Work. Is it a curse or is it really a blessing? Ask anyone who is out of work these days and you will probably hear that it is a blessing. Ask anyone who is fed up with their job and you will likely hear that it is a curse. Unfortunately, our first thoughts on this subject may not be such positive ones. Why exactly is that? Could it be due to our American culture? While work IS a four-letter word and is often thought of in a sarcastic way, perhaps one of the reasons we have such a negative attitude is that we blame this on Adam and Eve and “the fall” as the reason we have to work (ref. Genesis 3:17-19, 23). We tend to overlook or forget the part in Genesis 2:15 where God put Adam in the garden to “cultivate and care for it.” We tend to forget that “work” was part of God’s plan all along. Think about it. If there was no work involved for Adam and Eve to eat, they would become inactive and fat and lazy. God knew that wouldn’t be good for them, so He always intended for work to be part of His plan.
In spite of Adam and Eve’s mistakes in the Garden of Eden, I am sure God in His infinite mercy gave them some skill and knowledge on how to cultivate and care for the earth as God had wanted them to. How can we relate to Adam and Eve? God gives all of us skills and talents we need in order to do what He has created us to do. It is up to us to develop these skills and talents further and utilize them in our world, in our work. (There’s that four-letter word again!) When I think of the many ways in which we contribute to the world by our work, I am amazed at the talents, skills and abilities He gives us, including what He has given me over the years. I have been privileged to do a variety of work, and I thank God for being able to learn many things through my work, including some challenging lessons.
There’s a show on TV called “Dirty Jobs” where the host goes into various work environments where it is smelly, dirty, and often the workers are doing unusual things. Not many of us would want to handle big, dangerous snakes, pump sludge, or remove dead cows from farms. Most of us have much more pleasant, cleaner, safer jobs. My point is we all have different abilities, and we are all called to do different things. I think it takes a special kind of person to do a specific job and do it well, but some tasks seem so ordinary we don’t think they’re so special—like trash collection, for instance. But where would we be without these ‘sanitation engineers’? We may be tempted to think that particular job doesn’t require a lot of talent or skill, except maybe when they take that mechanical arm to ‘hug’ the bin and lift it so they can empty it. I am grateful for these workers and many others who, by their work, make our world a better place to live. Aren’t all of us called to do that also?
The next time you’re out and about, consider all the different things people do. We regularly meet pharmacists, grocery baggers and stockers, cashiers, police, firefighters, emergency workers, healthcare workers, you name it. All we have to do is look around. I invite you to think of the challenges they face and the skills they need to use daily as they work and help people and, hopefully, make our world a better place to live by doing their job and doing it well. As we reflect on this, let’s also thank God for making each of us a bit different in that regard. We all contribute in different ways, and our work is important in its own way.
In our prayer, do we thank God for the talents, skills and abilities He has given us and helped us to develop? Do we thank Him for the lessons we have learned in the process? Do we see our work as an opportunity to serve our fellow man and God, as well as earn a living? Or do we see our work as a burden and subconsciously blame Adam and Eve and some fruit they picked off a tree long ago? Just what IS our attitude towards our work anyway? Do we see it as a blessing or as a curse? It’s something to think about.
(NOTE: March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph the worker. He can teach us a lot about the spirit of work. I invite you to “Google” on this saint to learn more.)
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Copyright © 2010 by Theresa M. Williams