Useful Quotations on Work and Labor

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Proverbs 22:29 – Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.

Proverbs 18:9 – He also who is slack in his work Is brother to him who destroys.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

Philippians 3:13 – Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

14 – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

23 – Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;

24 – knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Danish physicist. Quoted in: Alan Mackay, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977).

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge US President

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

“It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man.” Professor Scott Elledge on his retirement from Cornell

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Message to Congress, 3 Dec. 1861 (published in Collected Works, vol. 5, ed. by Roy B. Basler, 1953).

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865.

“Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. “Fireside Chat,” radio broadcast, 14 April 1938.

“I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 8 Sept. 1902, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Labor Day speech, 7 Sept. 1903, Syracuse, N.Y.

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 10 April 1899, Chicago, Ill.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization. Daniel Webster (1782-1852), U.S. lawyer, statesman. “Remarks on the Agriculture of England,” speech, 13 Jan. 1840, Boston.

Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British statesman, writer. First wartime address, 4 Sept. 1914, Guildhall, London.

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