Work and the Curse

Our culture propagates the idea that work is a necessary evil.  As a result many of us go to work each morning drudgingly watching the clock until the magical 5:00 o’clock hour when we are released from our bounds. Owen Strachan touched on this in his article over at the Gospel Coalition a couple days ago.

hard work

But what does the Bible say about work?

For many of us our minds immediately go to Genesis 3:17 and affirm the cursed nature of working as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve. However God mandated work as a good thing for human kind in Genesis 2:15 (prior to the Fall), “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Interestingly the Hebrew word for “work” here is commonly used in a religious sense for serving God (Deut 4:19, Num 3:7-8, 4:23-24, 26).[1] Working is God ordained and intrinsically designed for mankind prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Commenting on this reality Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf write, “Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul.”[2]

What then are we to make of the curse in Genesis 3:17 in relation to our work?

The answer: It’s not going to be as life giving as it was designed to be because sin has mucked it up. There are going to be bad days when we spill our coffee on the way to work and the rest of the day spirals downward. There are going to be days where our files are lost and our bosses won’t get off our backs. Stress is going to come; not joy.

Keller and Alsdorf capture this acutely when they write:

“In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us.”

But I don’t need to tell most of you this. You know this reality and some of you more frequently than others.

How then do we orient ourselves with the reality that the world is screwed up and as a consequence our experience and perspective of work is as well?

help othersWe must know that our work is an opportunity to serve and glorify God. As ambassadors of Jesus we are called to redeem our work as we prayerfully join in the work that God is doing all around us. This manifests itself most clearly in our obedience to the great commandment of loving God and loving others (Matt. 22:36-40). Practically this looks like asking ourselves a couple questions each day:

1)  “How with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?”[3]

2)  Am I doing my job to the best of my ability, regardless of benefits (or lack thereof) as a reflection of my desire to honor Christ in all that I do? (Col 3:17)

If you have the opportunity to today (perhaps on a lunch break?) spend some time thinking and praying through these two questions. It may change your perspective on your job, those around you, and the impact you can have on the Kingdom of God at your place of work and beyond.


[1] Gordan Wehman, Word Biblical Commentary Genesis 1:15, p 67

[2] Timothy Keller & Katherine Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, p 37

[3] Ibid, p 67

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~ by simplesage on December 2, 2013.

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