My first job out of college was as a staff auditor for a CPA firm. As far as accounting firms go this one was pretty good, but it only took two busy seasons for me to realize this wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. One Christmas Eve, I found myself 3 stories high on a cherry picker in an unheated warehouse doing an inventory count for a manufacturing company in northern Indiana.
- Take widget out of one box.
- Put hash mark on inventory sheet.
- Shiver from the cold.
- Place widget in second box.
- Blow on frozen fingers.
- Lose will to live.
Surely this was some cosmic punishment for sins I didn’t even know I committed! (I was 23, so yes, I was overdramatic).
We experience difficulty, frustration, and purposeless in our work as part of this fallen world, and so most Christians assume work must be a result of sin. It’s an unfortunate reality we just have to put up with here on this earth, but one day “when we all get to heaven” work will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and all his minions, and there will be much rejoicing!
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s a jaw-dropping discovery:
In the beginning there was work!
Work was part of God’s original design for mankind. Before you think this is some conspiracy perpetrated by your boss, I can prove it to you:
Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV, emphasis mine) – “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation…”
(Now look at this….this might be the most important part)
Genesis 2:15 (ESV, emphasis mine) – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
We’re in Genesis chapter 2. The tree and the apple and the fall of man doesn’t happen until chapter 3! So what does that mean? Work is not some post-fall punishment for sin, it’s part of God’s original design for mankind. The brokenness with which we experience work is the result of sin, but not the work itself. This is exciting stuff!
Contrary to Warner Bros. cartoon theology (you know, where Wile E. Coyote falls off the cliff and finally ends up floating on a cloud in a robe playing a harp), we weren’t created to sit around and binge-watch Netflix all day. We were created to dream and build and serve and cultivate and problem solve – to make culture and add value to the world around us – we were created to work!
In the beginning, there was work! Work is not punishment, it’s purpose. This is foundational to good work theology. I know the 23-year-old version of me could’ve benefited greatly from this understanding up on top of that warehouse lift all those years ago. But no matter where you are on your work journey, it’s never too late to replant your roots in the truth.
This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.