Updated: Feb 28, 2021
Is our work a blessing or a curse? We often think that work is something we do because we have no choice otherwise. Many times, we think that work is an inevitable evil that we must face to pay the bills and live our lives in this world. But, what does the first chapter of the Bible say about our work?
It reads in Genesis 1:27-28:
So God created [barah]man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed [barak] them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful [para] and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Here, in these verses, we see the three words, "created," "blessed," and "fruitful." These three words in Hebrew are "barah," "barak," and "para." Try reading these Hebrew words aloud. You can see that these three words are structured to form Hebrew consonantal assonance. When the original Hebrew hearers heard these three words read aloud, they would have built a mental connection between these three words. In other words, what these three Hebrew words show by forming the Hebrew assonance is that our productive work (para) is very much connected to God's act of blessing (barak) & creating (barah) us. Let's look at these words more closely.
(1) Barah: "God created"
Before God calls us to work in the world, the Bible says God created, "barah," us in His image. Created in God's image means that we are created in God's likeness. Our God in Genesis 1 is God who works. In fact, the very first verse in the Bible describes God as the one who is creating. So, one way for us to live as God's image bearers in this world is to work in the world as the people who are reflecting God's image to the world. So, we work, not because we are cursed, but because we are created in God's likeness. We work because our God is a working God.
(2) Barak: "God blessed"
Also, before God calls us to work in the world, God blesses us. What does it mean that God blesses our work? It means that God will be behind our endeavors to help and strengthen us, so that our work can be productive for the Lord and His world. God blesses us so that we can work with faith knowing that God will help us to accomplish the tasks and the missions that he has called us for in this world.
(3) Para: "Be Fruitful"
So, after God creating us in His image and blessing us, what does God tell us to do? He tells us to do "Para," which means to be fruitful. The Hebrew word "Para" can carry two meanings: (1) Procreativity and (2) Productivity. Yes, God is calling us to increase in numbers by marrying and giving births to the children. But, the other meaning of "Para" is to be productive in our work. God wants our work in this world to be a productive labour that will bless the world, serve the people, and bring glory to God's name. We can do that because God is the one who blesses our work and God is the one who created us in His image.
What this beautiful Hebrew poetic devise (Barah, Barak & Para) shows us is that our productivity in work (Para) is very much connected to God's act of (1) blessing us (Barak) and (2) creating (Barah) in His image. So, our work is not something we do because we have to. We work not because we are cursed but because we are blessed and because we are created in God's image. Our work is a blessing from God, and a reflection of who God is, as we work in God’s likeness. Next time, when we go to our work, let's remember these three words: barah, barak, & para.