Is Work really Work?

And to Adam He said, Because you have listened and given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life.

Gen 3:17

Change of View

We have an understanding of work today that is changing. My generation and the ones before me—I am a baby boomer—pretty much have two believes about work. One is stated above, and expressed even better in the following verse:

In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return.

Gen 3:19

The other one is based on this verse:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

2Th 3:10

Put straight forward:

  • Work hard until you die.
  • Work or die.

Obviously, this has softened with the institutions of social security and retirement, and today in the western world it is but almost impossible to die of poverty. That is a good thing.

But younger generations have a different view of work. They do not talk of work-life-balance anymore—the great achievement of my generation—but of work-life-blend. For somebody with above view of work that is a step back, because we see work swapping over and flooding our free time. Generation X and onward look at it the other way around: our free time taking hold of work. What does that mean?

Work-Life-Blend

Hobbies, things we like, pass-times becoming what we do for a living. Work being so much fun that we do not see it as work any longer. Work we love so we easily and without toil push through difficulties as we would with hobbies.

Generation X is a generation of artists to some degree. Artists always valued passion over income. They always were ready to stretch to follow their passion.

For us, this surely looks like living according to the pleasure principle. And there is a danger to fall into that. As there is the danger for social security to be taken advantage of, or hard work to become our pride and identity.

But imagine having a passion for your work instead of doing it out of economic necessity. Imagine having the stamina and grit to overcome difficulties worth overcoming because you love what you do, instead of using your energy to get up and going in the morning. Imagine having the boldness to change your whole direction and career to do what you are good at and love doing, instead of being faithful to a decision you made as a teenager as to what your life was to be.

Imagine doing what you are called to, gifted and equipped for.

Change of Work

Work is going to change in the future anyway.

Google is working on the autonomous car without driver. Once they are established and maybe even demanded by law because of accident rates dropping dramatically, there is no need for taxi drivers, driving teachers, chauffeurs, and truck drivers any longer.

News agencies use computers to generate agency messages more and more, and algorithms even write a growing number of articles we read on a daily basis. Journalism will not die—I am not ready to accept that quite yet—but will journalists and news papers be payed for their work in the future? At least, the number of people earning their living in that profession by being payed for their writing will shrink. Think of editors, lectors, publishers, book sellers.

This is an ongoing story: coal miners, farmers, saddlers, blacksmiths. Add your own from memories and times past.

This change will make it necessary for many to change their career around during their lifetime. And as you can see from above examples, it will not only affect blue collar workers, but also intellectual jobs.

My own profession—computer programming—will undergo a fundamental change with the advent and maturing of artificial intelligence. Instead of ever growing libraries and ever changing architectures and languages, we will see programming becoming substantially less difficult and ubiquitous. Just like typewriting, it will become an essential skill of—just about everybody.

To program will become something you just do. And then there will be the art form of programming, doing the extra-special, the tip of the spear of computer science, artificial intelligence, computer art, and computer entertainment.

To keep it somewhat short: work will change.

Is this bad?

I want to look at all this from a biblical standpoint.

Is it good to do what you are called for? Is God equipping you for whatever he asks of you? Is God sadistic and pressures you into doing what you hate, or is he loving and gives you passion for what he asks you to do?

I am not talking about us doing whatever we want or feel like. I am talking about us finding our lives purpose and passion and acting on it.

Our generation taught that we have to do what we have to do and tell ourselves that we better have fun doing it, taking the toil out of work by submitting to its necessity. Even if meaningless.

We found ways to justify the meaninglessness by searching for meta-meaning:

  • I learn stamina and faithfulness, therefore I grow.
  • It’s about the people at the workplace. I will be an example for them.
  • Somebody has to do this work. Let me learn to serve.

All of these reasons are valuable. And if you know that God put you where you are, stay there. This is great. But do not make these reasons the straw you hold on to to get you going in the morning in the first place. I know what I am talking about.

Work in the Bible

Yes, it is true that whoever does not work should not eat. But does that mean that work still has to be toiling and sweating? And by toiling and sweating, neither I nor the Bible only mean physical toil and sweat, but hardship. A banker or a programmer can toil and sweat, believe me.

Toil and sweat is part of the curse. Jesus on the cross reversed the curse. He not only gave us the power to overcome, but restored circumstances to their paradisiacal state. Most of it still has to manifest because we do not believe nor see it yet. but it is finished.

Creation still is waiting for its restoration to happen. Not because it has not happened yet, but we have not executed on it. Creation is waiting on us to become the sons of God we are. Until then, it will still be hard to earn a living.

But realising who I am changes all that. Let us walk in our authority and identity. And work will not be work as we understand it. Work will be living out our passion and calling in boldness and authority. Work will have meaning. There will be the ultimate work-life-blend.

Maslow Pyramid understood

Abraham Maslow came up with this pyramid. It tells us our needs and that lower needs have to be met in order for higher needs to matter. It states needs from bottom to top in five categories:

Physiological (food, air, water), safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualisation.

I see the pyramid almost on its tip. Self-actualisation, growth, thinking different, taking on our new identity as sons of God will actually give us esteem because we esteem each other higher than ourselves, we know that we are loved and belong to God and his family and that he will provide for us. Go at it top down in trust, not bottom up in independence.

Our view of work and life will change.

Are you ready for it? What does it look like for you?

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Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.