The book of Genesis is often derided by contemporary people, but it is God’s book of beginnings. To understand anything we need to know about its origins. Work is a crucial subject in today’s world and the early chapters of Genesis speak about its origin, nature and value.
WORK AND CREATION – Genesis 1
In the Bible’s opening chapter we are introduced to both God and man.
There are three pertinent points to note
• He is introduced as the Creator. In this he is the God who works, see Genesis 1.1; 1.7; 1.16; 1.21; 1.26; 1.31. In Genesis 2.2,3 God’s activity during the week of creation is specifically referred to as work.
• God expresses himself through the things he makes. The apostle John tells us that God is light and in him is no darkness, 1 John 1.5. It is significant that God creates light, Genesis 1.3. Again Psalm 19.1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God. Ideas for what is made originate in God’s mind and he brings them into existence. So it is that Paul tells us that something of God can be known from the creation, Romans 1.26, 27. In particular God expresses himself in the creation of mankind made in his image, Genesis 1.26, 27.
• Genesis 1 goes on to emphasize that God gets satisfaction from what he has made through his work, Genesis 1.4; 1.10; 1.12; 1.18; 1.21; 1.25; 1.31. He says it is ‘good’
Human beings are closely related to God.
• All the other creatures were made ‘according to their kinds’ Genesis 1.21. But for human beings alone God himself is the pattern. The man and the woman are made ‘in the image of God,’ Genesis 1.26, 27.
• Since God is a worker, who expresses himself and derives satisfaction from his work, as his image we are made to do the same. We are made to be workers, using our God-given creative abilities and to find a measure of fulfilment in our achievements. Work is a good and necessary part of who we are.
• Thus after the creation of man, the very next thing we read is of God setting mankind a task, Genesis 1.28.
Unlike much of contemporary culture, the Christian should not view work as a necessary evil. It did not enter the world with sin at the Fall. The Bible sees work as essentially good. Human beings are created in such a way as to be blessed through working.
WORK IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN – Genesis 2
The second chapter of the Bible gives more detail concerning how mankind was created and the work which Adam was given. We have recorded for us two specific tasks which God gave Adam; his work as a gardener in Eden and his naming of the animals Genesis 2.15; 2.19, 20. Notice three things:
• There was no division of Adam’s life into ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. God is interested in Adam’s work of horticulture just as much as in his prayer life, Genesis 2.8, 15. All of life is worship.
• Man’s rule and subduing of the earth, Genesis 1.28, is not to be tyrannical. He is to ‘take care’ of the garden, Genesis 2.15. In Hebrews, ‘to work’ or ‘to till’ in 2.15 is the same word as ‘to serve.’ He is not free to exploit the earth. He is to serve God and the garden. Adam is rewarded for his labour by being able to eat of any of the legitimate fruits of Eden, 1.29; 2.16.
• Adam’s tasks recorded in Genesis 2 include both physical work and mental work, Genesis 2.15; 2.19. He tills the soil and he uses his creative mind to name the creatures which God has put under his rule. But one form of activity is not seen as superior to the other. Unlike the tendencies of our society which is very influenced by Greek ideas, the Bible recognises a great dignity in manual labour.
This series on ‘The Bible and Our Daily Work’ is taken from a sermon series given by Dr. John Benton at Chertsey Street Baptist Church in 2012.
A related post ‘7 Tips on handling stress in the work place’ can be found here.