Learning to Work – Part 1 (Origins)

End of the Line

Today is Wednesday, known in these United States as the “hump” day of the work week (downhill to Friday), and my attention returned to the mental wheels already in motion on the subject of work. Thinking about the category of work is a helpful exercise from time to time, as any right thinking on the subject affects our righteousness in word and deed. As a father and a grandfather, I find it beneficial to make the appeal towards work from a good foundation.

I have long understood that Christian theology places the origin of work at the beginning. That is to say, work, in itself, is not a result of the Fall. Now, the difficulty and painfulness is a result of the Fall, and the subsequent Curse. But work, itself, even precedes the Garden of Eden into which God placed Adam and Eve. Indeed, God Himself “worked” for the six literal days of Creation, and “rested” on the seventh. I put the words “worked” and “rested” in quotes, only as a reminder that I haven’t really defined what work IS, or what rest is, as far as humanity is concerned, much less how God’s work(s) can be embodied in our concept of work. Never the less, Holy Scripture uses those words for God’s activities in the first six days of the world.

The reason it is helpful to remember the origin of work as being from God is to remember that His work is, and results in, good. All through chapter one of Genesis, we read that God created this or that, and then, “God saw that it was good.” After creating the man, Adam and Eve, the woman, and placing them in the Garden of Eden, and providing them instruction and blessing, we further read, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Thus ended the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31).

I could, naturally, go a lot of different directions, using chapter one, verses 27-31, as a starting place. But my purpose, in this post, is upon work. Genesis chapter 2 gives us more detail on the order and process of the creation of Adam and Eve, and also the animals. It also, however, gives us more insight into the work of God and the work of people. God formed Adam, and then Eve. This was part of His work. God also planted a garden. That in itself, was part of God’s work, but then, God put Adam into that garden.

In verse 15, we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” From this verse, at least, we don’t have much detail about what “working” it and “keeping” it might have meant, but we have an inkling, I think from previous verses. In 2:5, we read, “and there was no man to work the ground”. Assuming this is not just a foreshadowing of 3:23, this sounds a lot like digging and planting. Perhaps pruning, too? Certainly, from the context, we have some type of picking or harvest, in order that they might have food.

We have no mention of thorns, weeds, and the sweat of one’s brow, nor the pain in childbirth, until after the Fall, in 3:16-19. Adam, with Eve, really had two jobs in Eden. First, as previously mentioned they were to work and keep the garden. But, secondly, they were to know God and obey his instructions.

Why is this important to learn for ourselves this idea, and to teach our children? It is important that we understand work, in itself, is no punishment, but part of the natural order. It is one of the ways, frankly, human beings are made in the image of God. Having this understanding not only ought to help accept and appreciate work, both our own, and that of others. This is true whether we are talking about physical activity, as in a garden where we might grow our own food, or whether we are talking about mental activity, as when consider and communicate the character and works of God.

This is not to say, of course, that we can say of all we see, “it is good”, but that is a topic for another post. Another post I have in mind is an attempt at defining work, as we humans have historically made distinctions between work and leisure, and between management and labor. This topic touches also on the matter of retirement, as it commonly understood; a matter that is of greater interest as I recently stepped into my fifth decade upon God’s green Earth.

More, I trust, I will write upon this matter, God willing. If God so wills, I will take it up again next Wednesday. In the interim, I would welcome the comments of those more learned than I in the ways of God.