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There has been much debate through the years about societal responsibilities and obligations toward the unemployed, uninsured, and uneducated in our society. While many of those affected by economic downturns truly desire to work and can’t find employment, there are a number of U.S. citizens who have become generational welfare recipients, preferring to remain on the government dole. It is interesting to note that the biblical welfare system was a system of work (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22). The Bible is harsh in its condemnation of laziness; “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” (Proverbs 18:9). Health care, like food, is argued by some to be a basic human right. But God requires man to work for even his necessities; “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10).

The origin of work is depicted in the book of Genesis. In the opening passage, God is the primary worker, busy with the creation of the world (Genesis 1:1-15). God was the first to do work on the earth. Therefore, legitimate work reflects the activity of God. God created man in His image with characteristics like Him. (Genesis1:26-31). He created man to work with Him in the world. God planted a garden and put Adam in it to cultivate and maintain it (Genesis 2:8, 15).

The Fall of Man depicted in Genesis 3 generated a change in the nature of work. In response to Adam’s sin, God pronounced several judgments in Genesis 3:17-19, the most severe of which is death. God cursed the ground. Work became difficult. The word “toil” is used, implying challenge, difficulty, exhaustion, and struggle.

Work itself was still good, but man must expect that it will be accomplished by “the sweat of his brow.” Although God’s original design for work was perverted by sin, when Christ returns, God will restore work without the burdens that sin introduced (Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 15:1-4, 22:1-11.)

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