Work, a Curse ?
Pr. Emmanuel P. G.
There is no grater joy on earth than the joy of seeing the fruit of one’s labor. Job satisfaction, meaningfulness of life, feeling worthwhile, feeling successful and seeing the establishment of the work of one’s hands is the major motivation behind all human accomplishments. The pain dissolves in the gain. To work is nature’s gift and God’s ordination for humans. Humans work, and cannot not work - by nature even a 100 year old, whose psycho-motor functions are not in good control willfully works enjoys doing things. In this view unemployment and laziness are curses.
Work and its fruit are Nature’s Gift and God’s Ordination
By nature humans are workers. Young or Old, Humans are Doers. 9 year old and 90 year old enjoy working. Idling time is heavily criticized by the Bible, and by almost all cultures. Having no appointment is disappointment and a curse. No meaning in life leads to suicides, which is not found among other beings. The reward is primarily satisfaction of the mind and secondarily satisfaction of the stomach.
The little hen’s celebration at the sight of the little egg it laid; a child’s excitement on the painting she has done, the boasting and broadcasting of people of their accomplishments all declare this innate nature.A collapse of such hopes, the sense of fruitlessness and the sense of being unsuccessful is equally discouraging. Bible portrays the first as a blessing of God, and the second as an unwholesome state, a curse possibly resulting from a deviation from the will of God.So, it is not the work, but the toil with poor returns that is depicted as the result of a curse.
Greed, Disobedience and Curse
The curse and toil teaching is given in an agrarian context where the earth is less productive, and the toil to maintain one’s family is increasing day by day. At this discouragement of the ever-increasing toil due to the ever decreasing fertility and productivity of the soil humans recite the curse at Eden. This makes people rashly interpret work as the result of curse instead of the toil. They use the Bible verse from Genesis 317-19. A climatic change, collapse in the productivity of the earth and the increasing hurdles in cultivation are depicted here as the reasons for the toil. So, the curse actually is the hazards of cultivation and of sustenance.
When work is actually a pleasure the donkeywork and the struggle required to maintain one’s familyis the result of the curse, the fruit of rebellion. Hadn’t humanity been fallen, and the earth been cursed, humanity would have enjoyed so much more greatly their work, its fruit and the rest.
The fall of the earth is an ongoing process as humans continue in their greed, rebellion and disobedience.The indiscriminate commercialized and mechanical exploitations, mining, use of chemicals and pesticides, dumping of wastes and pollutants and the nuclear dangers requires of us to write soon an elegy on the death of the earth. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation India said the earth has sufficient resources to meet the needs of humans, but not their greed. The Earth Summits and the Climate Summits are sounding the siren alerting us of the impending danger.
Leviticus 26:18 (NIV) -If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. 20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.
Hope of Reinstating
Bible also gives hope for the earth to be reinstated to its pristine glory. There is the hope of plentitude, where even the enmity between predators and preys will cease and peace of the kingdom of God will prevail on earth (Isaiah 65:17ff).
Romans 8:19-21 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Leviticus 26:3- 5(NIV)
3. If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4. I will send you rain in its season and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.
5. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
So, the insufficiency, poor quality and poor productivity of the land, hungry stomachs, the struggle for family maintenance, and the overarching need for long hours of toil are the villains that give work this negative paint. These can be rectified.
Cries of the Worker Today
Work is painted ghastly by the worker‘s burden, sweat and tears, and the struggles for survival. The bread earner’s back is broken when hazards are very high, when the climate is adverse, and when the returns are too low. When agriculture was the backbone of the economy everyone had to suffer the brunt of this struggle. But things became different with industrialization, mechanization, technical, technological and scientific advancement. But still the cry of the worker is echoed through farmer suicides, cry of victims of slave trade, bonded labor, human trafficking child labor, unemployment, and underpayment. Similar cries are rising from bankrupt business people, struggling craftsmen, and people working at hazardous situations and unjust working conditions.
The Industrial revolution, mechanization of agriculture and industry, the technical, technological, and scientific advances have radically changed the equations of labor, productivity, income, and working conditions. The international concern for better working conditions, reasonable pay, food security and social welfare have smoothened the situation. The fourth stage of industrial revolution is now working on avoiding the humdrum of the industrial labor. The cry of the worker is being heard and dealt with more effectively.
The National Crime Records Bureau, an office of the Ministry of Home Affairs Government of India, has been collecting and publishing suicide statistics for India since the 1950s, It has noted that of all other sectors more suicides have been reported from the farming sector (especially small scale commercial farmers) owing to the higher risks like failure of crops, climatic changes, higher interest rates charged by private money lenders, debt trap, and unavailability of cheap bank loans etc. (National Crime Reports Bureau, ADSI Report Annual – 2014 Government of India, Page 242, Table 2.11).
Farmers’ suicide is a global phenomenon. Outside India, studies in Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, England and Australia have identified farming as a high stress profession that is associated with a higher suicide rate than the general population (Wikipedia, farmer suicides. 07-12-15).
Freeloaders Welfare Abusers
There is nothing nobler than earning one’s bread from one’s own labor. In a period of technology the virtue of physical labor and personalized production requires more emphasis for mental as well as physical health.
But there are many freelance idlers who got the idea that work was something they did not need, and still go around dreaming a good living that would somehow fall out of the sky upon them.
In every day and age, there are freeloaders who want to live off someone else's work. Today we are cursed with welfare abusers who take money from the government or other voluntary agencies with no thought of working on their part. There were certain people in the city of (church) Thessalonicawho refused to work. Bible looks with contempt at such idlers who are able but do not want to work. Bread labor is recommended for all, all through the Bible. Inspired by this Mahatma Gandhi in his Sarvodays advocates ‘each one according to his /her capacity and to each one according to his /her need’.
See how apostle Paul condemns this attitude - Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6 RSV). "Withdraw from them," says Paul, "do not have anything to do with them. Leave them alone."
So let us work, celebrate its beauty, fruit, and share the joy with those in dire need.