Read today’s scripture (all of it):
Fallen Work—Genesis 3:17-19, Ecclesiastes 2:18-26, Romans 8:19-23
Redeemed Work—Ecclesiastes 9:9-10a, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23, Philippians 2:12-16
Record what stood out to you.
Reflect, pray, and meditate on how it applies to your life.
Respond in your art journal to press the Word into your heart.
I’m just going to get to the point. Work was never intended to be a bad thing.
If you work in an office setting, let’s strip away the mundane cubicles, frustrating co-workers, late hours, long commutes, and the mediocre income. Or if you work outside, strip away the scorching suns, the bitter-cold winds, the mosquito bites, the sweat, and the straining. Or if you waitress, strip away the sad tips, the tired feet, and dirty aprons.
Or maybe your toughest job is just doing the dishes at home. I get that. You can read how that can be turned into a spiritual discipline here: “I’m a stubborn fork.”
When you strip away all the things that make work tiring and cruddy…can you say that work itself is bad?
Work | verb | /wərk/ : be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result, especially in one’s job; do work.
Now I am a lover of naps, laying on the couch all day reading and eating ice-cream , and being carefree with life. My husband has recently nicknamed me his little “Snorlax” (for you Pokemon Go lovers), as eating and sleeping are my two favorite activities.
Yet even in those rare seasons where I get to do all the above, there is still this innate desire to do some kind of work. To be productive. To create. A desire to be purposeful.
I don’t know if everyone can relate, but I do know that before the fall of man in the garden of Eden, work was created to be a good thing.
First of all, in the first account of creation, scripture describes God creating. God engaged in order to achieve a purpose or result. God is the first worker.
“And…God finished his work that he had done, and he rested…from all his work. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
To be clear, God wasn’t exhausted after all this work. The Hebrew word of “rest” that is used in this scripture is shâbath (or more commonly known as “sabbath”). The idea of this is to be still. God ceased from his creating and reached completion of this task. He is refreshed by the satisfaction of a finished good. God, who valued work, also deeply valued rest. He finished and admired his creation. Because it was good. He was enjoying the fruit of his work.
In the second account of creation in Genesis it says:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15
Humans were created with purpose. We are not aimless puppets merely existing to just exist. From the beginning, God gave humans purpose. A job.
Why? Well if humans are created in the image of their Creator…and the Creator values work…then humans were created to value work, too.
So what happened? Disobedience happened. In the Genesis account, sin entered the world–humans disobeyed God, and then there were consequences:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”..And to the man he said, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (Genesis 3:16-19)
The pain and the labor.
Just like how sin has tainted everything in the world, it also tainted work.
Work is necessary, but it is also hard. The process to get to the fruit of the work can be grueling. The means to the end is difficult. But the end usually makes it worth it.
Think of a mother. God said that the pain of childbearing is multiplied. He never said having children was bad or part of the curse, in fact, he commanded Adam and Eve to multiply.
God understands the great joy of having a child that looks like his/her parents. Because he created us in his own image. Yet the nine months of carrying a child and going into labor is a whole other story. I’ve never had a baby before, but I heard it’s pretty painful. And, imagine, pain medication wasn’t much of a thing until recently.
Yet every new mother has told me, “All of that pain and labor is worth it when you get to hold that new little creation in your arms. And look into their eyes. And you are consumed with love.” After the labor, the mother Sabbaths.
The pain and labor is worth it when you can eat the the produce from the garden that was worked. It is worth it when you can provide for your family. It is worth it when you can enjoy something you worked for or created.
Joy in the work.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” Colossians 3:23
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10
” So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
So does this mean that work is just this terrible thing and we just have to suck it up and deal with it? That we have to put on a happy face and just push through?
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
Mmm. Yes. Having joy in the toil is totally possible–but not apart from God. The Creator and the first Worker is also the Provider of Joy.
Jesus was a carpenter. Yet I’m sure that in all his work he had perfect joy because of his perfect relationship with his Father. In everything he did, in all the ways he served, he did it for God’s glory. He did it as if he was doing it all for God. And that is from an outflow of love. And when we work for someone we love, we do it joyfully.
“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
God provides the will and desire to work. And he provides the joy when we do it in obedience and as if we are serving Him.
Clarification: Joy is not a feeling. It is a state of being. Joy does not equal happy feelings all the time, but is an assurance of hope and gratitude. The happy feelings are just the byproduct of joy.
Working for Christ.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”
Children of God are evidenced by their joyful attitude in work.
So when we are waiting tables, we imagine Christ sitting at the table we are serving.
When customers get impatient, we imagine we are serving Christ.
When we are working hard in the field, Christ is who we will feed.
When we are washing dishes for our roommates, Christ is being served.
Work is a means to serve Christ. The Christ who worked himself to death for us, and rose for our hope. And when we see it this way, it changes our posture in our labor.