Thursday, June 17, 2010

Painful Toil and Working the Ground

Genesis 3:17-18
Genesis 3:23

As part of the punishment for Adam eating the fruit, God commands Adam to painful toil.
“By the sweat of your brow, you will eat…until you return to the ground.” There's no mention of retiring at 65, interestingly enough. This is in contrast to the first time God told Adam to work, where that work was for meaning or as a hobby. Now work is for survival. It's supposed to be hard ("sweat of your brow"). And the idea of being banished to "work the ground" implies that it won't be pleasant. It is very interesting that there are two different views of work--one pre-Sin and one post-Sin. Work seems to have been meant as a natural part of life, fulfilling part of our function on earth. Sin corrupted work, made it necessary for survival, made it hard and unpleasant.

God put Adam to work (the first time)

Genesis 2:15

God put Adam in the garden "to work it." So one of Adam's purposes in life was to work the Garden. I think this is interesting in light of how we think of "work" today. Was this to be Adam's hobby? Obviously, there's no mention of a time clock here. I think there's an interesting contrast between work here and then after The Fall. This is something I want to explore more fully after going through other passages.

God rested from his work

Genesis 2:2-3

The first mention of work in the Bible is that God finished the work of creation and rested. I think it's interesting that the all-powerful took a breather. He didn't have to, so why rest? Some have said as an example to us. Mark 2:27 says that the Sabbath was made for humanity, so resting as an example is certainly a possibility. God could have rested in celebration for his "good" and "very good" creation. I think, more than anything, God resting indicates a finiteness to work. God, the ultimate perfectionist, didn't have to redo anything. The work of creation was done. So what lesson to take? As I read other passages, it seems clear that rest is an important part of work. I'm still thinking through any other applications


I teach Organizational Communication at the university level, and I have an active research program looking at how people communicate in workplaces. Recently, someone came to me talking about a workplace communication issue. I was giving advice to this person about what to do and how to say the right thing to make everyone happy. This person, who was a Christian and knew I was also a Christian, asked me, "but what would God think about just trying to tell people what they want to hear?" Ouch. It occurred to me that I don't always think about God as I think about how to communicate in workplaces. Christian values shouldn't be confined to Sunday--they should also affect how we act Monday through Friday.

I have a PhD in organizational communication, and I am a university professor, so that is the lens through which I approach this project. What I am doing is reading through the Bible and noting every passage that could apply to our time at work. Sometimes, when people hear “being Christian at work,” the first thing that comes to mind is proselytizing. But as I read the Bible, that’s really only a part of the bigger pictures.

First, a few disclaimers. I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to have the final word. In fact, just the opposite. I would greatly appreciate your comments, especially if you think I may not be on track with some passage. Also, this is a work in progress. You’re reading my first thoughts (or at least really early ones). I would greatly appreciate your feedback.