God’s original idea of work has very little in common with the nature of work in our fallen world. This is really obvious when we take a look at the sources of different words for work in English and in Hebrew.

The English word, ‘labour’, comes from the Latin word, ‘labor’ and means toil, exertion; hardship, pain, fatigue, suffering. Work is difficult and unpleasant.

The Hebrew word for work on the other hand is ‘malakah’. Instead of having an origin in ideas like pain, suffering and sweaty toil, it comes from ‘malak’, the word for angel or for messenger. (Remember that Hebrew words are read from right-to-left, not left-to-right so it’s the right hand side that needs to match up.)

This lets us know that God’s original intention for work was to reflect the activity of heaven. It’s not meant to be a burden but a joyful sending out of the message of His Kingdom. God created humanity to ‘serve’ and ‘watch over’ the Garden, but when sin entered the world, He said to Adam, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’ (Genesis 3:17 BSB)

But when Jesus came, He restored what it means to work. His last words before He ascended into Heaven included this instruction: ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15 BSB) Jesus told us to be messengers of the Good News of salvation. That is meant to be the foremost work of every believer in Him.