To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground...

I've said it before and I still stand by it - work is a punishment from God for our sin. Its one of the very first punishments God laid on us, for our very first sin. Most times work isn't so bad that I resolve myself to a bitter and negative evaluation of work, but then when its going on midnight and you're still in the office...it gets tough. You begin to despise the punishment the same way a child forced to do some chore in return for his disobedience loathes the castigation itself.

I remember stacking cords of wood as a child, out in the cold and wet, by my self, stacking wood higher than my own head. Normally it wouldn't have been such a bad thing - just another chore. But in this particular instance I was out there stacking on my lonesome as a retribution for some wrong I committed and cannot begin to recall. And I was full of hate. Not at God, or even at my parents - I knew what I had done was wrong and that I deserved the punishment. No...I hated the wood. I hated the trees and forests that it came from, I hated the cold that necessitated our buying and stacking and burning of it in the first place. I even hated the dump truck that brought the wood for leaving it in such a mangled pile, so far from the barn.

But this isn't the attitude towards work that Paul calls us to:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

My pastor has touched a few times lately on how the Jews, when in captivity, were called upon by God, through his prophets, not to rebel against their captivity, but rather to embrace the city to which they were taken captive - to engage in it and work for its prosperity and peace. They were called not to maintain as much distance as possible, but to become deeply involved in the city and to work for its betterment...to be prosperous in their punishment.

We're all going to have to work in some form or another, sooner or later. And, as a punishment for sin, we don't necessarily have to 'like' the punishment...but we do have to find the balance that still causes us to do our work with all our heart. We never have any excuse to do anything but our very best in the work that we are called into, because even though our labor is a punishment, it is one from a God who has ordained His divine purposes, even in our condemnation.


Jeremy Pierce said...

I wouldn't think of work itself as the punishment for sin. Adam was given tasks to do before the fall. As of the fall, work was made toil, achieved through sweat and pain. I don't think that means work itself is punishment for sin. God ceased from working on the seventh day, so work isn't necessarily a punishment for sin.

David said...

Good point (its been raised before, when I've made these types of comments before).

I think its all in how you look at it. Work isn't a bad thing - stacking wood or sourcing food or determining the optimal operating model for a client company. But the fact that these things are difficult and taxing on us...the "nature" of work as we now know it, after the fall...is a painful thing. It is a response to our sin. I think scripture is pretty clear on this.

So yeah - work itself isn't the punishment - Adam was tending the garden before hand. But the entire nature of work was changed after his sin. And that is, itself, the punishment.

Thanks for encouraging me to clarify myself.