Toil and Trouble
Well, tomorrow is Labor Day and as I was thinking about what to write about, I decided to go back to the beginning and explore the origins of work; and why most of us struggle with the necessity of doing our jobs. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to labor, and to be able to enjoy our lives without the need to provide for ourselves and endure the hardships of doing things that we would rather not have to do.
But work is a concept that is as old as the Garden of Eden; in fact, even before that. We are first told in the book of Genesis that God created the world in seven days, and that on the seventh day He rested from His “work”. Admittedly, His work was kind of cool; He spoke the world into existence. And there is some question about whether God really worked on the seventh day, or whether He just rested from his work of the first six days. But, and this is confusing, the original Hebrew suggests the God’s work on the seventh day was to rest. Sounds strange, but this is why we say that the world was created in seven days and not just six.
Also, God blessed the 7th day and made it holy; the first time we hear about a blessing in the Scriptures. It was out of this concept that we eventually learned that we were to work six days and then rest on the Sabbath. But that still doesn’t explain the trials and tribulations of work. So, what gives?
Well, remember the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and how they sinned by by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Remember that God had forbid them to do that, but the serpent convinced Eve to go ahead? And then Adam sinned as well?
It turns out that God exacted three punishments as a result of that incident. First of all God destined the serpent to crawl along the ground on it’s belly and eat dust all the days of its life. He then turned to Eve and punished her by saying that childbirth would be painful, and that women would have to deal with that legacy for their lives. Finally, God turned to Adam and told him that because of him, the ground would be cursed, and man would have to toil all the days of his life. It is interesting to note that both the serpent and Eve were cursed directly, but rather than cursing Adam, God cursed the ground, and subsequently, Adam’s work. And I think it is safe to say that work has been cursed since that time.
The scripture for tonight comes from Gen. 3:17-19, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were created…” You may recall the next several lines of this verse from the Scripture that you hear at funerals – “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Remember the phrase “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”? Well, there you have it!
Sometimes, I have felt that work would kill me – perhaps you have felt the same way. But we are destined to work. And since God originally created work for Adam in the Garden of Eden – he was to work the Garden for God – work must have been part of the plan from the beginning. And since God is not evil, God must have intended it for good. So we are faced with the dilemma of being created to work, and then finding out that the work would be cursed as a result of the Fall.
My encouragement tonight to is to let you know that God knows that work is difficult, but nonetheless, it is for our benefit. And my prayer is that you will enjoy the day of rest tomorrow as we celebrate the annual holiday of Labor Day; a day that most of us are spared from our usual work. So, try and enjoy it; because Tuesday, it’s back to the salt mines…. Grace and Peace…