Everyone works. In fact, we often ask what others do before who they are. Think about it. When’s the last time you met somebody and ask them about anything other than, “So what do you do for living?” So much of who we are is tied into what we do.
And Scripture is not silent on the subject. It talks a lot about work. In the next five posts, we will break down what the Bible says about our work, what God expects, and how he expects us to represent him in what we do.
Genesis has always been a thoroughly interesting read. There are so many things that leave us with partial answers to our questions. Consider the environment of the Garden of Eden.
Most scholars accept the idea that this garden is at least a template of what believers might expect in heaven for eternity. Our redeemed minds spend much time and resources thinking on noble things, like what heaven will be like.
But there’s something interesting about the Garden of Eden. As much as many of us would like from work to no longer be part of heaven, as we see in the man-made utopias in our entertainment, this is not the case.
From the very beginning, God gave Adam work in the garden. If the Garden of Eden is a place that gives us a hint of what heaven will be like, work will be part of human existence until the end. And then in eternity, although the Bible doesn’t really say, I would imagine there is work for us to do.
Productivity and satisfaction from completing work is fundamental to human existence. We need to see progress. When I was in high school, I read a book by Elie Wiesel entitled, “Night.” He lived through the Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s.
One of the most compelling stories in the book is how the Nazis would make them dig a hole in one side of the camp, move the dirt, and put it in a pile on the other side of the camp. Then they would make them shovel the pile of dirt, transported to the other side of the camp, and dump it in the same hole.
He said that many of the Jews lost their belief in God through these exercises. The futile efforts of moving dirt from one place to another, simply to put it back where it was, drove many of them mad. Humans need rest, but we also need to be productive, to have purpose in life.
God knows this about us. And so work is part of who we are. But in the Garden, after sin entered the world, God cursed the ground and made work much harder than it was beforehand.
The Bible is full of a robust theology of work, as some have called it. Let’s take a look at what it has to say about the human endeavor of work.
A God-Pleasing Work Ethic
When we consider the work ethic expected of believers, we can start at the very beginning. Many people do not have a job that brings them joy or satisfaction. Some work long hours, or even hate their jobs.
Others, in an attempt to keep up with the Jones’ or to run the rat race because of the false hopes of the American Dream, run themselves ragged and end up with health issues. Work takes up so much of our lives that it can easily become our master.
But what does the Bible teach about work? Will we work in heaven? Is work part of the fallen world? Does God have any rules about work? As we trace the Bible’s principles on work, let us start in Genesis.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam was given work to do before the Fall. In Genesis 2:15-17, God puts Adam in the garden to work it. This tells us that God intended work to be part of what humans do.
We are hardwired for purpose through productivity in our work. We must have both. Work is hard, if not impossible, when we cannot see the reason or purpose in it. It’s unnatural for us to not produce anything. Even in just sitting around, we produce something: waste. We must be productive creatures, and God made us this way.
Work in Eden
In Genesis 3 at the Fall of Man, God cursed the good thing He gave in Adams work. In Genesis 3:17-19, God cursed the man because he did not lead by example nor did he stop his wife, Eve, from sinning against Him.
Adam did not take his role as the leader in his home and lead his wife in righteousness. Because of this, Adam, and every human being who works, found work much harder to do.
The curse first affects his ability to eat from the Tree of Life. This means that no longer will he live immortally. He will be subject to death because of his sin. His work will be cursed so that it is harder to achieve the same success.
Now, tending to the ground and fields is work instead of joy. All the days of our lives, we will toil for all we consume. Work is harder and less fulfilling because of the Fall of Man. It’s not that we were never supposed to work, but that we were supposed to receive enjoyment and fulfillment even from our work.
As we see from the beginning of the Bible, work is not a curse. Harder work is. But it didn’t begin this way. And if the Garden of Eden is a template for what heaven will look like, work is part of God’s plan for humanity.
God designed us to work. It’s not an evil thing added because of sin. It’s something God made us to do. And even those who don’t enjoy working would tell you that when they complete a project, finish off a checklist, or share good things about the things they produce in their work, they enjoy seeing something completed well.
We’re going to continue on this theme of work throughout the Bible. Scholars call it the theology of work. This is only the beginning of what the Bible has to say about our work ethic and what we do for God. In the next couple of posts, we will be addressing two extreme poles of understanding our work ethic.
Have you ever thought to look through the Scriptures and see what they say about work? Leave a comment and tell me what you think these extreme poles of work are.