Our culture tends to view work as a curse. One should try to avoid it whenever possible. When it can't be avoided, one should do only what is agreed to by contract in the job description. After all, one works only because it is obligatory to making money; so rear your kids to think in terms of careers that are the quickest and surest ways to get rich. Money, after all, is the only thing that makes the "necessary evil" that is work slightly more palatable.
Not a single one of the very common ideas expressed on the paragraph above is true - except the first one. Our culture does view work as an odious curse, an irritating nuisance, an annoying obligation. From the point of view of Christian Scripture and theology, work is actually a holdover from paradise lost.
While many Bible readers I have asked tell me that work is part of the curse imposed on humans after Adam's sin, a closer reading of the text belies such a view. The opening of the biblical drama has God creating a beautiful land called Eden and creating a human being in his very own image into that perfect place. Then Scripture says: "The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to work the land and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15).
True enough, sin and the expulsion of the original pair from their paradise home made everything more difficult. The land would not be so plentiful to yield its crops - and would now also include weeds, thorns, and other obstacles to its fruitfulness. But work itself was part of God's original good plan for humans.
Adam and Eve, Ivan and Yelena, Jose and Maria - all are better served by work than idleness. By honorable work, we acknowledge the image of God we bear. We are creative and generative. We produce and can share. We become co-regents with God in taking care of the created order entrusted to us.
Perhaps it should be noted that even the commandment about Sabbath, rest, and worship presupposes that work is as much a part of the divine will as rest: "Six days you shall work and take care of your everyday tasks, but the seventh is a Sabbath day of rest from those things and is dedicated to the Lord."
Work, then, is a blessed holdover from Eden. It is not a curse, a necessary evil, or merely a means for getting by. It is partnership with the Creator.
View your work, then, as a calling or vocation by which God is served. Not just the preacher in his study but the farmer in providing food, the teacher in passing along knowledge and skills, the physician in restoring health, the lawyer in pursuing justice, and the parent mentoring children is honoring God.
Think of your job this week as a calling by which God is served and human lives are blessed. A sense of drudgery just might give way to delight, and you might think you have had a tiny glimpse into Eden.
Dr Rubel Shelly is Pastor of Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Nashville and authors Fax of Life a weekly service. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. To subscribe to Fax of Life, send email tofaxOfLife@woodmont.org