This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Labor, Agriculture, and the Fall

It just occurred to me today while i was reading something that toiling, making a living by the sweat of one's brow, and cultivating/farming the earth were parts of the curse of Genesis 3. They are consequences of the Fall. In other words, they are among the things that indicate that the world is not as it should be. They are symptoms of a fallen world.

i found this interesting in comparison to the common, sometimes cultural view that hard labor, learning to earn (arduously) a dollar, and even the family-run farm--that these are valuable, ethically respectable things about the world. Many people deem these as "the high road" or that in some sense they are facets of a morall-superior lifestyle.

i'm not about to suggest that these things are immoral and people should quit farming or working hard. This wouldn't be any more of an appropriate conclusion than would be that we should form nudists colonies that live in gardens. But what's interesting to me is that the Bible basically places these things about the world in the same category as death, birth-pains, the loss of innocence, the earth yielding harmful and useless plants, etc. Thus, hard labor and agriculture are "bad" things in the same sense that death and birth-pains are "bad" things--their basic cause/origin and purpose is the same or related. They are a part of the basic digression of the material world. They represent the world turning from ideally-blessed to cursed. In God's paradise, while man did care for and manage nature, he did not arduously labor to produce sustenance from the earth, but provision from nature came (in some comparative sense) easily. That change resulted from sin's entrance into the world, and thus was not some natural ethical value engrained in us from the beginning.

And yet it seems that many people, especially of a traditional mindset, would not at all be inclined to put all these things in the same category, but would tend to see hard labor and agriculture and an ethically valuable part of the world.


Matthew said...

I started reading F. Smith's book in the fall and Calvinism. Good thinking.

MrsHonea said...

So true...so do you think that this just shows how we as humans twist things to make ourselves feel better about our circumstances, no matter how bleak they may be?

Question: Ever find it strange that God allowed man to figure out a way for most women to have a pain-FREE labor and delivery? ...but maybe that's no different than now having wonderful machines that take most of the hard work out of farming and many other labor intensive jobs...

reborn1995 said...

i'm not sure just what to conclude about the psychology of the difference--that hard labor was not part of paradise but now it's prized as ethically valuable. i suppose it could be evidence that our independent assessment of things is also "fallen."

but your point about pain-free labor does bring up some questions in my mind about the problem of pain. when people bring up the problem of "evil," it actually seems like there's a variety of problems wrapped up into that one. and one of those is the idea that nothing should ever be unpleasant; if God was a good God and made a good world, why would there ever be the possibility of stubbing my toe or falling out of a tree or biting my own tongue while eating? i've always been tempted to say that these kinds of unpleasantness just plain aren't evil or do not indicate a lack of perfection or goodness.

the only thing i can point out is that the text doesn't commit us to saying that a woman's labor was utterly pain free, but only that after the fall the pains were greatly increased. that COULD mean it was pain free prior to the Fall, but it could also mean that it hurt only a little bit and now it hurts a lot. if the latter is true, then the problem of pain i'm talking about is still possibly resolve-able in the way i typically attempt to resolve it. but if women's-labor was completely pain free and now it's not, that does raise a stronger piece of evidence that unpleasantness itself is inherently not a good thing.

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