“Work Makes Free” or“Work Gives Freedom” is the intent of the German words written on a sign we walked beneath as we entered Auschwitz. It is the 67th anniversary since the camp was abandoned. We could not talk or even look at one another in that most dismal and horrific reminder of the holocaust. Our thoughts were a jumble of anger and sadness; angrythat humans coulddo such things to other humans and sadness for the lost lives and dreams of so many millions. The sign is famous (orinfamous) and was meant to offer hope to the fearful and hopeless, but it was a lie. Many who could not work well enough went to a quick death. Those who could work were forced into labor that only enslaved them all the more. Time has passed and now I’ve asked myself if the sign was of any value. Is there any truth in that saying in our everyday lives?
What does God think of work?
To work is to be industrious and productive. The Bible makes a number of very clear statements about work. Ecclesiastes 5:12-20 Ecclesiastes 5:12-20  The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begets a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand.
 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit has he that has labored for the wind?
 All his days also he eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he takes under the sun all the days of his life, which God gives him: for it is his portion.
 Every man also to whom God has given riches and wealth, and has given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.
 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answers him in the joy of his heart.
American King James Version×tells us that the sleep of a laboring man is sweet. Physical activity is indeed good for usprovided it is not overdone and abused. Being a workaholic is a form of abuse (Ecclesiastes 5:16-17 Ecclesiastes 5:16-17  And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit has he that has labored for the wind?  All his days also he eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
American King James Version×). God includes the concept of laboring or doing our work for six days and resting on His Sabbath (Exodus 20:8 Exodus 20:8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
American King James Version×).
Proverbs 10:4 Proverbs 10:4He becomes poor that deals with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
American King James Version×advises us that the hand of the diligent makes rich. These days many people are looking for instant wealth when, in reality, many of those who are wealthy are those who have learned the value of work. Instant wealth is usually from a wrong source(James 5:4 James 5:4Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
American King James Version×, Proverbs 1:19 Proverbs 1:19So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which takes away the life of the owners thereof.
American King James Version×). “In all labor there is increase” (Proverbs 14:23 Proverbs 14:23In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tends only to penury.
American King James Version×) and Proverbs 28:19 Proverbs 28:19He that tills his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that follows after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
American King James Version×states “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread...” In all of these verses and many more, we can clearly see that the Bible strongly teaches us to labor and work in our lives. Being lazy and unproductive is not what God intended for mankind.
Paul also makes some strong statements in the New Testament that add to God’s instructions. In Ephesians 4:28 Ephesians 4:28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.
American King James Version×, he writes “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have to give him who has need.” Paul supports work in order to be generous and giving. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 2 Thessalonians 3:10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
American King James Version×, Paul goes on to say that if a person does not want to work, he should not eat—that is, nobody has the obligation to feed such a person.
Does work lead to freedom?
In what ways, then, does the instruction of God give a laborer or worker freedom? Several ways come to mind right away. Freedom from worry and being anxious is a result of having the basic needs filled. Freedom from self-doubt and self-criticism comes from feeling good about you as a person. That is not to saythat weare perfect, but we do need to look into the mirror each day and be content with who is looking back—knowing we plan to be even better tomorrow and satisfied with our effort today.
Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 19:19 Matthew 19:19Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×). Freedom to express that concern for others comes once we are strong enough to be able to offer help. Freedom from want is the outcome of being in a position to earn enough income to fill our needs and to have a little left over. Work is good for our muscles and for our mind. Strong muscles and an active, educated mind allow us to do so much more. That, too, is freedom. The ability to read and digest good books, to climb mountains, and be physically active brings great joy into our lives. That is a type of freedom. Proverbs 31:21 Proverbs 31:21She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
American King James Version×speaks of a woman who does not fear winter for her household has been taken care of by her works. When all of these freedoms are added together, work indeed does make free, or gives us many freedoms—freedom from fear, from want, and from the cold of winter.
More than physical freedom
However, there is a much greater need for work and a much greater benefit than what we have discussed so far. Jesus Christ said that He works and His Father works (John 5:17 John 5:17But Jesus answered them, My Father works till now, and I work.
American King James Version×). Furthermore, Jesus stated He did the works of the Father and those works bore witness of who He was (John 10:37-38 John 10:37-38  If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.  But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
American King James Version×). In John 14:12 John 14:12Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.
American King James Version×, He tells us that those who dwell in Him do Hisworks as well. Thus, we can see that being industrious is a characteristic of Jesus Christ whom we strive to follow and emulate. Our work habits in life often reflect our work habits in the spiritual side of life.
We can ask ourselves—does spiritual work make us free or give us some sort of freedom? John 6:27 John 6:27Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him has God the Father sealed.
American King James Version×explains that we are to labor for the things which endure to everlasting life. John also wrote in Revelation 22:12 Revelation 22:12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
American King James Version×that in eternity every man will be blessed according to his work. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 1 Corinthians 3:12-15  Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
American King James Version×contains some words of Paul on this subject. He stated that our works would be tested to see if they were good or acceptable. If they were poor in quality, we would lose some rewards. Paul showed by his life that being diligent in serving God was very important. He also said we are to be abounding in the work of the Lord and that labor is not in vain. Jesus gave us a commission (Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×).
What sort of freedom would this type of work give? We know that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ opens up the opportunity of freedom from the penalty of death. By working to obey and submit to the righteousness of God, we have the wonderful opportunity of being granted the gift of eternal life. There can be no greater freedom possible than to have glorious bodies and brilliant minds and be involved in what our Creator is doing for all eternity. There is no fear or want. There is only the ongoing blessing of no worries, no concerns that cannot be met, no doubts about decisions we must make, and the complete confidence that we can have because of Jesus Christ. Paul states that now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall know many things more clearly just like we are known by God now (1 Corinthians13:12). John writes a most remarkable statement in 1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×. He states “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” John went on to write about his reaction to the vision of seeing Christ as He is. In Revelation 1:12-17 Revelation 1:12-17  And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;  And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle.  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;  And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
American King James Version×, he stated that “he fell at His feet as dead.” These wonderful words of encouragement are given to us so that we might realize the God-ordained benefits of godly works and productive lives.
The words written in German at the concentration camps were a lie. God cannot lie and He tells us that work is part of becoming free. When we accept the forgiving sacrifice of His Son, we give Him the praise by ordering our life in accordance with the guidelines He has given. We strive not to sin. We must also help to do the work of spreading the good news of Jesus’ coming. We work spiritually and we work to build character by making the right choices. Work of this kind does make us free. Free in a way that we can scarcely comprehend. With God it is true that Work gives Freedom!
For more information on God's plan request our free Bible study aid, What is Your Destiny?.