Last week I concluded that our work has dignity and goodness. If this is so, why do so many people experience work as dismal, distressing, and drudgerous?
This is where Genesis 3 comes in. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden tree, they did not break an arbitrary rule; they transgressed a limit designed to protect them. They were made in the image; they were not the original. But, the Serpent, sowing a seed of discontentment in Adam’s and Eve’s souls, convinced them that it was no longer good enough to be like God; they wanted to be a god to themselves and know all that God knew. Through the act of transgressing God’s design, all manner of evil broke forth into the world, contaminating every sector of society and our lives, including our work.
Instead of finding satisfaction in God’s design for work, we pervert work. It is no longer good enough for work to be an extension of God’s creating and sustaining work. Work becomes about us and what we can get from it. If we center our identity on our work, we will inevitably have intense times of exhaustion, restlessness, and pain, when work goes poorly or fails to fulfill our needs. If we dismay our work, we will think of it as monotonous and unfulfilling. Either way, we will not recognize its inherent goodness. Both situations turn work inside out, making it about us, instead of about God and our neighbor.
Is there any escape from the curse on work? Yes. When God sent his Son to redeem people and all creation, he did not only redeem them for Heaven. His redemptive plan began its effect immediately in the hearts of his people, including redemption from the curse of work, restoring the goodness and dignity of our work. Christ wore a crown of thorns (John 19:2), so that thorns and thistles would not be the product of your work. He experienced restlessness, saying, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20),” so that you could have rest. He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29).”
What is your story regarding your work? When you step into the office, open the locker, clock-in, or turn the truck’s ignition key, what is the story you tell yourself? How are you participating in God’s creative and sustaining work?