Are you a specialist in your field of work? What career field should I go into? Will history graduates find work in their field? Why is the word field by far the most common metaphor for work, career, or profession? Why not ask, “what river do you work in?” Or, “what road of work do you walk?” Or, “can you find work in your stream?”
This usage of language derives from the Bible. While working in your field can mean agriculturally since that is the means of earning a living most often referred to in Scripture, on a larger scale your field means whatever honorable way you have of earning a living. Just as a field provides a farmer with sustenance, so does a field of work do the same for the professional in that field.
Prepare your work externally and make yourself fit for the field; then afterwards build your house.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains this verse to mean that the best way to order your life is first learn to do work that others (outside of yourself) find useful, then establish your career performing that work. After that, you’ll be in a position to build your house, meaning, create your family.
Excelling in your field provides blessing not only for you but also for others in your society. Noah’s name means ‘rest’ and he brought the possibility of rest to mankind by increasing the agricultural yields of the fields. Notice how Noah is named:
And he called his name Noah, saying, this one shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.
Sure enough, God had cursed the earth.
…cursed is the ground for your sake…thorns and thistles will it bring forth to you…
How did Noah ‘comfort us concerning our work’? Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Noah invented the plow allowing mankind to draw more from the cursed earth with less effort. Similarly, by being productive we too add value to the lives of those around us. For this reason, a Biblical worldview frowns upon earning one’s living as a professional gambler. No matter how much money one wins by gambling, nobody else’s life is thereby improved.
Does the importance of working in your field disappear later in Scripture? From the following passages, it seems as if society’s prosperity hinges only on one’s relationship to God.
And it will be that if you carefully obey my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give you the rain of your land in its season…that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil and I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you will eat and be satisfied.
This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may observe and do all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
If we are meditating on the Torah day and night, obeying God’s commands with all our heart, when do we find time to plant that grain, those vines and olive trees? Ancient Jewish wisdom’s answer is that we “serve Him” and “do all that is written in it” largely through supplying the needs of God’s other children.
We humans are holistic. Even our bodies do best when our spiritual and physical sides are synchronized. Why does a placebo have any therapeutic impact at all in modern medicine? People’s bodies perform better when their brains and souls are on board with the program. This is why most people choose doctors in whom they have confidence. A patient’s recovery is directly linked to how much confidence that patient has in his or her medical advisers. It is almost as if your body knows what is in your mind and responds accordingly. Helping your mind to know and believe that what you do professionally is good, noble, and worthwhile helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.
No wonder ‘you will eat and be satisfied’. No wonder ‘you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success’. Working in our fields is part of our holy calling.
Many of us first met Noah when we were children. Yet his life, as the lives of others in Scripture, contains vital lessons for us as adults. We do ourselves a disservice by not approaching them with mature intellect. The 8 audio CDs in our Genesis Journeys Set will amaze you as they reveal astounding messages hidden in Genesis.