The Common Good
March-April 1997

The Curse of Work

by Paul del Junco | March-April 1997

AFTER READING your articles on play and work ("Why Play?," by Jim Rice, and "Why Work?," by Julie Polter), I continue to be amazed that no one I have read recently, from the pope...

AFTER READING your articles on play and work ("Why Play?," by Jim Rice, and "Why Work?," by Julie Polter), I continue to be amazed that no one I have read recently, from the pope on down to Julie Polter, has alluded to what Jacques Ellul referred to as the fundamental curse of work. This is not just "bad" or oppressive work, work that doesn’t pay a living wage, or work that is physically or mentally exhausting. By its very nature, all work is cursed. Work is the direct result of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Work is of the order of necessity. If we don’t work, ultimately we die.

Anything we do that is play, that is "non-work," on the other hand, is gratuitous by its nature, whether it be art, worship, or physical or mental recreation. Its prototype is God’s creation of the world, accomplished (fortunately!) before the Fall. The mere fact that sometimes we can "marry" work and creative activity doesn’t alter the essential stigma of work, however beneficial. The concert violinist still has to play concerts or record CDs in order to earn his daily bread.

Jesus himself, in order to save us, had to "work" to that end. His ultimate work, of course, is the cross. Jesus assumed our curse of work, as he assumed the whole curse of the Fall in order to save us. Because of Jesus we live in the time of our redemption by the light of the resurrection. But we live in this freedom by faith. The light of the resurrection is largely hidden to our natural eyes and its victory over death is not readily apparent!

So we "work" in order to share in the saving work of Jesus. We do this for love of our Lord and our brothers and sisters, but we all long for that time, that kairos, when God will be all in all.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)