(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018. This critical topic was later included in the book. I invite you to check it out. This article follows what I shared six months ago about how work was impacted by the fall in Genesis 3. See original post entitled “Thorns and Thistles“. I also invite you to read an article on how to apply these principles here.)
Christians understand from reading Gen.3 that Adam’s sin and God’s subsequent pronouncement of severe consequences directly impacts our work. This is the new normal – work will be unproductive, painful, unnecessarily difficult, filled with strife between co-workers, and set in an environment that is counter to God’s original design of Edenic perfection. In some cases, work can be far more than just really hard. There are many people who die each year on the job due to stress or other job-related health issues, fatal accidents due to dangerous conditions in the factory or on the football field, etc. The truth of the matter is that this is the way work will remain until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to set us and the creation free from this bondage. (See Rom. 8:19-22.)
So, how do we respond to these challenges that face us all from 9-5 and beyond?
In a presentation on the theology of work that I prepared last year, I provided some points worth considering. Most of these suggestions are from Sherman and Hendricks, in Your Work Matters to God. The first observation is encouraging; the next two are not so much; yet they are true nonetheless, and need to be accepted.
- Christ’s death does not change work, but it does change the worker (2 Cor. 5:17)
- The work environment remains uncooperative and is marked by futility (Eccl. 1:2-9)
- People are going to be sinful (including you)
- Although we cannot completely change the world, nor those we work with, we can be agents of reform (be salt and light)
- Understanding the impacts of the fall puts a different perspective on trials
The fourth bullet reminds us that even though we must accept the fact that this world will be as it is until Christ’s return, it doesn’t mean that we cannot be agents of change. Jesus spoke of being salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) to challenge us to influence others.
The last bullet is one I recently grasped while reading a book on this subject. It became obvious to me that many of the trials I have experienced in life have come while on the job, and are good examples of the “thorns” and “thistles” we talked about earlier. By remembering that we live in a fallen world, I can lower my expectations a bit. Instead of expecting things to be perfect all of the time and surprised when trials come our way, perhaps we should expect things to be hard all the time, and joyfully surprised when a blessing comes our way.
I found a great example of a work-related major trial that is a direct result of the Fall in Habakkuk 3:17: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” This is the same advice that James gives in his letter (James 1:2-4); we are to choose to rejoice in our trials because the testing of our faith develops perseverance.
Whenever I come against one more computer outage, one more disgruntled employee, one more unreasonable demand, one more paper jam in the copier, or one more weakness in myself that makes my job more difficult than it needs to be, I am reminded that these trials are a direct result of sin: either Adam’s, mine, or others’. I purposefully call to mind that God will provide the grace to get me through it and that my character is being built through suffering (Rom. 5:3-5). This gives me hope and a sense of God’s presence at work.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.