Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leisurely Labor

I haven't had internet for a week.

I love it. Instead, I've spent time working around the house. There's something satisfying about manual labor that makes me feel relieved. Sitting on the computer, I don't necessarily accomplish anything tangible, and it's easy to waste a lot of time. The feeling of ..shame, I guess?.. over not having done anything for many hours stresses me. When I shut the computer, get up and work with my hands, rather than feel tired, I feel relaxed. I get energized. I love the end result after a day's labor. Or even an hour's labor.

That's an interesting thing to note: work is exciting at first, but can have a tendency to get tedious as time drags on. The trick to keeping up productivity is to avoid letting work become toil. What fascinated me a while back was the discovery that we are created to work. Genesis 2:15 says, "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." I take two things away from this. One is that upkeep, on some level, is a "good thing," and not the result of sin, because Adam was given this duty before he fell. Secondly, whatever it is about work that causes aches, pain, exhaustion, suffering et cetera is a side effect of living in a cursed world.

Genesis 3:17 gives more insight: Then to Adam He [God] said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Tending/keeping and toil are distinct from each other. Work is good for you. Toil is bad, though sadly necessary in many cases. Work is rejuvenating. Toil is draining. Work, like everything good, is a gift from God (James 1:17). Toil is a curse. So you can see that labor isn't all bad, but there is a definite negative aspect to it that we do well to avoid. How? I haven't thought that far yet, but walking with God and keeping His commandments seems like a start. Praying and reading the Word. It seems silly until you do it. I remember being perplexed over how early universities in the middle ages mainly taught religion. I've had a change of perspective since then. When you have the right foundation, everything else snaps into focus much more easily.

Work will be a part of eternity. So work existed before toil, and will continue to be a part of the Creation afterwards. Toil, like death and suffering and all other sorts of things are the result of sin (Romans 5:12), and will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Burdensome labor is an enemy. Leisurely labor is a divine gift. What a difference that perspective makes! It is better to work than to not work. This understanding will keep me from working too hard, or from giving up on working, in the hopes that I'll find rest in inactivity. The truth is that I won't. So while I'm here on earth, there's work to do, and I'm happy to set about doing it. 

Are you feeling tired at work? Or anxious from not doing anything? Take heart! Mix work and rest for best results. 
~ Rak Chazak

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