tone of our homes and offices if that was our starting point in conversation!

What Paul praises about the Thessalonians is three-fold, and it helps with this question about motivation:

Your work produced by faith: It is foundational that Christianity inverts the common religious model. In the common model, religious people do good things to be accepted by their deities and hope to attain salvation. However, the Thessalonians did not work to be saved – their work was an outflow of their faith that God had saved and loved them. This utterly changes the way we labor, as it comes from a place of peace rather than panic and uncertainty.

Your labor prompted by love: The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love God and people (Luke 10:26). Yet I think the love that does the prompting for the Thessalonians labor is God’s love for them – which then frees and drives their love for others and motivates them to meet needs. When you think about what our jobs really are, they are on some level about meeting needs. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). You can then say we labor because God first loved us. 

Your endurance inspired by hope: On the really hard days, when the work is not working out, or the body aches or the spirit feels nearly crushed, we need endurance. Paul says that the Thessalonians have endurance because they have hope. Specifically, they have hope that God will raise them from the dead and save them from His coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). This confidence is crucial to endurance. When things are not working out, we want to quit because we are tempted to think the effort makes no difference. However, if we know for certain that things will turn out in the end, every effort will matter. This hope gives endurance!

These words are clearly not only to encourage the Thessalonians, but also us as we overhear their conversation. First of all, a relationship with God is a gift. If we receive that gift in Jesus, then work is the fruit of that gift. As we labor, it will greatly strengthen our motivation to know that our work is a response to God’s love and not an attempt to earn it. And when it is hard, we will endure all the better because we know that our labor is not in vain.

May God bless you with all joy and endurance in your work!