The Nature of Work

As we continue in our series called The God of Faith and Work, it is important that we understand up front what work is. Imagine the following exchange taking place at a neighborhood park this weekend:

It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sarah!

Nice to meet you as well, Catherine. Do you live around here?

Yes, we’re close enough to walk here. How about you?

We’re a couple of miles away, but this is our favorite park.

We love it too. (Seeing Sarah’s kids on the swing set…) You have three little ones?

Actually, we have four. Our oldest is with my husband at baseball practice. (Chuckling.) He helps out with the kids at least on the weekend! We’re both pretty busy during the week because he travels a lot, and I’ve been swamped at the office lately with patients.

Oh, so you’re a doctor?

Yep, I’m a family practice doctor, and there’s a nasty virus going around. I see you have young ones of your own. Do you work?

(Understanding, but offended.) Ever since our second was born I’ve not had a job outside the home.

We’d like to think that Sarah would not be so insensitive, but her all-too-likely last remark illustrates a fundamental link we make in post-Industrial Revolution America: if it’s “real work,” we get a paycheck for it.

Consider the first description of human work, though, which we find in Genesis 2:

Genesis 2:15
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Adam was not receiving a paycheck for working the Garden, y’all. It also goes without saying that His divine model for work, the Lord God himself, had been at work in creation and wasn’t expecting a W-2.

Due to our economy’s structure, in almost every case someone in the family must receive monetary compensation for working. This “breadwinning” function is important and falls ultimately on the husband (Genesis 2:15; Ephesians 5:22–25; 1 Timothy 5:8). Nonetheless, anytime we are exerting ourselves to manage God’s creation—whether that’s by creating Excel spreadsheets, hauling wood, or changing diapers—we are working. Viewed in this light, we see that work accounts for much more of our time than 40, 50, or even 60 hours a week.

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