Made to Work Hard (Genesis 3:17-19)

August 20, 2023 | Brandon Cooper

Sin distorts our calling and devastates our work. Humanity moved from worshipping God to idolatry, from loving others to selfishness, and from cultivating the world to toiling in frustration. We can self-examine how work may be distorted by sin. We are to repent and renew our commitment to God’s original design for work.


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All right, you can go ahead grab your Bibles open up to page three, page three, Genesis, chapter three will be in verses 17 to 19, especially this week. So as you’re turning there, perhaps you’re familiar with Patrick Lencioni. His book on business management, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team fairly well-known book. I’m sure some of you have read it. Lencioni talks about these common dysfunctions that keep a business team from functioning well together. And that’s thus achieving their goals to the fullest extent possible. The foundational dysfunction, according to Lencioni is the absence of trust, that people just don’t really trust each other on the team. And so kind of hold things back from each other. And so he recommends that what you got to do is get people to be a little bit vulnerable. So you ask them some questions early on, you know, Well, where did you grow up? What sports did you play as a kid? You get them talking about themselves, and this increases trust among the team. So healthier team. And, of course, a healthier team means more profits, which is what we’re after. So notice a couple of things. First of all, Lencioni assumes, rightly by the way, that there will be relational conflict among business teams. And people aren’t going to work well together all the time, which they don’t. Second. It’s a little manipulative, isn’t it? So you’re asking people where they grew up and what sports they played, not because you care where they grew up or what sports they played, but so they will feel a sense of trust? So it’s a little dehumanizing, manipulating? And then third, of course, why do you want them to feel a sense of trust? Because of profits, profits over people? Like that’s what matters most. So I mean, a few caveats there. I’ve read the book, I liked the book, I’m not knocking on the book, I think you could do all of that without, you know, being manipulative, you could actually care about people. I’ve got nothing against profits, because it’s probably good that your business stays in business because you get a paycheck from them. You know, all that stuff. So I don’t want to knock on Lencioni too much. I’m just saying here’s a really popular book. And yet it assumes or acknowledges that something has gone badly, badly wrong. So that idyllic picture that I painted last week from Genesis one is already badly marred. Like, you know, a landscape painting where one of them vandals has come in and tossed oil at it or something like that. It is messed up. So what went wrong? We did. We went wrong. We were the Vandals were the ones who messed up the painting. We rebelled against our Creator. And as a result, we broke creation. Sin breaks everything. And that’s what you see in Genesis chapter three. So it’s not just spiritual loss or spiritual brokenness that we experienced, but emotional, physical, relational, social, and more to our purposes in this series, yes, even vocational brokenness and loss. So this is our main idea I’m gonna give you upfront. We’ll kind of work through what I mean by it as we go. But it’s the sin that distorts our calling, and devastates our work, everything we talked about last week. In fact, we looked at three calls and three commands. Last week, we were called first and foremost to God, we are then called to be a people – to be a society – and we are called to work for God’s kingdom. That is, we’re made to worship, made to love, made to cultivate, and yet all three of those get flipped on their head. In essence, it’s like in the old days of film. I know we all have digital cameras now, but if you remember film, it’s like looking at the negative. It’s the same picture but everything that was black is white every man was white is black sin distorts our calling and devastates our work. That’s what we’re going to see, if you weren’t here last week. We’ve been walking through work – broadly considered, not just jobs – but whatever work you’ve been called to do. And we’re looking at it through the lens of biblical history these four great eras of biblical history: creation last week, fall this week, redemption and consummation in the two weeks to come. So what are we gonna look at today? Genesis chapter three, we’re gonna look at the fall. What happens so I’m gonna give you a little bit of summary as we go on to read chunks of the passage as well. So Genesis chapter three, Adam and Eve are there in paradise. They’re in Eden. They have no communion with God and then the snake comes the serpent, the devil, and he has some thoughts for them. He says things like in verses four and five, “If you eat this fruit that you’re not supposed to eat up you will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” You have to decide for yourself what good and evil are. And that sounded really good to Eve. So she had some fruit and sounded pretty good to Adam, who was standing next to her. So he had some fruit, and all sorts of things happened very quickly. God, it turns out, was aware of what they were doing, and had some conversation with them. And as a result, there’s a series of curses that are pronounced. I’ll read all of them for you. So beginning in verse 14, “So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals, you will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.’ To the woman, he said, “I will make your pains and childbearing very severe. With painful labor you will give birth to children, Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you. To Adam, he said, “Because you listen to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, you must not eat from it. Cursed is the ground because of you through painful toil. You will eat food from it all the days of your life, it will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground. Since from it you were taken For dust you are into dust you will return.” Alright, so we’re going to follow the same outline as last week like I said, but we’re just going to flip everything on its head like the negative version of it. So last week, we looked at first of all that we were called to God and made specifically to worship Him. Our work was meant to be an expression of worship, serving God and communing with him. But there’s this shift. We go from worship to idolatry. That’s the first shift from worship to idolatry. So made to worship First Corinthians 1031, for example, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Our whole life is meant to be for the glory of God, including our work, specifically Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord.” So we’re to work for the Lord. There’s the worship piece, and that seems to be going swimmingly until we get to Genesis three, verse five; Katie read for us, If you eat this fruit, you will be like God,” There’s the temptation. It is the temptation for personal autonomy. We get to be in charge; we get to be God. Now it’s the temptation to self-exaltation. Instead of exalting God, it’s a temptation to “self hyphen”. Fill in the blank. We got a whole lot of self. Fill in the blanks. In our culture, say, self-determination, self-fulfillment, or self-esteem. It’s a temptation to all of those things. We are, at this point, bent in on ourselves. So instead of turning upward in worship, we turn inward. And that’s expressed in idolatry. And I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, Well, no, idolatry is still outward, upward. I mean, yeah, maybe it’s not the one true God of the Bible, but you’re still worshipping gods, aren’t you? Yes, and no, but especially No, because what you’re doing with idolatry is you’re kind of saying, like, look, I’m gonna bring your sacrifice, okay, here’s this doc, or something that I just killed, and then you give me a good harvest. Or if I cut myself while worshiping you, then you’re gonna bring me a good wife, who will bear me many sons who can then work that good harvest that I just got, because of the duck thing I just did. Do you see how all of that is actually, for me? So like, yeah, there’s an expression of something like worship, but really, it’s to get what I want. That’s even more obvious today. Because we don’t tend to walk, worship little statues of wood or gold or anything like that. We tend to worship things like love, achievement, comfort career, and more, obviously, about ourselves. So in our culture of expressive individualism, we talked about this a lot here, there is no higher good than your own personal happiness. I quoted stats a few months back that more than 80% of Americans think that the highest good is your own personal happiness. Well, now let’s funnel that through vocation. That means your work must serve that decidedly selfish end.
So why would I study and work hard in school? And some of you are like, “I don’t know. I’ve been asking my parents for a long time now.” Okay. But some of you are like, here’s why I study it. So that I can get the job I want, one that I think will make me happy. Or why am I working so hard for career advancement or to earn a high salary that might prove my worth I have arrived or even those of you who have gone without a job, because you’re committed to the home, you’re committed to your kids? Well, there’s a real sense of fulfillment that comes with that, of course. It gives you a sense of purpose. So you see, the dangers that work is no longer a good thing. It has become a God thing. That is, work has become a form of self-salvation. Like, here’s how I’m going to save myself. David Brooks has talked about this reading in the New York Times. He was reading about an online discussion that had happened between a Stanford prof and some of his students. And it was very clear in this online discussion that these students were aiming at nothing higher than themselves. Even the jobs they were going after, they’re only three acceptable jobs to this crop of students, ones that involve community service, because that’s how you prove that you’re, you know, better than everyone else, or the ones with a high paying job because that’s how you know, you’re better than everyone else, or a job that’s got the cool factor attached to it, which is probably going to be you know, some sort of hipster tech innovation kind of job like those, the only three that were acceptable was all three of those, say something about you, that you really want to have said about you. And they were really honest about this, like, here are a couple of quotes from that discussion. I chose management consulting because it’s filled with sharp people, the kind of people I want to be around. Why would you want to be around sharp people? Because then you look sharp, it’s proved I’m one of the sharp people, I made it. I’m in this inner ring with the rest of them. Or here’s another one. I realized if I stayed in education, I’d be embarrassed when I got to my five-year college reunion. So I’m going to law school now. You get the idea. Now, these are particular expressions. Of course, and probably you know, for a high-achieving school like Stanford, you might just as easily choose to stay in education. So that you look impressive when you get to your five-year college reunion because everyone will know I gave up the higher wages in order to devote myself to the next generation was very impressive. But they have a common route. Still, everything I do is from to and for me, me. This is why workaholism is so prevalent, isn’t it? Because we now have a works-based salvation. You got to earn it. Right, you got to earn it, you need to try harder, you got to advance, you got to earn, you got to get that sense of validation that comes with achievement. If I’m the valedictorian, it means I made it, I was literally the best among all these people. If my house is spotless, even when company stops by unexpectedly, I’m Martha Stewart. Okay, I’ve done it; I’m there. Or if I get that VP title, finally, well, then I can go to my college reunion. And everyone will be impressed with me. This is not new. This is not a 21st-century development. We’re on page three. You don’t need to turn there. but you can see this on page nine. We don’t have to go that far into human history to get there because we can look at the Tower of Babel when humanity comes together to build this tower, not as an expression of worship to God, but as an expression of their own worth to come. They say we’ll make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They use brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. And they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves.” They’ve got the new technology with which we know something about of course, today, so they can do something never done before. And thus explicit purpose. Make a name for ourselves. For what are you working? That’s the key question. And here they’re saying I’m working for my own name. Now in an ancient Near Eastern context, your name is your identity. And that’s what we mean by name. And what they’re saying is, this is something I can’t just receive a name. I have to make a name, I have to create an identity for myself. Why would they say that? Because they’re bent inward. What are we supposed to be doing? By the way, you all know this because you know the Lord’s Prayer. The very first request we’re supposed to offer God our top priority, hallowed be your name. No, no, I’m gonna make a name for myself. And so he can worry about his own name. I gotta take care of myself. This is completely backward for how we were made. Of course, if the Bible is true – as it certainly is – the chief purpose for which we are made is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But what happens if we push God to the side? What do we do with that created purpose? We got to go somewhere else then to get glory and joy. We’re gonna end up with this fruitless search for meaning. Not just fruitless, and the fact that we can’t get it because it only comes from God, but a very tenuous search too. I was hiking once. We were actually coming down off a mountain. I was hiking with a friend. And he went first. And he put one foot wrong. And that ground went out from underneath him, and he tumbled hundreds of yards down this mountain. I actually thought I was witnessing his death.It turns out he was fine. He was very badly bruised, but it was terrifying to watch. And yet, that’s how we live our lives. Most of the time. We’ve got this created, this curated meaning that comes from our work, and yet, put one foot wrong and it can all tumble. The ground can give way beneath you and you collapse, you know, shift in the market. And that’s it; your job is gone. And now, where is your identity? And so you live with this constant fear. Because you know how tenuous your identity is, like there’s this great irony throughout scripture, that the more we die to ourselves, give up that sense of I’ll make a name for myself, the more fully we’re free to live fully as ourselves as we were created to be. The alternative is bleak. Here’s the way CS Lewis puts it. I think he’s spot on here. He says, “The more I resist God, and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact, what I so proudly call myself becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events, which I never started in which I cannot stop.” Fascinating. What is he saying? He’s okay, so our lives are this house of cards that we are so carefully constructing. And again, one wrong step whole house collapses, and then Lewis is pointing out, by the way, you didn’t even build the bottom row. That makes you nervous. Yeah, that should make you nervous. Everything is ultimately outside our control. This is ironic, considering the whole reason we sinned in Eden was that we wanted to be in control – to be like God. So this whole mindset, this shift from worship to idolatry, it’s depicted so well in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a play but many of you have probably seen the movie based on it. Salieri – this is not historical; by the way, I don’t want to throw Salieri under the bus. Okay. We don’t know that this is what he was really like. But in the play, the real historical figure Salieri is using his work to make a name for himself. His musical compositions were his Tower of Babel. Here’s what he says at one point in the play. willst my father prayed earnestly to God to protect commerce, I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of, “Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate your glory through music. And be celebrated myself. make me famous. Dear God, make me immortal. After I die. Let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote.” Sounds just like babble, doesn’t it? The word immortal gives him away. He’s using his work to save himself eternally. And when it fails, if you’ve seen the movie, he’s very bitter and angry. By the way, it’s ironic to think we fail. You know what? Salieri is the court composer for the Habsburg Empire. Like he made it. But he knows Mozart’s better. Mozart who dies penniless, of course, but he knows that Mozart is better, and it crushes him. So he’s bitter and angry with God later in the play. He says, “I’m done with you, God, all this stuff.” So how about you? How about you? Why are you doing the work that you’re doing? Even if it has a Christian veneer? Like Salieri. Like we’re all bent inward by nature, but the good news is God will unbend us so that we can look upward and worship.
But it all depends on how we answer the question. Who are you? Are you going to answer it for yourself? Are you going to receive the answer? I’m an architect. I’m a businessman. I’m a mom. I’m a student. I’m a composer. I’m a preacher, a child of God, saved by grace through faith and living for his fame. So that’s the first call, the first bending from worship to idolatry. The second one really follows from it as we move from love to selfishness. Remember, we’re called not just a god but called to be a part of a people. The bending inward doesn’t just mess up the vertical relationship with the horizontal ones as well we are called made to worship. We’re also called and made to love and serve others. The first bending actually leads to the second at the risk of quoting CS Lewis twice in one sermon, which has never happened before and will never happen again. I’m sure. He says that pride is competitive by its very nature. The pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person. We say people are proud of being rich or clever or good-looking, but they’re not. They’re proud of being richer, or clever or better-looking than others. That’s the reality. Because that’s our standard of comparison. We’re always looking around. So think what that mentality does to our work, that I’ve got to make a name for myself. I’m gonna do that in comparison to others,  how I’m gonna treat others not well. God gave Adam and Eve two tasks to do together. We looked at it last week. “Be fruitful and multiply, and then rule over and subdue the earth.” And verse 16, this is the curse on the woman. We see how that collaboration becomes a competition. At the end of the verse, God says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Only two times the words desire and rule are used together in Genesis are here and in the very next chapter. When God is speaking to Cain, and says, “Sin desires to have you, but you must master it, rule over it.” How did sin desire to have Cain sin wasn’t just like really indicating, like sin wanted to have to possess to rule Cain. And so Cain had to dominate sin. In essence, there’s that same as the Gender Wars, right? Right here because it starts at the very beginning. However, we want to get more into this, and you can go back and listen to the sermon on Genesis three we did a long time ago. But the point is, it’s now competitive. Instead of this unified task. It’s now competition. Plus, you also get painful childbirth, there in verse 16. Similar to the painful work that Adam will have to do because the ground has been cursed. Now, it’s actually interesting in almost every language on Earth. The word for childbirth and the word for work is the same word in English labor. Or travail if you want the older one common most languages, there’s a sense of exactly what happened in these two primary spheres, the two jobs we were given, love and work, they both get broken in the same way. They’re both now difficult, vandalized by sin. Because we’re bent inward. And here’s the thing, because we work with people, those two go together. It’s not like, well, your marriage is bad, and your job is bad. We got these relationships wherever we go, including in the workplace. So work is frustrating in its own right. We’ll look at that in the next section. But it’s especially frustrating because you got co-workers. Kyle’s a fan. He said,”Amen”. I saw it, I saw it. You can’t hide from me. Well, remember, Lencioni, like, this is the point. He’s saying there’s gonna be conflict. There’s gonna be an absence of trust. Why would we trust these people? They’re all worshipping themselves, laboring for their own ends. And so you end up with all this manipulating, dehumanizing or hurting, exploiting, competing for everything that you see in a workplace. Let’s just walk through this a little bit here. Very broadly, I’m just scratching the surface instead of love. In a workplace, you’re gonna see dehumanization. What I mean by that is turning people into instruments as means to an end. You’re going to ask them about their family and what sports they played so they work better. And industrialization, of course, didn’t help this process at all. When people became a literal cog in a machine. Like specialization is a good thing. I think that is our calling. We talked about making a chair last week, and you’re so glad you don’t actually have to make a chair all by yourself. So that’s good. That’s specialization, but it gets taken to a dehumanizing extreme. With the Industrial Revolution, you have people who could just be doing the same repetitive action over and over and over again. Nothing stops the assembly line, the relentless pace. So alienates people from each other even because now you are just machinery to interact with machines, of course. And even this is something that Karl Marx pointed out. I know that white American Evangelical pastors don’t usually quote Karl Marx approvingly. But hey, he was right here, okay? It says, Marx said, that it also alienates people from their work to like, you’re in a machine, you’re just doing this, you don’t even know what’s happening at the end of it. So you’re making just the armrest, not the whole chair, which you don’t get to see. And you definitely don’t get to sit in. You see how dehumanized we’ve become. And instead of love, this is, of course, the extreme. Again, I’ll mention these just very briefly. But instead of love, we get exploitation, like, beyond dehumanization. I’m talking about things like slavery and child labor which are truly evil industries, like the porn industry we talked about last week. Instead of love, you get profit maximization. It’s a bottom-line mentality, which is why you just occasionally get, you know, reductions in force. It doesn’t even matter what even referred to them as people. Right? It’s just a number that’s happened. There are layoffs. But you also see, sometimes the people how they choose what they’re going to do. I mentioned last week, you know, doctors relieve suffering, lawyers promote justice, and you’re all cynics. So probably some of you aren’t really. That’s what lawyers do. Because, of course, not all lawyers promote justice. And by the way, not all doctors are there to relieve suffering. They’re there because they’re big paychecks. And they may be willing to pervert justice, even in order to become a higher-paid lawyer. You got all that: grades, degrees, all that kind of stuff. Why am I doing what I’m doing here? Because this is the degree that’s going to get me the highest-paying job out of college. Or on the flip side, there are those who feel like they can’t actually live out their calling. Because it doesn’t pay enough. I think you, if you’re famed starving artists, for example, just need money to survive. So you do what needs to be done in order to pay the bills, even though it’s kind of soul-crushing because they know it’s not what they should be doing. Instead of love. Of course, you get competition, as well, like Adam and Eve were against each other. Now instead of working together. So all the sorts of things you would see in a workplace, you know this, you can just nod your heads, jealousy, envy, backbiting, slander, cheating, whatever it takes. If only one person is going to get promoted, well, then we better tear everyone else around us down. And so we go from that loving Society of last week to Mad Max and like 10 minutes once the job is posted. Of course, Sin always has two poles. I wish I could talk more about this. But you know, like often, godliness is the Equator, and you can go off either side. So we got a lot of people who are workaholics because they’re using this to make a name for themselves. But there’s the other side, of course, which would be sloth. You see this in school, especially when you have to do group work. And there’s always the one person who’s like, “Hey, the future valedictorians in my group. So let me know when you’re done. Because I don’t have to worry about this”, continues Tim Keller. When he was younger, he had an experience like this. He was working in a mill over the summer while he was doing his graduate work and stuff like that. So this was not his future career by any means. But he needed money. So he’s working in a mill. And he was one of those assembly line people – and he was doing his best – he was working as if for the Lord – until one of the other guys pulled him aside and said, you’re gonna be doing this for a summer. We’re doing this for the rest of our lives. You need to slow down so management doesn’t think we can work this fast. There’s the brokenness again. So all sorts of ways that humanity has gone from cooperative collaboration, expression of love to selfishness. How about you? Maybe ask it like this. Where are you looking when you work? Are you looking up and out? Were you looking around at the competition?
You feel threatened by the success of others like Salieri, looking at Mozart, envious of others. Are you in a position of leadership and find that you are using people as things rather than using them as people? I think one remedy to this, as we do the hard work of self-examination is to look at the 10 commandments, actually. I mean, our next series is coming up on kickoff. By the way, I’m very excited about it. But you look, instead of worship, we turn to idolatry. Well, that’s the first half of the 10 commandments. You shall have no other God before. Okay? That’s when we ask these questions or the second half; instead of love, we turned to selfishness. That’s, that’s the second half, you know, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, all these kinds of things. So look at the 10 commandments from the perspective of your vocation. How are you sinning against your vocation? Because the call to love bends so easily inwards. That’s why Jesus, quoting Leviticus, and it says “Love your neighbor, as yourself.” You don’t need to worry about loving yourself. You have devoted your life to loving yourself. Start loving other people the way you do that. So we’ve been so easily in words, but God will unbend us. When we remember his selfless love and sacrifice. It makes us selfless and loving to even add work. We got one last call one last command to look at then, of course called to cultivate are made to work but that cultivation becomes toil. This is what verses 17 to 19. Our passage for this week is most clearly about when work becomes labor, toil. And cultivation becomes difficult, unfruitful and burdensome. You picture Adam, who was used to work in the garden when it was paradise. All of a sudden, he’s got to cultivate a garden when the soil is too acidic and drought conditions persist. And his back hurts because he slept funny the night before. Like that would be a shock. And yet, it’s real. What this means is that you could not perfectly, but let’s say by and large, you got your heart right before God and others, you’re banishing idolatry, you’re using your work to love and bless others, maybe even just work by yourself and don’t have to worry about all those other people or something like that. And yet the work is still broken. The work itself is not what you would like it to be. You’re a football player, and you tear your ACL. And that’s the end of that. Or you’re a tech innovator, and the market shifts, and you get let go, even though it is your product that launched the company. Not hypothetical, by the way. You don’t know who that happened to? Steve Jobs. They did eventually hire him back, okay, but like, that’s his story right there. Or you’re the little lawyer actually trying to promote justice, and you just get swamped by the big firm. They just filed 26,000 motions. So we’ll see you in a couple of decades. And that really brings up maybe the most telling aspect of this, which is the ethical concerns that come with work now, part of what makes it so broken. We’re not in eating anymore. What, happens when you’re being asked to use deceptive marketing practices, or you’ve done great research, but you realize it’s not being used for wicked ends? Or you’re just looking around going this work isn’t good. Like maybe you’re in sales. And you’re you got to make a commission and you got to make a quota. And your boss is looking at you and stuff, and you’re sitting across from a client going, “This isn’t what you need. But I can’t tell you that I have to sell you a product that isn’t good for you.” Work is broken. You work hard. Using the language of Genesis three, thorns and thistles still spring up. Literally, of course, it is way easier to grow weeds than to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. But figuratively, you have all this effort for little or bad results. Give me an educator, even just someone discipling a young person, and you watch that student makes terrible choices. You write a book that no one reads or develop a product that no one wants. I’ll give you this illustration. And you can see where I’m getting this one from because we just renovated our facility. You know, as the GC is handing over the keys to the owner, there’s the architect and the superintendent smiling beside them in the background. The assistant just dings the door so it’s got a big scuff mark on it now. Like that’s what happens as soon as you’re done with something. It starts to break down. I’m reminded of the old joke about trying to keep your house clean with toddlers is like trying to brush your teeth while you’re eating Oreos. But that’s kind of how all the work is, isn’t it? Like it’s just always, always running down. It’s the myth of Sisyphus. If you’re familiar with your Greek mythology, he was condemned by the Greek gods to push a boulder up a hill every day, and every night it would roll back down. I don’t feel sometimes that’s why we call it the daily grind. But you keep pushing the boulder up the hill because you got to get a paycheck in order to live so that you can get up the next morning and push the boulder back up the hill. So, this is probably why Ecclesiastes sounds almost like Sisyphus says, so a hated life. Because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me, all of it is meaningless – chasing after the wind. Why is it so grievous everything we just said, plus in the end, and this is where he goes in the passage, “All comes to naught anyway, because you have to leave it.” Like my grandfather had a very successful company that he had started a series of inventions that within five years of his death, the company was gone. Comes to naught, ruin overtakes it. It reminded me of the poem by Percy Shelley, about a desert wanderer who comes across a broken down statue and has a little plaque on it. This with a plaque says it says, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, look on my works, ye mighty and despair. Nothing beside remains, round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Most powerful king on Earth, nothing, just a broken down statue. At the end of it, it starts to feel like we’re building sand castles on the shore, and the tide keeps coming in, and it keeps wiping out the castles, washing our work away. You might have felt, as I know, when I left the mission field in Colombia, I was an educator there, and I had worked a long time on a Bible and an English curriculum. And within a year of my leaving, they changed the curriculum. And it hurt. Like it hurt. Like, seriously, I put a lot of time into that. It’s gone. It’s gone. When the kids fly the coop, and you were a homemaker. Now it’s something else when the company is sold.  I had a good friend who was – he had shifted from being an engineer to being a project manager. And then the tech shifted, and he didn’t have to keep up with the tech because he was the project manager now. And then he got let go. And then he didn’t know the tech anymore. And he couldn’t get a job. And he was a broken man. Like that’s what this looks like. And then you retire and you think, ” I don’t like golf. So now I don’t know what to do.” And all the while, death is getting nearer and nearer. As AWS Guinness says perceptively, the phrase, ” Life is too short to…” Fill in the blank. It eventually shortens to “Life is too short. Period.” Isn’t that how this passage ends? “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you will return.” That’s just hanging over everything we do. So there’s this frustration that you undoubtedly feel kind of this tension almost between idealism between “what I do matters, I can change the world, I can do good” and cynicism – nothing matters. The stupid boulder rolled down the hill again. We feel both because both are true. And you see both even in this passage like thorns and thistles, of course. But it also says through painful toil, you will eat food from it. It does produce fruit in addition to thorns and thistles. Labor is not fun. I have witnessed it multiple times. Haven’t gone through it myself. Not fun, but you do get a baby at the end of it. So like, there’s that tension right there, workers frustrating and fulfilling and maybe both on the same day. Why? Because it’s what we were made to do, and we still have the image of God, and yet it’s been vandalized by sin. What do we do? reminded of another passage a little later in Ecclesiastes chapter four, verse six, where the teacher kind of settles on this. It’s like golden means almost, you know, better, one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. He’s really comparing one handful of tranquility with empty hands as in the verse before. And that sloth and then two hands, but you had to do everything we’ve talked about today to get that extra wealth. So there’s this like recognition of attention. Can I just land in the middle? I think though, reading Ecclesiastes, from the perspective of the New Testament, we could say it was something else too. And there’s this recognition that true tranquility doesn’t come from finding a work-life balance. Good luck to you. Let me know when you get there. True tranquility comes through Jesus and only through Jesus. Because Jesus toiled for us, to redeem us from these curses right here, the passage that Katie read for us earlier, “Come to me, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened. And I will give you rest.” That’s not retirement, by the way. That’s rest even while you labor. What we need is a salvation that we couldn’t possibly earn for ourselves. A name that we don’t create – but that we receive – that would transform our work from selfish, toilsome idolatry back to what it was meant to be all along. We know that salvation is coming. It’s right there in the curses, even in chapter three, verse 15, “I will put enmity between the snake between you and the woman between your offspring and hers, He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” It means Satan is going to nip at Jesus’s heel. And he does. And Jesus goes in the grave for a little bit even, as a result. But of course, Jesus crushes the devil’s head. That’s the salvation we have. And how that transforms our work is where we’re going next week. Kyle will do that for us in Ephesians chapter six. But until then, we know that sin distorts our calling and devastates our work. From worship to idolatry, from love to selfishness, from cultivation to toil. You may well wake up tomorrow morning dreading the coming drudgery. Because we live still in between times, like Jesus has come, he has not yet come again. He’s conquered sin and death. Sin and death linger. That’s week four, by the way – when we get through all of that – we’ll get there eventually. So here’s my challenge as you go. Sin distorts and devastates Yes. But in Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin. He has saved you – freed you – to be a slave of righteousness. Remember, you’re calling: to God, neighbors, to the Kingdom. And you get to work, worship, and love and cultivate. What we’re going to do now is instead of closing in prayer – I will close us in prayer – but it’s going to be a gateway to a time of personal confession. We all have a calling. Everyone in this room has a calling. And I want you to be thinking prayerfully through this question. How are you sinning against your calling? So take a few moments in just the silence of your own heart to examine yourself – to examine your work, to confess and repent. The worship team will come up and then lead us in a song of renewal and commitment. We will sing these words together, “My work is not in skill or name, in win, or lose, in pride or shame.” In other words, work. My worth is not in my making a name for myself. It is in the blood of Christ that flowed at the cross. Let me just open us in prayer. And then I’ll leave it to you guys for a moment further. We see how much sin has distorted and devastated our calling and work. And we know that that’s not true out there. That’s true here in our own hearts, in our lives, and in how we’re living out our calling. Would you, by your spirit, now bring understanding, insight and conviction that we might confess our sin and repent of it?


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