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The Day Adam Got Fired – Why Work is Hard

If you think you’ve had a bad day at work, consider Adam’s.  He had the perfect job, the perfect boss and the perfect environment.  Work was fulfilling, enjoyable and his future was bright.  He had no commute, no concern about what to wear to work and no taxes!  Then, in one day, it all changed.  In one moment, it all came crumbling down.  In one day, Adam got sucked into an insider trader scheme…he lied about it…he tried to cover it up…and then he blamed it on his co-worker.  As a result, Adam lost his job, lost his pension and work became hard.  Work was still a gift from God.  Work was still “good”.  But now, work is hard.

“Life is hard.  God is good.  Don’t confuse the two.”
A friend’s counsel to Annie Beller
Founder Aunt Annie’s Pretzel Franchise[i]

The Fallout from the Fall
There are several severe consequences that mankind continues to experience as result of the Fall.  These consequences still have serious repercussions on how you and I experience work today:

1. The Frustrations of Working in a Futilitarian Environment:  Probably the most obvious repercussion that we all experience is the futility that we experience in work.  Even on our best days, we will likely experience frustrations and disappointments in our work.  As a result, we shouldn’t be surprised when things go awry.  Work will be frustrating…and just because I am a Christian, I am not in any way exempt from such futility!  This doesn’t mean that we should become pessimistic and work with an attitude of negativity (i.e. frequently telling yourself, “Why does this always happen to me?”).  Life, this side of Heaven is broken.  Life will be filled with futility and frustration.  Yet, as a Christ follower, God promises to fill us with his peace and his strength in the midst of work’s futility as we look forward to the day when God will bring forth the “new heaven and the new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

2. The Natural Response to Separate God from Our Work:  “So the Lord banished (Adam) from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”[i]  The worst consequence of all for Adam and Eve was to be separated from God.  Adam was given the gift of work, but without the presence of God any gift is meaningless and futile.  For each of us, our normal and natural inclination is to live our lives separate from God.  And this innate predisposition to live life separate from God affects every one of us in how we approach our work. 

Unless we include God in our work, our work will be no different than an unbelieving co-worker

3. The Pressure to Compromise Our Relationship with God:  The Garden was the first place of workplace compromise.  God had given Adam and Eve only one boundary.  However, their violation of that boundary came after they were pressured and tempted to compromise their relationship with God.  The pressure they experienced came from a voice outside themselves.  They were lured and enticed by an evil being who was intent on destroying the gift of work.  The beguilement they experienced was crafty, seductive and well planned. 

As a result, the “enmity” (Genesis 3:15) that erupted in the Garden is still a raging spiritual war and the workplace is very much a part of the battleground.  There is no workplace on earth, including churches and Christian organizations, that is exempt from the assault of spiritual forces of evil.  You will experience hardship in your work because there are unseen but real evil beings and forces of spiritual darkness that are bent on pressuring you to compromise in your relationship with God and conform to worldly and unprincipled living.

You are participating in a culture that is contrary to Christ’s teachings 
You will be pressured to compromise your faith in your work

The question is not “if” you will be pressured to compromise but what will you do “when” you are tempted to compromise.  Since we all encounter pressures to compromise, it’s important that we are vigilant and spiritually alert in our work.  God promises that if we submit to him, that we will be protected from the lures and temptations of evil (James 4:7).

4. Attempts to Control and Dominate Others:  As a result of Eve’s actions, she was told, “…You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you”.[i]  The desire to control others was birthed in the workplace of the Garden of Eden.  And we don’t have to look far in our own work environments to witness the attempts to control and dominate others through work.  Wherever there is work, there will be attempts to manipulate, coerce, pre-empt, and gain a favorable advantage over someone.  Your work will be hard because others will try to use you to get what they want.  (And conversely, you will also be tempted to take advantage of and manipulate others in your work.)  As a result, many workplaces are places where people are hurt, demeaned, used or victimized.  In some cases it may be very subtle and in other cases it may be blatantly hostile and violent.    

The temptation to control and dominate others runs deep in every workplace environment.

5. Pervasive Feeling of Insecurity and Shame:  Immediately after Adam and Eve chose their way over God’s way they became insecure in who they were and insecure about their relationship with God.  They were afraid to face God and so they hid.  All of a sudden they felt insecure in front of their co-worker.  They felt exposed and vulnerable and felt compelled to use something to cover up their insecurity.   This was history’s first attempt of a work related cover-up.  But it wasn’t the last.    From classrooms to corporate board rooms people try to hide their mistakes.  From the White House to pastors in “God’s House”, we’ve seen the headlines on how people have sought to “cover their tails” rather than face the consequences of their work related failures.  (What happened in Watergate was not new; long before Watergate, there was “Eden-Gate”). 

We feel insecure when we feel “less than” those around us or when we feel “unworthy” of someone’s respect.  When we feel insecure, our natural tendency is to “clothe” ourselves with something, like Adam and Eve did, in order to lessen any feelings of inferiority.  We clothe ourselves with titles or with accolades to help us feel better about ourselves.  Or we try to hide or mask something about who we are or what we’ve done so others won’t lessen their opinions of us.  Feeling insecure, however, is just a surface issue.  It’s not the real problem.  At the very core of any insecurity we experience is the deeper issue of shame.  The efforts of Adam and Eve to hide and cover-up their insecurities came from a deeper feeling of shame.

A shame-based identity surrenders your opinion of your value and your worth to others.

Declarations that Affirm My Identity in Christ
In order to confront my tendency to live a shame based identity I’ve found it essential to regularly remind myself of my real identity as a part of God’s family.  One idea that has helped me is posting an index card at my desk to remind me of who I am in Christ.  The message on the card has seven declarations to help me embrace my God bestowed identity in the person of Jesus Christ rather than in others.  These declarations state:

Because of whom I am in Christ, and with God’s help…

  • I do not need to impress anyone.
  • I release myself from the pressure to perform for others.
  • I will not allow myself to be defined by others.
  • I will not give power to others that allows them to determine my value or worth.
  • I completely accept myself for where I am right now with all my great qualities and all my shortcomings.
  • I will seek to honor and respect everyone, but I will not live to please others.
  • Though I may choose to not fully disclose myself to someone, others’ opinions of me are not the basis upon which I feel good about myself.

In the midst of enduring the consequences of living in a broken work environment, may you live out your true identity in Christ, and through his ability experience victory over the temptations and compromises you will encounter.

i Becket, John, Mastering Monday: a guide to integrating faith and work (Downers Grove IL. 2006) pg. 28
ii Genesis 3:23 NIV
iii Genesis 3:16 The Message