Work may have been made good, even pleasurable, but the simple fact is that it is not for most people today.  One of my friends likes to ask the proverbial 64 Million Dollar Question: “If I gave you 64 million dollars today, would you be at work tomorrow?”  As you can imagine, the answer he receives from most everyone is a resounding “No!”

Why is that?  If work was created good, given to humanity as part of our purpose and mission, as basic to our existence, if work is a good gift from God, then why do so many of us seem to hate our jobs so much?  The story of our world – and work with it – takes a dark turn in Genesis 3:

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:14–19, ESV)

We ought not miss the connection of this pronouncement, this judgment on sin known as “the Curse,” to humanity’s mission from Genesis 1, covered in last week’s posts.  God established humankind and gave us a two-part mission in Genesis 1:26-28 – to fill the earth and subdue it.  From that twin command comes all of vocation: the vocation of childrearing (filling the earth) and the vocations of the marketplace (subduing the earth).  Of course, the latter was initially – and has been for most of human history – a primarily agricultural endeavor, but even with the increasing specialization of the modern economy, modern jobs are just a subset, a more specific incarnation, of that overall call – to subdue the earth.

And the curse hits at exactly those two areas; mankind is cursed in the very two areas that are central to our kingly vocation.  Eve is cursed in the area of childbirth – filling the earth.  And Adam is cursed in the area of work – subduing the earth.  It is no surprise, then, that work is hard.  And that wouldn’t even be tragic except that it was made to be so much more.  And so, as we work, we encounter the thorns and thistles of vocation – labor in a fallen world.

In what area of your labor do you most feel the thorns and thistles of the Curse?


Images:, Jeff Hire; Kevin Law via Wikimedia Commons

An ordained minister and the first professor of Reformed Theological Seminary NYC in Manhattan where he serves as Professor of Old Testament and Dean of Students, Bill earned a Ph.D. in Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America. He completed his M.Div. at RTS Orlando and serves as a pastor at McLean Presbyterian Church.

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