After the fall, work did become a curse. And sin entered the world and caused stuff to get really muddled. But God still blesses his people with talents, gifts, and abilities that allow our work to sometimes also be fulfilling. Meaningful work that reflects God's image in us can be a joy, even though it is still saddled with pain and the thorns of pride, greed, envy, strife, and fear. Imagine what it must have been like for Adam and Eve in paradise, free from accusation and contempt. Although we are not as free as Adam and Eve, we are still image bearers who have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who enables us to develop and use our gifts.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits...
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103 2.5
Despite the sin and falleness and brokeness that we see and experience in this world and in our own lives, God is still Good and Great and Gentle with us, desiring to give us good things (from an eternal perspective). He has not changed. And He has blessed us with many great benefits that we tend to forget. It's like my students. When they first join, they are given all the briefings and brochures that tell them everything that is available to them, all that they are entitled to as members of the organization. But they've got a thousand things on their minds and some of it just doesn't seem all that relevant at the time, so they forget. And often when they need to use the benefits the most, they can't even remember how to apply.
And so we need to actively REMEMBER His benefits and apply them. Realizing His wonderous benefits, we are motivated to praise Him with our words and deeds!
So, what about these benefits of his? Well, Jesus was the "Second Adam" and He lived perfectly. He loved perfectly. All of His work was done joyfully unto the Lord and it blessed others. He emptied Himself of His glory to suffer worse than a common criminal FOR US, on the cross. His work was the perfect performance. His act was the final work. As He said from the cross, "It is finished." All that the law required was accomplished by Him and through Him with His vicarious death for us. The price that had to be paid to redeem us from our helpless estate was paid in full.
How does that change work? Because all effort to work for the purpose of achievement, accomplishment, atonement has been fulfilled. And all work that is done strictly for wages has ended. The wages of our work, sin-ladened as it is, would only be death for us. But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ. Our "work" is an act of worship and submission motivated by the love of God in us. It is not so much work, as it is an act of gratitude and praise to our Heavenly Father. As an act of worship and praise, just imagine how much more excellent and wonderful our work is, in regards to both quantity and quality, than the person who is merely working for a wage - to pay back their employer that $10 per hour that they think they owe. Because the price we were bought with is so much more valuable than any currency, or silver or gold or any earthly treasure, we could never, never, ever pay it back to Him anyway.
So, to see all of work (as with all of life) an act of praise and worship that glorifies God is first and foremost freeing and it actually results in a much, much higher standard of excellence than our trying to earn or acheive something ever could. Consider Paul's words in Rom 12 just after he has unfolded all of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, His son:
Rom 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters :-), in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Is it any wonder that this is the introduction to the section of Romans 12 on serving the Body of Christ and using our gifts to glorify God and bless other people? If only I could remember. If only I could live this. I do believe it! But Lord help my unbelief. Give me a renewed heart that lives this way at work and in the covenantal body of Christ.
I shared this with my neice Britney the other day too, because she is 18 and having a hard time deciding what to do about juggling college, a career, and a relationship. So, if her mom is reading this too, go ahead and tell me what you think of all my ramblings....