A Few Thoughts on Work, God’s Original Intent, and the Abundant Life

I’m sorry I have not posted as frequently lately.  Things have been hectic and crazy.  Work is keeping us very busy with teaching, planning, grading, meetings, talking with parents, and so on.  Even when we leave work, work seems to follow us.  I guess it’s the life of a teacher.  Actually, it’s the life of most of us when it comes to our jobs.

I want to head off this post by stating clearly that not much of what I am saying here is original.  I am indebted to authors like Randy Alcorn, Tim Keller, Ted Dekker, and others for much of what follows.

I also want to state clearly that I do like my job.  This is not a rant against my job in particular in any way.  I have a great principal, wonderful coworkers (more like family), and a very fulfilling role as I try to pour into the lives of my students.  This is not a veiled attack on what I do.  Rather, it is an exploration of something common to all of us, I believe.

Contrary to what many think, work is not a result of the fall.  Work preceded the fall.  Genesis 2:15 tells us, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (ESV)  Work was part of God’s original good design.  We were created to work, to create (as sub-creators imitating the original Creator), to continue God’s ordering of the world.

The fall did not introduce work into the world; the fall made work difficult and trying (see Genesis 3:17-19).  In those verses, we see the introduction of pain, thorns and thistles, and sweat.  Where the original intention of work was to be a blessing and fulfilling for Adam and Eve, it would now be a struggle.  It would still be beneficial, as it yielded food for them, but it would be beneficial through the frustrations.

That is where we are today.  Work is beneficial.  It still allows us to sub-create.  It still lets us use our gifts and talents.  It still provides our means by which we eat and have shelter.  And while many of us may not deal with real thorns and thistles or sweat at work in our air conditioned buildings, we still understand the concept of pain and toil and stress and frustration.

We often work for the weekends (the days of rest) or the holidays (holy-days?).  We look forward to the times when we can enjoy God and family and friends.  We may still do work on those days, but it’s often the work and hobbies we want to do; the work we enjoy doing all the time.  Again, that is not to say that we hate our current jobs, but we do dislike the stress and strain that goes with them.  So we do those things that are less stressful to us on our down time.

Interestingly, and possibly without realizing it, we are living in small ways every week what we are to eventually live in all eternity.  We are going to enter into an eternal rest with God, where God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)  I believe, with Alcorn, that we will still work in Heaven.  It is an active place.  There will be things to do in God’s kingdom as we serve Him for all eternity.  But it will not be stressful.  It will be specially matched to our longings, desires, and capabilities.

We will no longer have issues with coworkers or customers or bosses.  We will no longer be looking at a clock, exhausted from a hard day’s work, longing for the time when we can go home and kick our feet up and rest.  We will no longer struggle with the greener-grass issue, wondering how life might have been different if we had picked a different career.

We will be content for all eternity.  We will love every aspect of our assignments, working joyfully alongside others who also have been freed from any remnants of sin and the fall.  We will have the best boss we could ever ask for, God Himself (and we know that the best boss on Earth now cannot compare with Him).  We will never again struggle with the frustration of being discontent, wondering if our work truly is making a difference.

There is a reason that we are to live in hope of eternity.  We are to wait expectantly for Christ’s return (or for the day we fall asleep in this life, only to awake to life unending with Christ).  We are to long for Christ and Heaven.

Even so, we also have another promise.  Christ promised in John 10:10 that He came that we might have abundant life now.  We are supposed to have an easy yoke and light burden now, as we follow Him in this life (see Matthew 11:29-30).  When we think of eternal life, we tend to think primarily of living forever in Heaven.  That is true insofar as it goes.  But it is an eternal kind of life that begins the moment we turn to Christ to follow Him and continues into Heaven after we die.  It doesn’t wait until then to start.

Let’s do two things to help ourselves as we work in this world now.  First, let’s live in the abundance of life we have through the Spirit’s dwelling in us and leading us to become more like Christ now.  Second, let’s look to the hope of a future when all remnants of the fall are done away with for good, when the foretastes of Heaven we experience on Earth now reach their fulfillment in eternity, never to be disrupted again.  And let’s apply all of this to our work as we serve our King.

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