The Bible, Man, and Work

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The Bible, Man, and Work

Work is writ large throughout the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, man is to work (Gen. 2; cf. Prov. 19:15; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). The idle man is not looked upon favorably either in Scripture or in society.

The alarming increase of unemployed men has generated a plethora of articles and debates. As of today, 16 percent of American men are not employed. According to the New York Times report,

Working, in America, is in decline. The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list.

While there are several reasons for this shocking news, the recent recession that hit many sectors of work contributed significantly to this rise of male unemployment. As Allison Schrager points out:

What happened to men’s jobs during the recession reflects a long-term trend of middle-skill jobs, in industries like manufacturing, disappearing from the economy. They don’t come back as the economy recovers, which explains, in part, why unemployment persisted as the economy recovered.

Should the unemployment rate continue to rise among men, this will surely bring various societal structural struggles and changes. Among others, it will heighten the continued discussions of the role of men in modern society and “in the shifts that are reshaping society.”

Beyond the evolving cultural and societal definition of man and his role, one inspired writer ever reminds us that:

To the dwellers in Eden was committed the care of the garden, “to dress it and to keep it.” Their occupation was not wearisome, but pleasant and invigorating. God appointed labor as a blessing to man, to occupy his mind, to strengthen his body, and to develop his faculties. In mental and physical activity Adam found one of the highest pleasures of his holy existence. And when, as a result of his disobedience, he was driven from his beautiful home, and forced to struggle with a stubborn soil to gain his daily bread, that very labor, although widely different from his pleasant occupation in the garden, was a safeguard against temptation and a source of happiness. Those who regard work as a curse, attended though it be with weariness and pain, are cherishing an error. The rich often look down with contempt upon the working classes, but this is wholly at variance with God’s purpose in creating man. What are the possessions of even the most wealthy in comparison with the heritage given to the lordly Adam? Yet Adam was not to be idle. Our Creator, who understands what is for man’s happiness, appointed Adam his work. The true joy of life is found only by the working men and women.—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 50.

Elsewhere she adds,

The thorn and the thistle—the difficulties and trials that make [man’s] life one of toil and care—were appointed for his good as a part of the training needful in God’s plan for his uplifting from the ruin and degradation that sin has wrought.—Steps to Christ, 10.

 

 

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Valmy Karemera is associate editor of The Compass Magazine and posts daily news updates on the Compass Twitter page. Originally from Rwanda, he now lives and works in Texas with his family.