“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Ever since God ejected the two terrified, finger-pointing sinners from the garden, clothed by death into a cursed creation, man has sought to remove the curse. Man, living in a world that was raised up in rebellion against him, its rebel keeper, has beaten back fields teeming with thorns and thistles, ceaselessly striving to quench his curse of sweat. Tubal-Cain, born seven generations after the fall, forged tools of bronze and iron to ease corrupted work. Later generations would invent plows, horsepower, and the wheel. In general, those tools were enough for millennia, and those who sought an escape from the curse of sweat compensated by making others experience it to the uttermost.
Now, man believes he has conquered the curses. Through technology, the elites of our day promise an end to cursed toil and a beginning to Eden renewed. Granted, that utopian renewal of Eden mostly consists of GPS-guided combine robots and synthetic fertilizer drones, but humanity has reversed the fall. The dawn of a new age has come. If the curse of pain in childbirth can be reversed by C-sections and large doses of anesthetic, man’s curse of sweat can also be annulled.
The goal is clear: Total annihilation of toil. The perfect world sold by tech-infatuated elites consists of farms housed in polished glass for vegetables – harvested by robots – and massive drone-sprayed fields of grain – also harvested by robots. Man will then be free to rest in his plastic throne, doing the work he was made for – pushing buttons. Correct that – it should be “the work he made for himself,” since man certainly wasn’t created for anything in this vision of the world.
The elites do not solely hold this vision. Most of humankind yearn for this utopia, and many well-meaning people have embraced the message of liberation from the curse of sweat. Few wonder whether it is right to remove the pain of God’s judgment on man. Can man’s drive to reverse the curses apart from God be without any spiritual import?
Man is creating a new Eden east of Eden. Man is trying to forget his crime by annulling the curses. Every grimy drop of sweat experienced by every member of the human race points to this shattered creation. And points to the once un-shattered whole. Man’s recreation of Eden – of a heaven on earth – is a strategy to forget God and His judgment.
But God sees.
And by His grace, He refuses to allow the curse to fall harmless. The pesticides and synthetic food created to annul the curse of sweat produce all kinds of other curses. Cancer, inflammation, heart issues, diabetes, and obesity, to name a few. In his eagerness to flee the curse of sweat in toil, man finds himself sweating to heave his bulk off the couch just to obtain another bag of Cheetos. Not taking the elevator is now work. And other curses will come, even for those who seem to have best escaped the curse of sweat. Because God is gracious, and He will not allow man to relinquish that reminder of sin.
Detractors will say this demands absurdity. If this is true, man should go back to digging gardens with just a stick, or better yet, bare hands. If this is true, man should embrace pain in this broken creation by bloodying himself on thorns and stone, just to sow seed by hand, because mules or oxen would certainly be out of the picture. If this is true, then pre-packaged, microwavable pepperoni pizza must be inherently evil!
Despite the temptation to say that pre-cooked, processed food is of the devil, such food is only a product of a sinful philosophy. It is food sacrificed to the idols of sloth and greed. So long as one consumes it without sin, it will not defile spiritually…although the question of physical defilement still stands.
Repentance from seeking the destruction of toil is different from seeking to revel in the curse. Each drop of sweat is a reminder of sin, and that must not be gloried in nor forgotten. Tools for an alleviation to the curse are acceptable, so long as they do not annul the curse.
Seek to remember in your labor. If you farm, ditch the cushy air-conditioned behemoth, and drip sweat on a red old-fashioned rig. If you don’t farm, start a backyard garden, and water it with the tears of your fallen body in the heat of a dying sun. Let your sweat remind you of God’s grace.
Man did not pay with blood in the garden. A substitute did. Man remembers in sweat. Until one Son of Man’s sweat became as great drops of blood falling to the ground of another garden. In Gethsemane, Christ remembered the curse. On Calvary, He died to reverse it. And in His resurrection, He entered a new garden with a glorified body – one like the perfected bodies He will give His saints on the final day.
So remember in sweat. As you wipe drops from your face, remember your sins, and the blood-streaked face of the Savior who died for them. Remember the annulling of the curse.
And remember the promise of resurrection.