Genesis 1:28; 2:8–9, 15–17 comment (0)
February 27, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: Genesis 1:28; 2:8–9, 15–17
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
Genesis 1:28; 2:8–9, 15–17
For various reasons, many Christians struggle to enjoy their work. Perhaps one way to begin finding joy in what we do is to recognize that work is a gift from God. The early chapters of Genesis remind us of this truth.
On the sixth day of creation, God performed His climactic creative act: He made humankind, male and female, in His image. God blessed humanity with the ability to procreate and commissioned male and female to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.
God also gave humankind the responsibility to rule over all other animate life on earth (compare Ps. 8:6–8). This verse prompts at least two insights about work. One, tasks and responsibilities are associated with human existence from the very beginning. Two, human responsibility is a good thing. God’s commands for human beings to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and to rule over other living creatures appear in the immediate context of His blessing humanity (v. 28). Moreover these commands appear in the larger context of God’s declaring all that He had made to be “very good” (v. 31). The tasks and responsibilities God gave to humankind, therefore, seem to represent one aspect of God’s good creation. Indeed work is God’s good gift to humanity.
In Genesis 2 the creation scene shifts to a garden that God planted in Eden. The description of the garden in verse 9 suggests a place of lush beauty (“every tree that is pleasant to the sight”) and abundant provision (“every tree that is … good for food”). The term Eden even means “delight.” God placed in the garden the man He had formed from the dust of the ground. The man’s job: to till and to keep the garden (v. 15). That is, the man was to cultivate the garden and thereby to care for it; he was to be the garden’s caretaker. It seems the man’s work also eventually included his naming the animals that God created (vv. 19–20). Thus, as was the case in 1:28, again here we understand that tasks and responsibilities are associated with human existence from the very beginning. Even in a place of unspoiled beauty like the garden in Eden, work still was required for the proper maintenance of God’s good creation.
The immediate context of Genesis 2 gives no hint that the man’s work could be characterized as odious or toilsome in nature. Only later, in the context of the devastating consequences of humankind’s sin, does work become associated with toil and great difficulty (see Gen. 3:17–19). Even then, however, work itself is not said to be cursed; rather the ground is cursed. As a result, the man can no longer expect to till the ground with ease. The man instead will find himself expelled from the garden (see Gen. 3:23) into a harsh and demanding environment in which the ground will bring forth what he needs only by the hardest of his efforts.
Thanks be to God for His tender care even in the midst of such difficult and devastating circumstances (see Gen. 3:21).
When the Lord God placed the man in the garden He gave the man freedom to enjoy the fruits of his labor. But the man was to enjoy his freedom within the context of obedience. God gave the man one prohibition: he must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which along with the tree of life stood in the middle of the garden (v. 9). Ironically the man’s (and the woman’s) ultimate failure to obey God on this point led directly to the man’s work becoming toilsome.
Ultimately may these passages encourage Christians to embrace their tasks and responsibilities as good gifts from God. In future lessons we will explore additional ways to find joy in our work.