When Furrows Fight Back: A Theology of Work

Complaining about work is the adult equivalent of college students complaining about mid-terms and finals. And let’s be real, we all have those days when work feels like a weight too heavy to carry and “Everybody’s working for the weekend” is our theme song.

We are wired for work. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a result of the fall. Challenges in work and struggles with identity around work were most assuredly a consequence of man’s rebellion against God’s created and careful order; however, work itself honors God and is a needed part of human flourishing.

In his pattern of the perfect world He had newly minted, God offered Adam and Eve significant freedom to do significant work on the fresh earth. There were animals to name and gardens to tame. Carl Linnaeus had nothing on them. Work was not a burden, but a particular privilege for those made uniquely in God’s image.

However, in Genesis 3, when God explained the natural consequences of rebellion against His good order, he included work in his description of the curse.

“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, til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

But its not all thorns and thistles. He who wore a crown of thorns also had hands blistered from the beautiful work of carpentry. As such, both Christ’s active and passive righteousness inform our view of work. Our work is not in vain when done Coram Dei (before the face of God). As those who have been made right with God, we are freed to work under His favor. We don’t work to secure it, we work freely because it has been secured.

One day, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, we will experience meaningful, nuanced work that fits the way we were wired by God. We will roll up our sleeves happily and without stress, without sin, without the haunting need to provide security or provision. For our Christ will be all of those things and we will see Him face to face.

Furrows 

God intended faithful furrows,
The product of purposed labor,
The contented crown of creation
Working out of His full favor. 

Pushing against His protection, 
We sought power and control. 
Collapse and consequent curse 
Thoroughly took a terrible toll. 

Now the furrows fight back 
And enemies plow our backs,
Bruised bodies, furrowed brows,
Heavy plows on tired tracks. 

But the faithful, flawless Son
Gave His body for our flaws. 
His beautiful back was furrowed
To secure redemption’s cause. 

As the beloved, we labor in hope.
We dig furrows, He brings fruit. 
We faithfully cultivate our place,
As branches fed by the root.
 

If the proverbial furrows are fighting back as you work this week, know that the work story is not over yet. If your eyes are stinging from the sweat dropping from your brow, know that one day, those eyes will behold the One who sanctifies our work with His life, death, and resurrection.

Keep your hand on the plow and your eyes on the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith.

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