The following post is reprinted with the permission of Crossworld and author John Spadafora.
In his book Dwell: Life with God for the World, Barry D. Jones appropriately called the fall of humanity into sin “the vandalism of shalom.” Four cosmic judgments in Genesis 3 explain the present world and how it impacts our work.
Judgment on the Serpent/Satan (3:14-15) | There is enmity, hostility, and antagonism between those who follow Jesus and those who do not, which ultimately reflects the enmity between Jesus and Satan. This reality is fundamental to understanding the suffering that people encounter as they integrate their faith into their life and work.
Judgment on the Woman (3:16) | The issues in our world revolving around sexuality and gender identity begin here, as the woman’s pain in childbirth and her desire to rule over man contrasts with man’s rule over her. Relational violations and difficulties between men and women at home and in the workplace are as old as history.
Judgment on the Man (3:17-19) | The difficulties and frustrations we encounter in our work are due not only to the judgment on creation, but also to the judgment on man. The New Testament expounds much on the innate sinfulness of humanity as a result of man’s disobedience and his need for redemption.
- Judgment on the Creation (3:17-19) | These verses, as well as Romans 8:18-23, refer to the environment or nature that is cursed and in bondage at the present time. Remember: Work itself as a reflection of a working God is not cursed, but “cursed is the ground.”
The consequences of these judgments manifest themselves in the struggles that everyone faces while making a living. Many factors inform the extent to which people enjoy their work. Pay scales, health, family and workplace relationships, the relative justice of policies and environment, the extent to which we’re working in our giftedness, and the extent to which we embrace a biblical perspective of work — all of these factors contribute to feelings of either futility or satisfaction in our work. Those who are privileged to enjoy their work may experience a lesser degree of struggle, but no one is completely exempt from the results of the fall.
Instead of worshipping the only true Creator God, humanity now worships various idols, seeking salvation for this life or the life to come. The result of this corruption is that work is hard and disappointing; it’s characterized by the innate selfishness of fallen man and resultant conflicts. Stemming from this are feelings of guilt, shame, and fear that are often masked by pride. The entrance of sin means our world is broken, people are exploited, and life does not work as God intended. This only increases where the gospel has had little or no influence.
Each work culture presents its own peculiar manifestations of evil and idolatry. Healthcare culture is distinguished from education culture. Corporate culture differs from arts culture. Blue collar culture stands apart from white collar. In addition, there is the temptation across the board to consider economic prosperity — a good thing in itself — as an end, the god that makes life work.
However, in spite of his corruption, man is still made in the image of God. Unregenerate humanity still reflects God’s image in works of art, music, and literature; achievements in sports; increasing development of technology and science; and last but not least, the ability to love and care for other people.