Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Work: Is it a Curse, an Idol or a Gift? (Part 1)

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." | Genesis 2:15
What does work mean? Why do we do it? What is it all about? The answer to these questions depends on the story we attach to our work. Everything finds meaning in the context of the story.

If the story we attach to is achievement and success and making a name for ourselves, then we become an end in itself. We will do everything in our power, even if it is exploiting, dehumanizing, demonizing or discriminating other people to attain what we want. In this story we are the center and we work to consume and hoard for ourselves.

If the story we attach to is survival we’d do everything in our power to exploit and abuse our own bodies to make ends meet. In this story work is viewed as a punishment or a curse that we dream of escaping from. It is all about our desire to move from poverty to privilege.

If the story we attach to is dualism then we divide work into sacred and secular or special and not so special. Work like pastors, missionaries and doctors are looked at as sacred or special and singers, artists, businessmen, waiters, carpenters, gardeners, dry cleaners and storeowners are looked as secular and not so special. In this story some are called to God’s work and others are not.

But if we attach work to God’s story and see that God works, he made a good world and created us to work it and take care of it. Then work is a gift and it is good.

Although work is good it can be drudgery and frustrating at times as it is affected by sin like every other aspect of life (Genesis 3:17-19). However, it is neither a curse to be avoided nor an idol to be obsessed over but God’s grand purpose for us. God has redeemed us in Jesus and has invited us to join him in restoring and renewing and reconciling all creation.

God cares about every work we do from changing diapers at home to setting chairs for a worship service to finishing projects at our jobs. God cares about every relationship, the environment, the products we make, the companies we work for, and the customers we serve. This understanding of work elevates the purpose of work from making money and exploiting others for our gain to loving our neighbor and environment and in the process glorifying God.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).

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