Work and Rest

Many people may feel that work is a nothing but a curse that was imposed upon man as a punishment after Adam and Eve sinned and ate the forbidden fruit in the garden.

It is true that man’s work became frustrating and difficult as punishment for what Adam had done, but the concept of work, in and of itself, is not the concept of a curse but of something divine. How do we know this? Scripture repeatedly uses the word “work” to refer to God’s act of creation:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3)

Work was not the only thing that became more difficult during the fall. Relationships and childbearing were also cursed. Of course, this does not mean that society should refrain from relationships or from childbearing anymore than from work. Rather than seeing these things as curses in and of themselves simply because they are often difficult or frustrating, scripture would have us see them as beautiful opportunities to join with God in creation.

Genesis seems to emphasize the fact that work is divine in the way that it repeats the word “work” multiple times to describe God’s actions, but scripture is equally clear about another important part of life: rest. All throughout scripture, the Sabbath rest is emphasized and reemphasized and is specifically applied to all people.

Many of us who do indeed look at work as a curse have no problem seeing rest as divine. But as with all things, we must of course strive for balance in our lives. The book of Proverbs gives us plenty of warning against resting too much and too often:

“How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest’—Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:9-11)

Some of us want to do nothing but work, and we have to be reminded of our limitations and our need to step back and recuperate and see the bigger picture from time to time. Others of us want to do nothing but rest, and we have to be reminded that while our work here is often cursed with difficulty, it is in reality a sharing in the work of God as He created this world and sent us out with a commission to “fill the earth and subdue it.”

May we all do some work, and get some rest, this week.

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