Sunday, 1 February 2009

Was man created to do work?

Was writing an essay which made me think back to what Reeves said about work. I guess it is often assumed that working or having jobs was part of God's plan for man. So an emphasis by some workplace ministries is to help people find dignity or to take pride in their jobs. Many have pointed to Genesis 2 to show or justify how man was created to work. After all, "When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for ... there was no man to work the ground." So it follows that man was created to work the ground. But this is a misunderstanding of Genesis 2.

A careful reading of Gen. 2:4-9 will show that man was not created for the purpose of agricultural labour (or secular work). When there was nothing fruitful from the ground we see that it is Yahweh Elohim Himself who goes on to labour on the untilled ground. He forms man from the ground and instead of seeing Him putting man to then till the ground, again we see that it is the LORD God who gets to work! This time He planted Eden and “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” So far man has done nothing and has not been asked to do anything to bring forth fruit or plants fromt he ground!

But some point to Genesis 2:15 to say "Aha! The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it!" But again there are a few important details to note. Firstly, the word translated “put” from yanach means “to rest”. So Adam is not 'put' but 'rested' in Eden. Secondly, while ‘garden’ could be either a masculine or feminine noun, ‘Eden’ is a proper masculine noun. Thirdly, what is translated “to till” and “to keep” from abad and shamar are priestly terms (to serve and to keep). Furthermore, the object (it) they are to abad and shamar (serve and keep) are feminine, and thus do not refer to the masculine Eden. What is interesting is that they are often used together to refer to the Law, i.e. to keep and serve the Law. This of course means to trust in Jesus. Thus, Adam was not put in Eden for agricultural labour but was ‘rested’ in Eden to trust in Jesus and to testify to Him. Agricultural labour (and work) does not seem to have been intrinsic to life in Eden. What seems to be intrinsic to life is trust in the LORD God who alone labours to provide. Indeed humanity begins life by enjoying and sharing in Elohim’s Sabbath.

What brought about work (and rain!) was a result of the fall. Secular jobs, having to work to survive, labouring the ground was a curse because of man's refusal to trust in Jesus! So we have to be careful about encouraging people to take pride in their jobs or to place such an importance in their careers.

Could it be that Christians are redeemed from the curse in Jesus? After all in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Once again we can trust in Jesus for life and for daily provisions. This is certainly what many people, like Hudson Taylor, have taken seriously. As we concentrate on doing the priestly work of pointing people to Christ we can be confident that Jesus will provide for all our needs. Maybe this is what people in the workplace need to hear?

1 comment:

Simulator said...

If you want to, here's where you can buy Reeves talk on work
Dev can also help you out!