In my last post, we saw that all work when done to the glory of God is sacred. There is no such thing as “sacred” work (like the work of a pastor) and “secular” work (like the work of a engineer or lawyer). We get tastes of the beauty and sacredness of work in this life. However, our world is more like Genesis 3 than Genesis 1-2. Sin has brought a curse upon everything—even our work.
In Genesis 3, right after Adam and Even disobey God for the first time, God issues a judgment to them. He says to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Eve’s work was primarily homeward in orientation. She would bear and raise children. This would now be painful.
Adam’s work was primarily outside the home in orientation. He worked the field. Now, God said, Adam would eat of the ground “in pain” and it would bring forth “thorns and thistles” (vv. 17-18). Fruitful labor would only come through hard, sweaty work. And eventually, God said, it would kill Adam (v. 19).
Because of sin, everything that formerly was under the dominion of God and his servants, Adam and Eve, is now under a curse. Work is hard, painful, and, eventually, it kills us.
Genesis 3 is the reason when you plant a tree in your front yard, you dig down and hit the gas line. Genesis 3 is the reason you need to trim the door 43 times before it will shut properly. Genesis 3 is the reason why no matter how many resumes you send out, you don’t get a call back. Genesis 3 is the reason why your body aches on Friday and when Monday morning rolls around, you ask, “Is this all there is to life?”
Everyone in the world feels the pain of Genesis 3. Everyone knows work is hard. You can’t get away with working 70 hours a week for 40 years. That’s why we have labor laws.
Now, for Christians, there are two sinful extremes we need to avoid when living in a post-Genesis 3 world. The first is believing that work is the curse. This produces laziness. You may believe that when sin entered the world, work was walking right alongside. Have you ever felt that temptation? If you have ever been lazy (like I have), then you functionally believed that work is the curse. But Genesis 1-2 are clear work is sacred and good and God made work before the fall.
The second sinful response to be avoided is to make work your identity. Sin has brought about what I call “identity mis-calibration.” Sin moves us to search for identity—significance, worth, and meaning—in anything other than God. For many of us, this means we look to work for our identity. Instead of becoming lazy, we become obsessed with work. We embrace the sweat, go overboard and use work to find fulfillment and happiness. But Genesis 1-2 are clear that our identity comes from being made in God’s image. Not from the work we do.
In our flesh, we will resort to either one of this. But if you belong to Jesus, you are not merely flesh. So if we are going to work Christianly in the world, we need to see how Jesus transforms our work. That’s what we’ll address in Monday’s post.