The Fall of Work1
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from 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, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
- from Genesis 3:17-19
The temptation of humanity came in the world of work.
Harvesting fruit from a tree and eating it was what the man and the woman did for work. And that’s where they were tempted. The temptation that tripped them up was to do their work in a way that ignored and rejected God. And when they worked in a way that ignored God, frustration and discouragement followed.
All of us encounter frustration and discouragement in seasons of our working lives. We see this even in the best workplaces with the highest job satisfaction. The fall of humanity brought fresh pain into the cosmos and into the world of work. Where before the work of cultivation and harvest found cooperation from the earth, there is now resistance from weeds and barbs.
But this discouragement and frustration doesn’t remove the need for work. In today’s passage, the man is still expected to work. Perseverance is understood. We can’t quit on working as a category.
When we encounter times of temptation, discouragement and frustration in our work – both paid and unpaid work – there’s something in us that screams: “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” And that’s absolutely true. God set a longing in our hearts for better work, for meaningful work. As best as we can tell, great work will be a part of our lives after this life is done.
In the meantime, he calls us to persevere and even enjoy the work he’s given us to do today.
Where have you experienced temptation, discouragement and frustration in your working world? Where have you considered giving up on “working as a category”? Where do you need to change the way you engage with work?