Is Work Really a Curse?

HardWorkby Anniel2/3/15
The Reverend William Spooner, called upon to speak to a group of English agricultural students, meant to address them as “Noble Sons of Toil”, but he opened his mouth and began, “Dear Noble Tons of Soil.” One of these groups is really ignoble, but we do have both groups around today.

Work is a word used often when studying God. Both He and His son Jesus speak often of their “work.” Believers are also expected to put their shoulder to the plow and follow in the footsteps of the Lord.

In the beginning God said to Adam:

. . . cursed is the ground FOR THY SAKE; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:17-19. KJV

At the very beginning of time God gave blessings to man, the sabbath for rest, and marriage for companionship and procreation. Adam and Eve were also given work to do before the Fall, that is, to dress and keep the Garden of Eden. Then, after the Fall, God gave what appears to be a cursing, but He says He did it for our sake. Digging in the soil, tilling the fields, keeping sheep as Abel did, all of it work done with the sweat of our face. In sorrow do we work. But does work, even the kind that makes us sweat, really lead to sorrow?

One hot summer day when I was about 7, after my two brothers and I had completed our regular chores, Daddy came to us and said the three of us, one brother 3 years older than I, the other a couple of years younger, were to weed the potato patch together. He took us over and pointed out that he had placed a stake at each end of the patch with a string running down the middle. I was given half of the patch to weed by myself, while my two brothers, together, had the other half.

Talk about the sorrow of work on my part, you can only imagine. I never cry except when I am angry, and the more angry I am, the more I cry. That the potatoes survived the salt from my tears is a minor miracle. I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and pulled every weed in sight. When we happened to meet in the middle by the string, my brothers gleefully taunted me and called me a crybaby. I was so angry at my father I pulled each weed as though it was his hair (which he was already losing). I whispered threats as I wept and wiped snot and tears from my nose and eyes with my dirty hands. My face and dress were wet and filthy when I finally finished weeding.

My brothers, of course, were done long before me and had run off to play. Dad saw that I had finished and came to stand by me for a few moments before calling the boys over. I stubbornly kept my eyes down so he wouldn’t see my muddy, tear streaked face and how hurt I was. Then he said, “Look up at what you did.” Reluctantly I raised my eyes. I saw then that my side of the string had not one weed left and the hills were all upright and shaped. The side the boys had done was still green with clumps of weeds and the hills were unkempt.

Then my father did something remarkable for him. He reached into his pocket and, in the presence of my brothers, pulled out a silver dollar and handed it to me. I had never had that much money in my hand before and stood there astounded as he told the boys their work was not worth a single cent. Oh, were they mad, not at themselves, but at me. They did not understand their own actions of that day. All children need to be taught the dignity and joy of work, but my brothers were incapable at that point of such understanding, besides which they were probably humiliated.

The Lord, in His goodness established work as a standard for man, for him to perform all his days until he returns to the dust from which his earthly body is made. Parents and grandparents should take time to encourage work that can teach, enrich and uplift a life forever. And children should not be deprived of the right to help their families and gain strength from their efforts.

We all choose our own attitudes. Do we want to be Reverend Spooner’s Noble Sons of Toil, accepting a great gift from God, or join the ranks of the ignoble Tons of Soil collected together in slothfulness? • (1206 views)

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9 Responses to Is Work Really a Curse?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    In Cheaper by the Dozen, there’s a scene in which one of the younger daughters, trying to save up for something (I think it was a pair of roller skates), puts in a bid to do a chore. It was the low bid for a rigorous chore, and she felt weary and no doubt a bit abused when she finished the task and received her meager pay — until she found under her pillow that night the very thing she was saving for.

    For me, I can remember being off by myself doing some chore during a summer job in a routine fashion. It occurred to me when I was done that no one had any way of knowing how fast I was working, and I could easily have slacked off (sloth has always ranked with anger and gluttony as the 7 Deadly Sins most associated with me), and I was pleased to learn that I wasn’t that lazy.

  2. Rosalys says:

    There is something very satisfying about completing a rigorous task and doing it well!

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Many believe that what gives a major, if not the major, meaning in life is the struggle. Through this we succeed, fail, learn and find worth. What we attain in life has that much more value than if it is simply given to us. Is this one reason today’s yutes value so little and for so short a time?

    Often, even when we do not know it, our greatest lessons and rewards come from the most depressing situations. Sounds like your daddy understood life, Anniel.

    • Anniel says:

      That is true, and why I had to write and stand up for work after reading Brad’s post on Yutes and benders. I think of today’s generation with little in the way of a work ethic and despair of their ability to survive when the really hard times come.
      I can feel them coming more surely every day. But the need for hard work may yet be our salvation.

  4. GHG says:

    Good parenting is hard work too. I was blessed that my dad was “old school”, not unlike most of his generation. He had my brother and I doing chores and work from an early age. When I was between the ages of 7 and 12, we lived in Northern Wisconsin and my parents owned a north woods summer resort with 6 cabins on a lake with 6 piers and 6 fishing boats. (two of the cabins actually had indoor plumbing 🙂 ). The season was short – basically June, July and August while the weather was warm. So over those three months my brother and I had chores to help run the resort. Helping mom clean the cabins and cleaning the boats. We caught and sold worms to the fishermen and then cleaned and wrapped the fish they caught. And so on.

    Then one summer my dad gave me the task of keeping this field mowed so the people staying at the resort would have an area to play ball and have an area for a volleyball net. It was a pretty good size field and we only had one of those old fashioned non-motorized push mowers. I knew it would take me hours to get it done and the thing that irked me was he was giving me this to do but nothing to my brother. While it’s true that I’m a couple years older than my brother – I didn’t let that get in the way of my anger that I was being mistreated. So I mowed and mowed and mowed and got angrier and angrier and angrier. Later that night my dad came over to me and told me he was proud that his number 1 son was growing up and could handle a tough job. I don’t think I ever felt better about work I’ve done than I did then. What started as a sorry for myself pity party ended with feeling good about myself knowing I made my dad proud of me. That was made possible because my dad gave me hard work to do and knew that I could do it. I’m reminded of the old adage that my dad got a lot smarter as I got older 🙂

    • Anniel says:

      I’ll bet your dad and mine would have recognized each other immediately. And Rosalys’ dad would have joined the party. Kung Fu and Timothy learned a lot, too, but in a bit more foreign atmosphere.

  5. Jerry Richardson says:


    Excellent!! I really enjoyed your growing-up on a farm story. I also had that experience and there is not a day that goes by in my life that I am not thankful for that. My day taught me the dignity and value of hard work. Hence, to this day, I have never looked-down on any work regardless of how hard or menial it was as long as it is honest.

    The Reverend William Spooner, called upon to speak to a group of English agricultural students, meant to address them as “Noble Sons of Toil”, but he opened his mouth and began, “Dear Noble Tons of Soil.” —Anniel

    I enjoyed the reference to William Spooner. And of course this is why the term “spoonerism” is apply to such phrases as “Dear Noble Tons of Soil.”

    • Anniel says:

      I left my childhood home and in my heart thought not to dig in the dirt again. That first spring I was away I didn’t feel any great pull to garden, but by the second year I could hardly wait to begin planting , then because of our weather we eventually went on to cold frames and green houses. Container gardening in the kitchen windowsill was fun for the kids. Nothing smells better than green growing things.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There is a story that a group of students wanted Spooner to give a speech. He demurred, saying, “You only hope I’ll say one of those things” — with especial emphasis on the last word. He probably would have, too.

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