May 12, 2016 • Life for Leaders
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
If you’ve ever done any gardening, I expect you know a couple of things for sure. First, no matter how much you try to prevent it, weeds will grow in your garden. Second, getting rid of the weeds is not fun. Many actions associated with gardening, such as preparing the soil, can be fairly pleasant, even though they require significant effort. But weeding is not one of these, at least not in my experience. I’ve never known anyone who said with joyful expectation: “Oh, I’m so excited I get to weed my garden today.” (Photo: my son, Nathan, gleaning in a bean field in Irvine, California, many years ago.)
The future, as envisioned in Revelation 22, empowers us with hope so that we might work for God’s glory even now, looking forward to the day when the curse will be no more.
As you may recall, God did not intend for us to have to fight weeds as we tend our gardens. Because Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground so that it would produce weeds and force us to do our work only “through painful toil” (Gen 3:17). “Thorns and thistles,” particularly nasty weeds, started to grow as a result of sin (Gen 3:18). We experience this reality, not only when we are working the soil as gardeners or farmers, but in every kind of work. No matter your occupation, you know how it feels when things don’t go as they should, when your work is made more difficult by dysfunctionality, whether in tools, systems, or colleagues, not to mention yourself.
The good news of Revelation 22 is that it will not always be this way. Yes, in this age our work will be more toilsome because of “thorns and thistles.” But, in the age to come, “No longer will there be any curse” (22:3). The curse of Genesis 3 will be lifted because of God’s completed work in Christ. Thus, we will be free to work as God intended us to work. We will know the joy of investing our energy in worthy activities without facing the distress of accursed hindrances.
I realize that the notion of working in the age to come might seem peculiar to you, given the historic tendency of Christians to talk about heaven as little more than a big family reunion and an endless church service. But if we take seriously the fact that God created us for work (see Genesis 1-2), that in our work we imitate God the worker and embody our creation in God’s own image, and the fact that the New Jerusalem will be filled with the “glory and honor” of the nations, it shouldn’t surprise us that we will have the chance to work in the age to come.
In the meanwhile, our work in this age is less than ideal. As Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf explain in Every Good Endeavor, because of sin, work becomes “fruitless, pointless, selfish, and idolatrous.” As the same time, because of Christ’s unique work on the cross, we can begin to experience the renewal of all things, including our work. The future, as envisioned in Revelation 22, empowers us with hope so that we might work for God’s glory even now, looking forward to the day when the curse will be no more.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you think of life in the age to come, does work figure into your thinking? Why or why not?
Does the notion that we will work in the new earth encourage your or discourage you? Why?
What might your work be like without the curse that is a result of sin?
Gracious God, thank you for the hope you give us that, one day, the curse will be no more. We will be free to live as you intended us to live from the beginning. In particular, our work will be enjoyable and fruitful in ways we can only begin to imagine.
As we live in light of the hope of the future, may our work glorify you in spite of the curse that taints it. May the vision of Revelation 22 encourage and sustain us, so that we might do our work, even today, with commitment and joy. Amen.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Mark D. Roberts. All rights reserved.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.