Work: A Curse or a Gift?

The Joy of Making Candy
“Wow! This stuff tastes good! And it’s so easy to make!” I was a twelve-year-old recently arrived immigrant kid and watched in amazement as one of my friends melted sugar in a frying pan and made a batch of peanut brittle. It was perfect! I wrapped up a few pieces to take home, and couldn’t wait to teach my mom the fun of candy making.

The Joy of Creating Earth
This is a little like what happened during the time of Creation. First God worked to create the Earth for people to live on. When He checked out the results and found them to be perfect, He couldn’t wait to teach Adam how to work creating beauty in the Garden He had planted. God enjoyed His work of creation and He wanted to share the work with Adam so he could enjoy creative work too.

Sewer ManholeThe Stinky Work
Of course, not all work is as enjoyable as creating Earth or making peanut brittle. As a teenager in the mid-1950s I regularly climbed into sewer manholes and worked for hours with decaying sewage lapping over the tops of my rubber boots, trying to unplug a clogged pipe. My bare hands and arms were covered with putrid filth as I shoved and pushed hinged rods far into a dribbling pipe then turned and pulled, twisted and yanked them out, ready to jump aside as the sewage finally poured out.

In comparison, the work of digging up a large part of the back yard for planting potatoes in early spring was a soft job, even though raising vegetables was singled out for a special curse after Adam’s disobedience.

Work a Curse?
So is work itself a curse? No. The ground was cursed so that it would bring forth weeds and make it harder to cultivate and reap a good crop. But work itself is not a curse. “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 NIV) So Adam was at work, taking care of the Garden God Himself had worked to plant. All this happened before Adam sinned and God cursed the ground.

God Works
The Bible is clear that God worked to create the universe and He is still at work. When Jesus was criticised for healing a man on the Sabbath, He replied, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17 NIV) If God is at work, and He created Adam to work, and Jesus worked, then how can work be considered a curse?

God has given all of us the capacity to work, develop skills, build, invent, or grow something. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) “It is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deuteronomy 5:18 NIV)

The Joy of Work
Some of my work is to speak to groups about the why and how of Bible translation. Once when I had just finished a speech to an audience of nine hundred delegates at a national Gideon convention, the organizer handed me a generous honorarium cheque. As I was putting the cheque safely away in an inner pocket, I told him, “You Gideons and we Wycliffe Bible translators share the same passion to provide God’s Word to everyone. I enjoy speaking to people like you so much I’m almost ready to pay you for the privilege!”

Work: A Gift from God
I confess, I cannot recall singing joyful praises to God while I worked at those stinky jobs during my teenage years. Although one time I did thank Him for sparing my life when a ditch caved in and buried me in muck up to my neck. But, when the pipe was unplugged or a break was repaired, even that stinky work gave me a certain amount of satisfaction.

Starting at the bottom, literally, taught me that there is no honest work that is not a gift from God, the first Worker.