The first thing we have to do is put to rest the misconception that work is punishment for the Fall. The very first verse of the Bible— Genesis 1:1, reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
So we see that God was at work even before man existed. And of course, He labored six days to create the heavens and earth, everything within them. Finally, He created Man in His own image and commanded him to rule over every living thing on earth.
Later, we see in Genesis 2:15 that God gave Adam specific instructions about his labor in the Garden. It says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
And just a few verses later, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, so that she could be his helper and labor with him in the Garden. All of this was before the Fall, so it’s correct to say that work itself is not a punishment, and we can assume that working in the Garden was quite pleasant.
Of course, that was not to last. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life and were cast out of the Garden. That’s where some might get the idea that work became punishment.
But we still would not describe work performed after the Fall as punishment. It’s important to note that many translations of the Bible distinguish between “work” and “toil.”
In Genesis 3:17, God tells Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” So after the Fall, work becomes less pleasant.
But that doesn’t mean that work itself is cursed. It may not always be pleasant, but God continues to bless those who work diligently and honor Him. An example of this is in Ruth 2:19. It reads, “And her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where did you glean today?
And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, ‘The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.’” Of course, Ruth would marry Boaz, and bear him a son named Obed, who would become the grandfather of David. We believe we can safely say God blessed her work.
And later in Proverbs 22:29, God again says diligence in performing our work well will be rewarded. It says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.”
And in Ecclesiastes 2:24 we find, “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.”
Work is also mentioned frequently in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul often incorporates work into the proper behavior of believers. An important theme in his teachings about work is that God is our true Master and that we should work diligently with a positive attitude because doing that will point others to Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24 reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t look for another job if you feel God leading you somewhere else. It just means that wherever you work, you should exemplify Christ, whom you represent. In Ephesians 6:7 Paul says, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”
And Paul expands on this in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands… so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”
But it seems not everyone in the Thessalonian church was following Paul’s direction. Some believers apparently didn’t want to work. He admonishes them in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, writing, “ If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
Okay, one final thought. It’s also important to be grateful that you can work to earn a living, because that, too, is a gift from God. Deuteronomy 8:18 reads, “ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.”
Everything we have is a gift from God— and that includes work.
On today’s program, Rob also answers listener questions:
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