In the garden of Eden work was always a joy. Obviously, today, work and mankind’s attitude to work is very different. Man’s disobedience to God and the entry of sin into the world brought about a profound disruption in the world God had made, Genesis 3.1-11; Romans 5.12-21; Romans 8.19-21.
WORK AND THE FALL – Genesis 3
God’s judgement and the consequences of sin affected every area of human life, including work, Genesis 3.17-19. We briefly note seven points.
- God’s creation purpose that humanity should work to subdue the earth. Genesis 1.28, is unchanged by the Fall. God does not change his commands to suit our sin. Man is still to be a worker, Genesis 3.17.
- As a result of man’s rebellion, God cursed the ground, 3.17. The ground, the dust, is what Adam is made of, Genesis 2.7. By this God shows is wrath without directly cursing Adam. Adam was the head of creation and as the head of creation falls because of sin, so all creation falls with him, Romans 8.20.
- As a result of man’s rebellion, our work becomes ‘painful toil’, Genesis 3.17. God does not directly curse Adam, but curses the ground from which Adam was made, Genesis 2.7, and on which he labours.
- Also, Adam has now changed. He has become a sinner, with an innate antipathy to obeying God’s commands including the command to work. Thus Adam and his descendents now tend to perceive work in a negative way, Proverbs 6.6; 2 Thessalonians 3.6.
- As a result of sin, nature is set against man, Genesis 3.18. It is the weeds and the thistles which will grow effortlessly and need no cultivation. Thorns and thistles are eloquent signs of nature untamed and encroaching; in the OT they mark the scenes of man’s self-defeat and God’s judgement, Proverbs 24.30, 31; Isaiah 34.13.
- As a result of man’s sin, work becomes necessary in terms of a struggle for human survival, Genesis 3.19; Proverbs 10.4.
- As a consequence of man’s rebellion, although man was created by God to subdue the ground, Genesis 1.28, now it is ultimately that the ground will subdue man – he will die, Genesis 3.19. ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return.’
After the Fall man’s need to work remains but the nature of it has changed. While work can still be a source of blessing, it has now become something of an onerous task which always has a tragic end, Ecclesiastes 2.17-23.
- The difficulties we find in the workplace and the dislike we experience towards work is a revelation to us that we are sinners before a holy God. Though mankind may work as hard as it likes and produce all kinds of amazing technology we can never build heaven on earth or get ourselves back into paradise through works. This points us to our need of God’s grace in the gospel and of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Revelation 21.5.
- The Fall has brought enormously destructive tensions within the sphere of work. It particular, historically, the heightened need for efficiency has often assigned the worker a task which reduces him / her to little more than an unthinking machine. Many people have ‘jobs’ but what they do has little fulfilment and is hardly what God intended work to be. ‘The Christian has to argue that until it is accepted that the quality of the workers who leave the factory doors each evening is a more important thing than the quality of the products it delivers to its customers, the employment experience is likely to continue to violate the dignity and humanity of many workers.’ Carl F. H. Henry
This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.