Work Is Not a Curse
- Monday, May 26, 2014
Imagine paradise. Really. Take a moment imagine you are in paradise. What do you see? Maybe you picture a remote tropical island with water clearer than a swimming pool. You can almost feel your toes sinking into the white sands warmed by the sun. Or maybe you imagine yourself reclining in an over-sized Adirondack chair. The fire in the stone hearth provides the perfect respite from the crisp mountain air as you curl up to spend the day reading a book.
Though pictures of paradise will vary from one person to another, one thing seems to remain constant in them all: just about everyone agrees that ‘paradise = freedom from work.’ Everybody but God, that is.
In the beginning, God created work. It’s true. One of the first things we learn about how God made us is that he designed us for work. “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28), God said. And just so we didn’t miss his point, the author tells us, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).
That’s not just some past-tense paradise, either. The biblical prophets also describe the future paradise being prepared for God’s people as a time when people turn their weapons of war into farming tools (Isa. 2:1-5; Micah 4:1-5). So, the Bible begins with humans working in paradise and it ends with humans working in paradise!
Work Is Not a Curse
In light of all this it should be obvious that work is not a curse. Instead, God shows us that work is part of his perfect design for our lives.
In fact, work is as much of a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, and friendship. Sociological studies show that without meaningful work, people suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The loss of work is harmful to us because God specifically designed us for work.
Our work helps us discover part of what it means to be a human made in the image of God. It also helps us understand our own abilities and gifts. Moreover, work is one of the main ways that God uses us to bless other people. He designed the world so that our work benefits others. If you think of all the things you own and use—from toothpaste to highways to clothing stores—you will see that you have been immensely blessed through the work of countless people. Work is such a wonderful thing!
Why—Despite All This—We Still Don’t Like Work
If we are honest, though, we can admit that what God says about work feels so different from our experience. God says that work is good, but work doesn’t always feel good.
In fact, polls show that seven out of ten people “hate” or “strongly dislike” their jobs. Why is that? Why do so many of us despise what God created us to do, and which God uses to bless the world?
You probably already know the answer. The problem is not with work, but with us. We are sinful, which is not just a description of our guilt before God. To say that we are sinful also means that our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions are backwards, upside-down, twisted, polluted, and every other word we might use to say that our hearts and minds and souls and bodies are just plain broken.
That means what God intends to be a blessing—such as work—can feellike a curse to us. In short, sin is what makes work hard. That’s why it was only after they had sinned that Adam and Eve were told about the new hardships they would experience in God’s world (Gen. 3:17-19).
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