There is a fable by Aesop called The Farmer and His Sons. It is one of only a few of Aesop’s fables that don’t include animals. This story is about a man teaching his sons the value of hard work.
The fable goes: once, there was a farmer who had four sons. The farmer was a hard-working man, but his sons were very lazy. For years, he tried to get his sons to work beside him and learn the work of a farmer. But, they just weren’t interested and didn’t want to do anything. They made excuses about not going to the fields with their father, because they just wanted to eat and sleep all day. (They sound a little bit like a typical teenager.)
As the farmer grew old, he realized that he had to teach his sons the value of hard work before he died. They would have to learn to do something so they could provide for themselves when he was gone. So, he took all his money and bought some land. The land was covered with weeds and full of stones, but the man knew it would be fertile ground for farming. His sons, however, were angry because they thought the land was worthless. They complained bitterly, but their father promised them that he had a good reason for buying the land.
Then, when he grew sick and he knew he was dying, he called his sons to his bedside and revealed his secret. “Now, before it is too late, I will tell you why I bought that land. The goddess Fortuna appeared to me and told me that in that land there is a treasure chest full of gold, but it is buried deep within the ground. Just find the buried treasure, and you will be wealthy for the rest of your lives.” With those words, the farmer died.
The sons were eager to uncover the treasure, so they started to dig. Each one started digging in one corner of the field and they worked their way inward. They pulled up the weeds and carted away all the stones. They turned over all the soil looking for the treasure. It took them months to plough through the whole field. They worked very hard to complete their work of turning over every rock looking for the treasure. The brothers worked so hard they caught the notice of all the surrounding farmers.
When they were done, they had found no treasure. They gave up on the idea of ever finding the buried treasure. Seeing as they had prepared the field so well, they decided to plant wheat that season. Come harvest time, the field produced a large crop of very good wheat. The brothers sold it for a lot of money. As they were counting their money, they finally understood their father’s words: the treasure was the land itself, made rich by their own hard work. They planted crops and the harvest was plentiful, and so it was every year, just as their father had promised.
It’s a nice story. It teaches us that there is reward for hard work. But, none of us learned the value of hard work from a story about a farmer and his lazy sons. We all learned about hard work from our parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses and mentors.
My parents taught me about hard work. My dad has always worked hard. He’d leave the house before we got up to go to school and he’d get home just in time for dinner. Mom had already run my brother and I all over God’s kingdom for soccer practice and dance lessons. We knew that dad wasn’t around much during the week, going to bed early to get up early, because he was working hard so he could pay for the activities we wanted to participate in. We knew we had nice things, because dad worked hard.
Then, on the weekends, when he had time with us, he spent his time working around the house to maintain things. He taught my brother and I to be handy and work beside him. We had fun, but we learned a good work ethic.
You all have stories about how you learned a good work ethic. We all have stories about how we got into our line of work or found a good job. We have stories about great jobs, and not so great jobs, good bosses and horrible bosses. Many of us have sensed a call to our work, whether it be to help people, to provide for people, or to lead people. None of those stories, though, explain why we have to work so hard.
Our Bible story today tells us why. After God created Adam and Eve, they were in perfect interdependent relationship with God. All of creation lived in harmony. Then, sin entered the world. Adam and Eve were disobedient to God’s command not to eat from one tree. That deed wrecked the relationship between God and His people.
The Scripture reading from Genesis 3 tells us that there were consequences for Adam and Eve’s actions, and the serpent. The serpent will forever be feared by humans. It shall slither around the ground on its belly and choke on dust all its days. The woman, later to be named Eve, will bear great pain in birthing her children.
Perhaps Adam’s punishment was harshest. The ground, the Hebrew word being, adamah, from which Adam came, would no longer bear fruit so easily. The adamah and Adam should have had an interconnectedness that gave forth to a relationship of caretaker and creation. But, after the fall of Adam and Eve, they fell from the favor of God and the harmonious relationship with God’s creation. One commentator (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/3-17.htm) said, “the ground,” the adâmâh out of which Adam had been formed, instead of being his friend and willing subject, becomes unfruitful, and must be forced by toil and labor to yield its produce. Left to itself, it will no longer bring forth choice trees laden with generous fruit, such as Adam found in the garden, but the natural tendency will be to degenerate, till “thorns” only “and thistles” usurp the ground.”
That’s why we work so hard. The world is not as it should be, not as it was created to be. We no longer have the harmony of Creator, caretaker and creation. We live in a fallen world permeated by sin that makes everything about life harder, our work, our relationships. Everything is harder, because of sin.
The Good News is that Jesus Christ has come to reconcile us to God. We may not enjoy the full restoration of Eden or the Kingdom of Heaven or the New Earth or whatever we want to call it based on the Scripture we are referencing. We might not yet be in the fullness of Christ’s reign, but we have a Savior who has lived. He knows hard work. He spent tireless days preaching the news that the Kingdom of Heaven had come near.
It is still near. The Kingdom of Heaven is near in our Risen Lord. No matter what we are doing, working, praying, laughing, crying, eating, spending time with loved ones, Jesus Christ is with us. As we go about our days, may we be comforted and encouraged by His presence until the day when all is right with the world and we know the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of peace. Amen.