The Will To Work
By Hal Lindsey
The debt crisis in Greece reminds us that some of God’s rules can be neglected for a little while, but in the long run, they always catch up with us.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” [NASB] To modern ears, this may sound harsh. But don’t misread it. “Will not work” is a refusal to work. It’s not the same as “Cannot work.” There are many good reasons someone cannot work, but the willful choice not to work leads to hunger of all kinds.
God built the need to be productive into human DNA from the very beginning. Genesis 2:15 speaks of work before Adam and Eve sinned. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” [NASB]
In Eden, work was joy. No Murphy’s Law. No headaches. No worries. No fears. And then Adam and Eve sinned.
After that, work took on a harsh, new meaning. “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground.” [Genesis 3:17-19 NASB]
This is one part of what people often call “the curse.” After thousands of years trying to find ways to overcome the curse, it still applies. For human beings of school age and above, toil remains as certain as death.
Some try to utterly refuse work. The longer they keep that attitude, the further they fall. Eventually, they may join the ranks of the homeless, spending their nights hiding in bushes, under bridges, and in public parks. They walk the streets alone and depressed, and guess what? In the end, they start working again just to survive.
Panhandling, for instance, is hard work. The difference is that while a farmer is paid to produce food for the world, the panhandler’s work contributes only to his own bare survival. But it’s still work.
When I was a boy, people often romanticized the life of the hobo. We pictured him traveling the rails, living by his wits, and hardly ever working. But that conception was never true. Hoboing was hard. Ironically, the hobo spent much of his time seeking out employment, not running from it.
In the opposite direction, some think wealth will give them the means to live without effort. But it doesn’t turn out that way. People with money walk a tightrope. They live in fear of losing it, and they work hard to figure out ways to keep it safe and make it grow. While that is surely more fun than panhandling, it’s still work and it isn’t easy.
No one avoids the curse — even those on welfare. If you’ve ever dealt with the government on anything, you know the problem. Getting it to do what it’s supposed to do means bureaucratic red tape, frustrations, setbacks, and errors. Welfare is no different. Welfare recipients fill out enough forms to fill a library. Again, it’s largely non-productive work, but that doesn’t make it easy.
The bottom line is that anyone who wants to survive will eventually succumb to work.
Today we hear that technology will finally defeat the curse. Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimate that, by 2033, computers will have taken over as many as 47 percent of U.S. jobs. Robots are already building cars, flipping burgers, stocking shelves, diagnosing illnesses, etc. Many futurists believe that within a few decades, human beings will be passive spectators in the area of labor.
But we’ve heard similar things before. In the 1950s, Richard Nixon said America would soon move to a four-day workweek. He said it is “inevitable within our time.” In Nixon’s life to that point, the number of work hours had dropped dramatically for most Americans. He simply expected the trend to continue.
Influential economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that a full time job would mean a 15-hour workweek by 2030.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell believed, “Immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous.” He wrote, “If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization.”
“Sensible organization” would, of course, be in the purview of the government. And we all know about the efficiency of government.
Great thinkers of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s were sure that technology would enable lives of leisure for most people within a few decades. But something happened on the road to utopia. The curse asserted itself anew.
Author Juliet Schor wrote the best-selling and well-regarded book, The Overworked American. ABC News says, she “concluded that in 1990 Americans worked an average of nearly one month more per year than in 1970.”
Not only did the four-day work week never arrive, five days is no longer enough. Today in the U.S., 27% of employees do some job-related work between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. While fewer jobs are full time, more workers are taking on two jobs. Part time jobs don’t pay enough. You can’t get around the curse.
Greece, like several other countries, tried to minimize work and lift the lives of ordinary citizens by making government the ultimate sugar daddy. But that only lasts so long. It is a message every country, and every person, needs to remember. There’s no getting around God’s order.