In order to live, most of us have to work. There are many types of work: manual work, such as various trades, agriculture, and so forth; and intellectual work, such as administration, law, management, education, etc. There is important and unimportant work, difficult and easy, extraordinary and conventional, work for yourself, for your family for society, etc.
All work that is not opposed to moral law and that we do to support ourselves and our families, is work entrusted to us by God Himself. It is the Lord God Who established and sanctioned various professions in human society, and it is He Who allows us or arranges for us to be in the positions or professions in which we find ourselves in life. Without God's will or God's forbearance nothing takes place on earth. God is the King of all the earth (Ps. 46:8). Therefore, the holy Apostle Paul told slaves, who were working not for themselves, but for their masters, that they didn't actually work for their masters, but for the Lord Himself Servants, he wrote in his Epistle to the Colossians, obey in all things your masters, except, of course, for sin, and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Col. 3:22-23).
So, whatever work you have to do in your position or profession, whether it is to hold the reins of some governmental agency, to judge people, to teach people, to write something, to engage in some kind of art or handiwork, to plow the fields, to labor in construction, to bring up children, and so on, do all of this, for whomever you do it, whether for yourself and your family, or as a duty to others-Ao all this as for the Lord God Himself. Do it because the Lord God demands it of you, and because that work is God's work. Do it and say to God in your heart: "O Lord, You assigned me this work. I am doing it in obedience to You and to please You." Or: "O Lord, bless my labor. It was not without Your will that I found myself in the position in which I live, and the work that I do or should do is work demanded by my position. You assigned it to me, so bless me and help me."
Whoever does his daily work with such an attitude, no matter what it is and for whom he does it, works actually for the Lord God, and therefore will receive a reward from Him, as the holy Apostle says to slaves, whatsoever ye do for your masters in the flesh, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23-24). But whoever works without this disposition of soul, labors as worldly people and pagans do, that is, he labors not for the Lord Jesus Christ, not out of love for the Lord God, not to the glory of God, but labors only for himself, for some temporary need or gain-for sustenance, to gain wealth and pleasure in life, to obtain honor, or to satisfy his own inquisitiveness. Or he may work temporarily for other people. But he does not think of God. The work of whoever works this way is pitiful, because this person awaits a reward only from himself or from other people, and not from the Lord God. But the reward from other people, whatever it consists of, is only earthly, temporary, and therefore of little importance; what kind of reward can you get from yourself But work for the Lord God, and expect your reward principally from Him. Only He is the true recompenser.
In doing all your work for the Lord Himself, always do it as God's work should be done; that is, do all your work from the soul, gladly and without complaining. How can one do any kind of work for the God unwillingly, grudgingly, and with grumbling? A grateful person does everything gladly, even for a low-ranking earthly boss; how, then, can we do something unwillingly or grudgingly for our greatest and constant benefactor, the Lord God?
Do every task required by your position diligently and correctly; do not in any case permit unwarranted slowness and carelessness. Do everything as well as you possibly can. Because work not done as quickly and as well as you can, just like work done incorrectly or carelessly, is done deceitfully, and the holy prophet says, cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully (Jer. 48: 1 0). My friends, remember these terrible works and be carefu!
If your work goes successfully, do not take pride in this, and in particular do not ascribe this success to your own powers. Never say in your heart my power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth (Deut. 8:17) Rather always remember that the Lord gave you that power (Deut. 8:18). For without Me ye can do nothing, He said to His disciples (John 15:5). Remember these words of the Lord. They are a great defense against pride and arrogance, toward which we are all inclined and which are spiritually ruinous for us.
If the work you have to do is difficult and demands great effort, or is unpleasant and demeaning, demanding much patience, or is hindered and slowed by ill-intentioned people or by unfortunate circumstances, and leads you to despondency, or is little respected or even despised, do not be fainthearted, do not be lazy, and do not give in to anger, impatience, annoyance, complaining, etc. Will your work go better and be finished faster if you are lazy or angry or grumble or use bad language? No, it will be harder and go more slowly, and may not even get done at all. My friend, it is bad to behave this way. Only unbelievers behave like this, because they do not have faith in God's control over the world. But we are Christians. We know that our job and our position in life is given to us by God.
To help keep your soul in a holy attitude during hard, prolonged, or unpleasant work and to protect it from any attitude that is not pleasing to God, it is good to strengthen yourself with thoughts such as the following:
"This work, which seems to me to be so difficult and unpleasant, undoubtedly helps to save my soul. I know that God does nothing without the most saving intentions for us. He truly wants to save everyone. So, of course, He desires to save me also. Without His action and foresight, I would have been lost long ago. Having assigned me the work at hand, He undoubtedly wishes to deliver me from grievous sins or from temptations, errors, or dangers. So I shall try to do my work diligently and wholeheartedly.
"Perhaps the work that I am doing right now is the last in my life, and after this work God will immediately demand from me an account of all my deeds at His eternal Judgment. How can I not work diligently and wholeheartedly?
"This work, which is so trying and such a burden, will not last forever. It will end with my earthly life. And even if it lasts a hundred years, is this earthly life long,? All of eternity is the reward for life on earth, if it is spent in obedience to God. How can I not work diligently and wholeheartedly?"
If you think such thoughts, your difficult or unpleasant work will never serve as a cause for sin, but for eternal blessedness. Because in thinking this way, you won't avoid your work, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it may seem, but will pray in your heart to the Lord that He help you to begin and furnish your work worthily, and, indeed, you will do so. And in doing so, perhaps you will be delivered from serious sins and from the perdition of your soul. For after such prayers, as holy toilers have already found out a thousand times by experience, God has often eased the difficulty and unpleasantness of hard daily labor to the point where the laborers do it and fniish it without difficulty, sometimes even easily and even pleasurably. But if this doesn't happen to us, we must remember that every diligent work and every diligent worker will indeed be rewarded appropriately, not in the present life, but in the future one. It is precisely in the future life, as the holy Apostle attests, that the Lord will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2:6). So let us be patient. Are not all our temporary burdens and difficulties worth eternal happiness?
An edited and somewhat condensed portion of the book How to Live a Holy Life by Metropolitan Gregory Postnikov (1784-1860), published in Russian in 1904