Jesus seemed to see our physical needs as an opportunity for faith rather than a cause for fear that drives us into hard labor and hoarding. So we don’t see Jesus working hard to provide for himself or his disciples. But this doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t work, or taught others to avoid work. What he did was offer us freedom from anxiety so our work could be given joyfully.

Instead of work being a slavery by which we “pay our own way,” the work Jesus encouraged was to be a free gift of love. Perhaps the best summary of this appears when Jesus sends out his disciples to preach and heal, telling them, “You received without paying, give without pay.” (Mt 10.8) Their needs are met by God (through others) as a gift, God’s love responding to their vulnerability. And their talents and abilities are also gifts from God, along with the energy and motivation of love to use those abilities for the good of others. So they should likewise offer their work as a gift.

This is how Jesus worked. He used the abilities God had given him to serve those around him, and he asked nothing in return (though he did accept the gifts that others chose to give to him). And he taught his followers to do the same, such as in these passages:

He said to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Lk 14.12-14)

“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great…” (Lk 6.33-35)
Together with “Give without pay” and Jesus’ own example, these provide a consistent model for our work. God’s provision for us allows us to give our service freely to others without asking for payment. And this frees our work. No longer do we need to be driven by our own needs or have to do the kind of work “that sells”; we are freed to do the kind of work that God has created us for, motivated only by love for the one we are serving.