Bible Questions Answered
Q. Should work be considered as a divine punishment? That concept seems to be implied within the judgment placed upon Adam because of his sin (Gen. 3:17-19).
After Adam deliberately disobeyed the will of God. God declared to the fallen man, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of they life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19).
Some popular opinion concerning physical work is erroneous. In that opinion both the Garden of Eden (see 2:8) and the eternal Holy City (see Rev. 21:2) are viewed as places void of work. In our contemporary world, some criminals are sentenced to years of “hard work” for their sins against society. Many today plan for their retirement years when they will no longer have to work.
But what is the proper, biblical estimation of work? First, God Himself must be seen as One who works. Work is intrinsic to His very being, a natural expression of who He is.
God worked when He created the heavens and the earth. The Bible states: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Gen. 2:2,3). Of course, the six days of creative work were not exhausting to the omnipotent God. Rather, He completed within six days the work that He willed to accomplish. On the seventh day, He rested: He ceased His activity of creation. Jeremiah observed: “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion” (Jer. 10:12). God’s work thus manifested the attributes of His power, wisdom and decretive will. What He did, He pronounced as “good” (See Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). God is good in and of Himself; thus, everything that He works is also good.
God also works at sustaining His created universe. Paul wrote concerning Jesus Christ: “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and visible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” ( Col. 1:16,17)
On the seventh day, God did not create anything new, but He did continue to work at sustaining what He had made. He is the governed and controller of all crated things. The pagan world falsely gives credit to the laws of nature, Mother Nature of Father Time. God, however is actively present within this world, keeping it together and guiding it toward His eternal purpose. He is the One who causes the sun to shine and the clouds to produces rain (see Matt. 5:45).
God works at meeting the needs of the people today. When Jesus was criticized for healing the lame man on the Sabbath, He responded, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). God is never inactive. He presently works within the scheme of His created order for His own glory and for the blessing of His people. Go thus works as healing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of men. Therefore, what Christ did on the Sabbath did not violate the essence of the Sabbath commandment (see. Ex. 20:8-11).
Christ is also working to prepare the eternal Home of His people. He declared to the apostles, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). How appropriate is this expression of construction, coming from the lips of One who was a carpenter during His earthly sojourn! (see Mark 6:3).
Second, God created man to be a worker. The creation of man in the image of God necessarily involves the expression of work by man.
Man worked before the Fall. His work included dominion, the active supervision of the created order of fish, birds and animals (see Gen. 1:26). In that sense, he shared in what God was doing to sustain His universe. In additions, God placed man within the Garden “to dress it and to keep it” (2:15). Agricultural work, thus, was good, right and holy. Through it, man could glorify God because in obedience he could manifest the essence of God who is a worker. As God works “all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). So man was to work using his divinely given faculties of wisdom, enablement and appreciation of beauty.
After the Fall the essence of work did not change, but the effort expended to do the work increased (see Gen. 3:17-19). The difficulty, marked by the multiplication of thorns and thistles, was compounded by a weakness within man. He became a mortal, corruptible creature through his sin. His strength ambition would deteriorate as his body became subject to disease and death.
The nature of work became part of God’s program for the nation of Israel. The Fourth Commandment began: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work” (Ex. 20:8,9). The work week for the Israelite was patterned after the creative work week of God (see vv 10, 11). As Israel obeyed this injection, it bore witness to its distinctive covenant relationship to God and to the uniqueness of the monotheistic God, who alone created the world (see 31:14-17). As the Gentile nations observed sis days of diligent labor followed by a complete day of rest, they would be forced to evaluate the reality of God and their relationship to Him.
God also expects the New Testament believer to be involved in honest, good work that will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. Paul commanded, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hand s the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph 4: 28). In the sin of thievery, an unscrupulous man takes away the fruit of another man’s effort. He thus creates a need by his lazy greed and selfishness. A believer, on the other hand, should work, producing both monetary and material fruit, and then share his bounty with those less fortunate. Work thus can become a means of benevolent giving as well as a provision of family needs.
Failure to work is contrary to the true nature of faith. Paul cautioned,
“But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8). Believers should not be sluggards. As Solomon instructed, they should observe the wise ways of the ant who works to provide the needs of today and tomorrow (see Prov. 6:6-11).
Believers should not develop a false dichotomy between spiritual labor and secular work. Some new Thessalonians converts were so engrossed in spiritual matters that they misapplied their doctrinal convictions. They stopped working because of their belief in the immense of Christ’s coming. To Paul such actions were disorderly and dishonoring to the cause of Christ. He then charged the church. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess. 3:10). He advocated severe church discipline for those who refused to work (see vv. 11-15). Paul was the role model for them. He believed and preached the reality of Christ’s return, and yet he worked as a tentmaker to meet his financial needs (see Acts 18:1-3; II Thess. 3:6-9).
Finally, believers will work in the eternal state as they serve the savior, working out His will in their lives (Rev. 22:3). The removal of the curse will not include the elimination of work. CL
by Robert Gromacki