“Now we see if I’ll go in tomorrow.” My friend said – only half jesting – as he scratched off one end of the lottery ticket. Disappointedly, he tossed aside the loosing ticket. “I guess I will have to come into work after all.”
This seems to be the pervasive attitude among people today. Work is just something you do until you win the lottery or get Washington to pay your bills. Even many Christians believe that labor is a necessary evil and the result of the Fall. However, the Scriptures would tell us something different. They tell us that work was a part of God’s original, perfect order.
In Genesis 1:28 we read, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Adam and Eve didn’t just sit in the Garden and admire the flowers. God designed them to be productive, giving them a task to do. Likewise, we see that there seems to be a special emphasis placed on the man working in the Garden: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)
Men were created to be productive and creative. Some Christians feel guilty because they want to start businesses, climb the corporate latter, fix up their car, do a home improvement project, study art or pursue political advancement. They’re gotten the idea that these things are somehow less spiritual than others. To the contrary, this is what God created you to do!
Adam was made to use his mind and his hands to gain dominion over creation. Likewise, Adam’s sons have always had similar impulses.
While God’s creation was flawless, I believe that He also left it incomplete. In other words, He wanted Adam to take what he’d been given and make it better, more orderly and more useful. Improving what God has given us is an innate part of manhood. Whether it’s our wife, our family, our church, or our broken Ford pickup (if it was a Chevy it wouldn’t be broken), we’re called to better the condition of the things around us.
Thus, if the Bible teaches that we were created to take dominion than Christian men ought to be the most ambitious men alive. We should desire to be the best at what we do, because we’re blessed by God to do exactly that.
But there’s a problem. God’s glorious design of productive manhood had a wrenched thrown into it. Man rebelled against the authority of God and so creation rebelled against the authority of Man. After the Fall, God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Now, just like we actively fight God creation now actively fights us. So, no matter how hard you tried you can’t get that pickup to run smoothly, or the garden to grow properly, or that child to behave. Now we find ourselves sweating and laboring just to eke out on existence.
More than that, sin now taints everything that we do. Thus, work that God blessed for the good of mankind is now polluted with greed and selfishness. We’ve turned the blessed gift of God into a means of hurting others and advancing ourselves. Rather than nurturing and improving what we’ve charged with, we abuse, manipulate and use the things in our charge.
But what’s the answer to all this? Should we spot working? Should we suppress that natural desire to gain control and building our little empire? Should the impulses of apathy take control instead?
Some would say yes. They would say that believers shouldn’t try to be the best at what they do because that’s greedy. Well, it certainly can be. We all know of way too many greedy Christians. However, working hard and achieving success isn’t inherently selfish. As we’ll discuss shortly, there’s a way to succeed in a manner that is saturated in benevolence and charity. I’d argue that Christians ought to try to be the best at everything they do to the end that they might glorify God and serve others.
Remember, it wasn’t sin that made work. God made work and sin made it a burden. In the Garden, Adam had God-given power, possessions and pleasure. Thus, pursuing power, possessions and pleasure is not a wicked enterprise. Though, we must be on our guard for our depraved nature corrupts everything we do. However, we can’t refrain from doing something simply because sin might contaminate it. If we were consistent with that principle we couldn’t do anything. Even the most spiritual of activities can become sinful. But I firmly believe that if we, by God’s grace, free our work and “secular” ambitions from sin than it can be a powerful tool in our Father’s hand.
We can be creators without being tyrants; an authority without being authoritarian; a steward without being domineering. Labor is an institution ordained by God and should therefore be carried out with passion and devotion