When Work Becomes War

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Genesis 4:2-12

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. (v. 2)

In a New York Times article, former hedge-fund trader Sam Polk confesses his addiction to wealth: “During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies . . . Instead of trying to help the people it would hurt the most—people who didn’t have a million dollars in the bank—I’d made money off it.” For Polk, the pursuit of wealth was a competition. He did not care who lost, so long as he won.

After our fall into sin, human beings were faced with a world of limited resources. The means of life—once abundant in paradise—now came only through painful toil. Work became a desperate competition for survival. In the story of Cain and Abel, work is reduced to warfare. Like Abel, each of us has a vocation. Like Cain, each of us is tempted to see work as a way of securing the sustenance and the significance necessary to our survival. In our darkest moments, work becomes a battleground for pursuing our ambitions regardless of the cost to others.

God spares Cain even as his brother’s shed blood cries out from the ground. God spares us through the shed blood of our brother, Jesus Christ. And because Jesus died, we no longer have to compete to live. Jesus recovers the abundance of paradise for us, and restores the peace of paradise to our work. —Ben Van Arragon

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I repent of turning work into competition. And I receive your abundant life.