Economics 101 & Theology 101

Recovering a Sense of Wonder in Our Redeemed Work

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We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.

– G. K. Chesterton

Have you ever considered how simple it is to access the Internet in most locations?

Barring occasional wi-fi connectivity issues, this has become an amazingly streamlined process. In most developed areas, you tend to expect that a good wi-fi signal should be accessible somewhere nearby. Even those of us who remember dialing the Internet through a phone line never stop to wonder at this.

And we expect wi-fi technology to continue to improve. Google now offers a new wi-fi device that will extend your signal further than ever before. Buy a set of three of these Google wi-fi routers for $229 and you can fling a strong signal to every corner of a 4,000 square foot home or office.

When you do stop to think about it, given the hardships many face in a hurting world, it’s remarkable that so much of what we do is so streamlined. As quoted by F.A. Hayek in Individualism and Economic Order, philosopher Alfred Whitehead said,

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking [about] what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

We rarely stop to think about how remarkable a thing this is. Given mankind’s struggle for peace and prosperity throughout history, such technological development is cause for hope.

Work Before and After the Fall

As Hugh Whelchel describes in his post on the Bible’s grand story, redemptive history can be divided into four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Before the fall, we were designed for and called to work. But after Adam sinned, we were severed from a relationship with our Creator. The fall affected creation, too. The ground does not respond the way it was intended to, and work now involves toil.

God tells Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:17-19 that,

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Fortunately, though the fall defines much of life as we know it, this is not the end of the story.

The creative work that was begun in the first part and interrupted in the second has been taken up at the cross and will be carried to completion through the redemption and restoration of all of creation. We can have hope that even though the day’s hardship might seem overwhelming, our lives will not always be characterized by stress and adversity.

Grateful for Wonder

We find ourselves in a peculiar limbo on this side of heaven. We’re caught between our calling to work and the brokenness of the world.

Yet there is something we can do, even while in between the times. We can be grateful for our redemption in Christ and the future restoration of all creation.

This means that we will be able to develop and experience the benefits of new technology, though we won’t necessarily reach the level of flourishing on this earth we were designed for before the fall. Even in its unraveled state, the fabric of creation is being rewoven, even (and especially) through our work.

As summer approaches and some of us enjoy the opportunity to travel, let us allow the small wonders all around to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how his work makes possible our work. Because of him, we are no longer bound by futility. We can look forward to the redemption of all things, and we can witness the promise of hope in the daily wonders around us. Through him, we can marvel at the simplicity of a wi-fi signal.

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