No one likes chores. No one likes duties that are not thought of as fun and chores, almost by definition, are not fun.
Talk to any child raised on a farm and they will tell you of chores and hard work, even before going to school for the day! (We remember the Little House on the Prairie television series showing farm life in bygone days.)
Learning how to work is simply something that must be done. Confucius said: “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty as the son who neglects them.”
The Jewish Tamud, Kiddushin 29a, outlines the responsibilities of a Jewish father to his son. The father was obligated to circumcise his son, to redeem him if he is the firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade.
The parent was to teach the child a trade, thereby enabling the child to become a productive member of society who was able to support himself as an adult and, prayerfully, have a wife and children to propagate the family line. All of this was in question though if the child could not be employed in a trade so that he could earn a wage to accomplish these goals.
Clearly, working was seen as an important part of one’s life. Indeed, Paul wrote some very stern words:
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10
Scripture says that God worked when He created the universe.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
Then, shortly after these two verses, we read that Adam was to work in the garden.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
What was Adam’s job? How did he “work it”?
“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”
Adam had the incredible job of naming all the animals and birds.
Of course, we know that sin entered the world while Adam and Eve were in the garden and our first parents were expelled therefrom. At that point, work was no longer merely tending the plants and animals. Rather, it became exceedingly difficult.
“And to Adam he [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.””
So, perhaps our angst about work is the continuation of the rebellion that began in the Garden. Perhaps our resentment for having to work is simply a modern description of an ancient condition – perhaps it is nothing other than sin, disobedience to God, rejecting God’s plan and inserting ourselves into God’s place so that we believe we are the master of our own universe.
How do we see these things correctly? Solomon noted:
“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.”
Matthew Henry said of this verse:
Life is God’s gift, and he has appointed us the number of the days of our life (Job 14:5); let us therefore spend those days in serving the Lord our God with joyfulness and gladness of heart. We must not do the business of our calling as a drudgery, and make ourselves slaves to it, but we must rejoice in our labour, not grasp at more business than we can go through without perplexity and disquiet but take a pleasure in the calling wherein God has put us, and go on in the business of it with cheerfulness.
So why do we have such difficulty with chores and work? Why is “work” almost a forbidden dirty word in our culture today?
Perhaps we need to confess our sin, our rebellion, our rejection of God’s order and realign our vision to be consistent with God’s viewpoint. Work is something that we must have to thrive, both from a financial standpoint but also from a psychological and emotional standpoint. We need to accomplish things during our day, and those things are especially blessed if they are in line with God’s directives for us.
Father, forgive me when I have seen work as drudgery or as something to run away from. Enable me to see my life’s work through your eyes, as a means of glorifying You and of spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Your Son to those around me.