Work and Human Relationships

Aug 6, 2015

Work is one of the three vital dimensions in human relationships which are ordained by God. Worship, wedlock, and work stand together in the Creation story… Work reflects our relationship with God and our neighbor as well. Therefore, we can advance to the principle that our work relationships are integral to our human nature. While worship, wedlock, and work have intrinsic value in themselves, they are not independent of each other.

Genesis implies that the quality of one affects the quality of the other. Just as our human personality. of body, mind, and soul is one, our human relationships of worship, wedlock, and work are interrelated. Practical examples abound. How many times have you known persons who drop out of worship and get in trouble with their marriage? Perhaps more often, we recall per­sons whose marriage relationships are broken and then they drop out of worship. And this happens not just in a marriage. In organizational settings, I have noted that persons who cannot work together also find it difficult to worship together. For instance, faculty members who seem to carry a chip on their shoulder will find a thousand ways to avoid a communion service…[or] a “love feast” in which bread is broken between members of the body of Christ as a sign of forgiveness and love. If a critical attitude keeps us from celebration in worship, we are in trouble.

We see then that our work relationships are also integral to our spirituality. Before Adam and Eve sinned, the spiritual nature of their relationship with God, each other, and nature, was taken for granted. Once they sinned, however, they learned the meaning of alienation from God, each other, and nature. Signif­icantly, God used their work relationship with nature to define the nature of sin as alienation. The earth became a curse; work became hard; and the birth of children became painful. Certain­ly, the alienation with nature seems complete. But this was just the beginning. Adam and Eve were also alienated from God. When they lost the naturalness of communion with God as a sign of their alienation, they hid themselves from His presence. We hear the sadness in God’s call to His beloved, but fallen, creation, “Where are you?” The astounding fact is that Adam broke the relationship, but God initiated the search for reconcil­iation. His call, “Where are you?” is universal to all humankind across all ages.

Adam’s alienation became complete when he turned against Eve and blamed her for his sin. Then to excuse himself with God, he whined, “The woman tempted me to eat.” Thus the stage was set for fractured marriages for all time to come. A current joke going around is that the hairstyles and clothes for men and women are so much alike that you can’t tell which is husband and which is wife until one of them complains, “You never listen to me.” That’s the wife. And if it were Adam and Eve, the husband would be the one who retaliates, “It’s your fault.” Broken relationships also have a way of rippling through the generations. Adam’s alienation from Eve created the climate in which hostility became aggravated between their sons, Cain and Abel, even to the point of murder.

While on our vacation at a lake cabin, my wife and I introduced ourselves to a neighbor, a young man in his early thirties. In turn, he introduced us to his fiancée, a slightly older woman. All seemed normal until we learned that we had come from the same city and she said, “We live just over the hill from you.” Immediately, we understood that they were living together as an engaged couple. Then, out of their cabin bounded two teenage boys, who came up to their mom to be introduced to us. Of course, the mystery thickened and our curiosity took wings. So, for the next week, we watched the personal interaction among this “modern” family. The boys and their mother often huddled as a threesome to talk about their plans. When this happened, the boyfriend always sat apart, never entering the conversation and sometimes walking away. Once the boys were gone, the woman changed instantly from a solicitous mother to a seductive lover. Stranger yet, when the boyfriend did interact with her sons, he became a third teen­ager, playing with the boys and being scolded by the mother for foolish pranks.

After observing this pattern of relationships for a week, my wife and I wondered aloud, “What kind of family will they be after marriage?” Then projecting further into the future we asked, “What kind of model will the boys have for their mar­riages and their families?” The web of divorce, cohabitation, remarriage, and divided families is tangled indeed.

Alienation causes breaks in all of the relationships of life and these pass on from generation to generation. As children of Adam and Eve, we personally experience this truth. When sin alienated them from God, their worship turned to fear, their wedlock turned to hostility, and their work turned to pain. Who of us has not known the same symptoms of our sin? Worship, wedlock and work represent our ideals; fear, hostility, and pain represent our sin.

Work, then, is not an afterthought to God. Quite the opposite. Work is integral to human relationships with God, other persons, and physical nature. What happens in our worship affects our work and our wedlock; what happens in our wedlock affects our wor­ship and our work; and what happens in our work affects our worship and our wedlock. Each of us can supply our own illus­trations. If something goes wrong at work, how many of us leave the problem on the job? If I try to hide my job frustrations from my wife with a fake smile and quick kiss, she will quietly ask,’ “Did you have a rough day at the office?” God also gets His share of my problems. Devotional time turns into a refuge from work rather than a preparation for work. More often than not, however, I find the resolution to my work problem in the wise counsel of my wife or the prayerful answer of God.

Right this minute I am praying for a colleague who is also a dear and loyal friend. When I called him this morning, his crisp answers and cool tone told me that something was wrong. At first I took the blame upon myself. But when I asked him if something was the matter, he told me of an undiagnosed pain in his stomach that troubled him. control had hit him all at once. A superior executive, an exem­plary Christian, and a loving father felt exhausted, frustrated, and even alienated from his closest friends.

Written by David McKenna, author of Love Your Work! (Victor / SP)  Used with permission. All rights reserved. Content distributed by > used for non-profit teaching purposes only.