Work and the curse of the daily grind
Ahhh, Monday. Back to work. To the grind. To the salt mines. The nine to five. Working for the man. The rat race.
I think you get my point, there are lots of ways we see work in a negative light. As something to be avoided. But work should be separated from “a job”. I work at a job. If I tend my plants, it’s work. I surely don’t get paid for it, so it’s not a job. But it is, in fact, work. I reap a benefit from working my plants well, in my case that’s fresh mint and cilantro.
The benefit of working a job is not as easy to pin point. At a minimum it’s a paycheck. It has been my experience that many people focus on work principally for that end result: the money. For many of us that paycheck is every two weeks. So, fortnightly the benefit is reaped. Essentially making the job about an event that occurs every 14 days.
So then the job becomes a means to an end. It can then be viewed in terms of its utility or usefulness to obtain money, the reward. So then the job isn’t about the work but the reward. Then the “reward” must be utilized somehow. For bills? Or clothes? Or saved? Or on entertainment? Etc. I know plenty of people who spend 14 days thinking about what they will spend the next paycheck on.
So then, what happens to the work? In many instances it becomes an annoyance of sorts. It’s then drudge work, the grinding monotony that separates the 14 days between what is really enjoyed, which is the paycheck.
This was not so in the beginning. In Genesis, God has made man (in the older sense of that term, modern term would be humanity) in his own image and planted a garden full of beautiful trees and bushes and green grass. It also describes the land as being full of precious stones and metals.
Man was put into the garden to work it. God works in the creation. His creation then is given work in tending what God created. God then creates a companion for man from a rib: a woman. Man was given basically one rule: don’t eat of the true of the knowledge of good and evil. He evidently doesn’t clearly articulate this command to Eve (see communication problems from the beginning!) and Eve eats of the tree and then Adam and then they we’re kicked out of the garden.
Genesis 3:17-19 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.”
So work is hard essentially because God made it harder. It’s the result of Adam’s disobedience. So, you may ask yourself, why am I made to suffer because of the disobedience of another? It doesn’t seem “fair” our society would say.
So enter Jesus. Born pure, truly innocent. No mark of sin on him. Never any disobedience. And yet He goes to work as a carpenter. A worker of wood. That means callouses, splinters, wood under the fingernails, and a few cuts and bruises.
According to the writings of Justin Martyr, a second century Christian, there were still products in use made by Joseph and Jesus. Yokes and other farming equipment. God became an incarnate being, the God who made everything out of nothing came and made something out of his own creation.
Should it be any surprise that it was of superior quality? He was a carpenter for about 15 years before beginning his ministry. Never once is there an accusation against him about his work as a carpenter. He produced wood products for 15 years and not one complaint? Because I guarantee you the Pharisees would have found that person.
I don’t want to draw too much out of this concept. But I think it is at least a reasonable conclusion to come to that Jesus’s work as a carpenter was superior. Why would it not be?
Our approach to work should be no less attentive. We are where we are because of the plans and designs of God. We should be putting our best into our work. I’m not talking becoming a work-aholic. Balance in life between our different responsibilities is important. I’m thinking here of doing our very best under the circumstances we find ourselves.
God worked under the very curse he had placed on Adam for which Jesus bore no guilt. But he shared in our nature, even to the point of the daily grind under the curse on work.
Soli Deo Gloria
A standard prayer in the Anglican Tradition (called a collect):
Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.