Work and a hobo’s paradise
The Big Rock Candy Mountain was a song made famous by Harry McClintock in 1928. Every few years, it finds its way back into pop culture; with some versions a little more cleaned up than others. The gist of the song is a hobo singing about his version of paradise – a land of ease, described in fanciful terms. There are cigarette trees, lemonade springs, and hens that lay soft-boiled eggs. The cops have wooden legs and bulldogs have rubber teeth, and if you happen to get caught doing something you shouldn’t, then don’t worry about it – because the jails are made of tin and you can leave just as soon as you get there. I think my favorite line is hobo’s boast that in the Big Rock Candy Mountains “there’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too, you can paddle all around it in a big canoe.”
While it is a cute little song, no one would take it seriously when considering their eternal destiny. However, there is one line in the song that stuck out to me when I first heard it. Out of all the cartoonish imagery, there was one sentiment that made me think: “Wow. That’s kinda funny and would be nice.” Here’s the line:
I'm goin' to stay, where you sleep all day, where they hung the jerk, that invented work, in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
Because work is…well, “work”…right? It’s often a pain. We view it as some “necessary evil” that we must endure because we like to eat food and have working light switches. Given the choice between going to work and not going to work – I’m pretty sure that 99% of us would not go. Throw in the idea that someone, somewhere may have invented the concept of work? Yeah…nobody would care much for that guy.
But is work really our problem? And who invented it, anyway?
I think most Christians and Jews would place the blame solely on Adam. After he and Eve blew it, here’s what God had to say about Adam’s curse:
And He said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’:
The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.
Adam and Eve sinned by eating – from here on, they would suffer in order to eat. Notice that God didn’t hand out working assignments. He didn’t have to explain what “work” was; instead, God said that work would now become painful labor. While his efforts would be able to feed his family, Adam would have to contend with thorns and thistles.
We have to go a little further back in Adam and Eve’s story to find the origin of work:
Genesis 1:27-29, 2:15
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He create them male and female
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree who fruit contains seed. This will be food for you…
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.
To fulfill these directions from God, Adam and Eve would have to do some work! But since this was before sin corrupted everything – including the ground – what do you think their work was like? What would you do if all creatures and plants cooperated with you and your efforts?
Don’t think of the garden of Eden as being a little vegetable plot. This “garden” was more like an arboretum. So in addition to their responsibility to rule over the world, Adam was also God’s official landscaper…and there wasn’t a weed, thistle, or thorn to be found. Imagine what a master gardener could do if they didn’t have to fight off the weeds!
This was how paradise started – not with lakes of stew and all-day sleep-fests, but with Adam and Eve partnering with God. They worked and managed creation. They walked and talked with God. The land readily produced food for them.
I look forward to the day when Paradise Lost becomes Paradise Restored. In Eternity Future, we’ll be able to live and work without sin and selfishness thwarting our efforts. Just like we were created to do.